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13 Aug 2020

Co-Parenting Across the Deployment Cycle

Deployment can present a unique set of challenges for military families. One of those challenges is parenting. During the deployment cycle, the Service member parent transitions to a remote parent that looks different than their typical day-to-day role. It can be difficult for both children and at-home parents to experience these transitions as roles shift and responsibilities change within the family.

The deployment cycle consists of three stages; pre-deployment, deployment, and reintegration. It is important for couples to begin discussing parenting expectations regarding how the family will function while the Service member is deployed during the pre-deployment stage (i.e., before the Service member leaves on deployment). Planning and communication are key to co-parenting through the deployment cycle. Developing a battle rhythm, or discussing expectations, responsibilities, and a realistic plan of communication before, during, and after deployment can help families adjust to these transitions more easily.

Pre-deployment battle rhythm:

  • Discuss deployment as a family
  • Discuss parenting roles and expectations
    • New parenting responsibilities
      • The parent at home will likely take on previously shared responsibilities such as bedtime/morning routines, driving to and from activities, and household tasks.
    • Enlist help for the parent at home
      • Seek out assistance for at-home parents. For example, hiring someone to take care of yardwork, asking family members to help with day-to-day tasks, and/or having a trusted babysitter on hand for when the at-home parent needs a break or has an appointment.
    • If possible, keep the Service member parent involved in some parenting tasks.
      • For example, depending on each parents’ schedules, the Service member parent could read bedtime stories to children.
  • Figure out how and when to communicate
    • Pick means of communication: letters, video calls, phone calls, emails, care packages.
    • Pick a day and time that works best for your family.
    • Deployment is unpredictable, prepare to be flexible with your communication plan.
      • Example: We will talk on the phone on Mondays or Thursdays.

Deployment battle rhythm:

  • Keep the Service member parent updated on child(ren)’s development and accomplishments.
    • For example, taking photos and videos of children’s milestones such as learning to read, riding a bike, even a dance recital or soccer game.
  • At-home parents can keep Service member parents present in the children’s lives by keeping photos around and talking about them frequently.
    • A few more fun ways to remind children of their parent during deployment include creating a scrap book together or watching video recordings. To help children comprehend where their parent is, find the deployment location on a map and use a calendar to count down the days until the Service member parent returns.
  • At-home parents can seek out resources in the community to assist them in their role as the primary parent.
    • Operation We Are Here is an online resource for military families that provides free resources for families including information on deployment, parenting, care packages and more.
    • Military One Source provides military families with helpful tips and resources for parenting during deployment.
    • Military One Source also provides military families with webinars. This webinar discusses the important role of the at-home parent during deployment.

Post-deployment (reintegration) battle rhythm:

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