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
- Military One Source provides kid-friendly videos to explain deployment to children.
- 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.
- New parenting responsibilities
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
- 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:
Re-discuss parenting roles and expectations.
- Once the Service member parent returns home, there may no longer be a need for additional help. Have a discussion about what tasks each parent will be responsible for. For example, the Service member parent could resume some of their previous parenting responsibilities such as household work, transporting children, homework help, or bath time.
- Communicate and hear your partner’s concerns.
- Use programs designed to assist your family during the reintegration period