The relationship with your child will likely face new challenges when your service member deploys. Though these challenges may be difficult to navigate, maintaining a positive, supportive relationship can be beneficial for your service member. Research has shown that service members who report frequent communication with their parent(s) during deployment tend to have a higher quality relationship with them. Furthermore, those service members who have a better relationship with their parent(s) generally report fewer negative mental health (e.g., symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, depression) outcomes after deployment. Here are three ways to keep the relationship with your service member/child supportive and positive during deployment.
1. Write letters and send packages
In addition to modern forms of communication such as phone calls, video chats, and emails, utilizing “old school” methods such as postal mail to send letters and packages can be a special form of communication during deployment. Writing letters provides a space to be thoughtful and communicate in a meaningful way. To make it easier for your service member to respond, consider including pre-stamped envelopes when you send letters. Additionally, sending packages with items tailored to your service member’s preferences can be an excellent way to boost morale and help them feel connected to home while they are deployed.
Here are some tips on writing letters and sending packages to your deployed service member:
2. Communicate frequently
While opportunities for communication may be limited, a little bit of planning can help with getting in touch with one another. If possible, schedule phone calls ahead of time so both parties can be prepared and avoid “missing” each other on the phone.
3. Talk about what matters
Now that you have your service member on the phone or video chat, what do you say to them? We all have been at a loss for words at one time or another, particularly when we are overcome by emotion. To foster quality communication, consider the following points of discussion when talking to your service member:
- Share daily happenings at home. While your daily routine may feel monotonous to you, it may help keep your service member grounded and feel connected to home. Take time to share about your day (e.g., what was going on at work, what your pet was up to).
- Ask about their daily happenings. Learn about what your service member’s daily life, outside of work, is like so you can better understand their experience. Although they may not be able to share many aspects of their job, it may be possible to talk about other activities that keep them occupied each day.
- Be honest. It’s okay to share that you feel worried about, miss, and love your service member. But, don’t forget to share excitement, joy, and warmth with them as well. Positivity is good for both of you!