There's no way around it, deployment is tough on military families. Being separated from loved ones is always difficult, but when they are put in harm's way, the stress is magnified even more. There are many ways military families prepare for deployment, but talking to children and other family members is perhaps the most important aspect.
A soldier's deployment can have a significant impact on a child's psychological well being. A recent RAND Corporation study found there was a distinct negative correlation between a parent's deployment and test scores and other indicators of school performance. There is also a relationship between deployment and emotional and behavioral issues. While it may be difficult talking to kids in advance of deployment, it is one of the best ways to make the transition a bit easier.
School-aged children may take the longest to feel the effects of a deployed parent, according to the National Military Family Association (NMFA). Servicemembers should be sure to let their school-aged children know about the deployment as early as possible and answer any and all questions about what's going to happen.
Specifically, deploying soldiers should make it a point to discuss how they will stay in touch with their children while overseas. They should try to figure out a schedule for communication – that way their child can have a sense of normalcy while their mother or father is not present.
Though they may be older, teens and adolescents are no less affected by a parent's deployment. Older children may be asked to fill some of the gaps around the house while their mom or dad is gone, whether it be taking care of younger siblings or doing household chores, so the anxiety can be even greater. However, the NMFA says there are some ways to lessen the initial concerns.
Experts recommend deploying parents make it a priority to spend a day before their deployment having one-on-one time with their teen. The specifics of what they do are not important, but spending the time together will not only give them an opportunity to bond before deployment, but it also gives their son or daughter a chance to talk about their concerns.