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November 1, 2023

Parenting Tips for Military Spouses

by Jackson Weiser and Joya Lahoud

Being a parent is challenging enough, but being a parent while your partner is deployed can be even more difficult. You may feel like you have to do everything on your own, from managing the household to taking care of the kids. You may also worry about your partner’s safety and well-being, and how their absence affects your children. How can you cope with these challenges and still provide a loving and stable environment for your family?

In this article, we will share some parenting tips for the partner of a military member. These tips are based on research and expert advice from various sources, such as Military OneSource1,2, USO3, Military.com4, and SpouseLink5. We will cover topics such as communication, childcare, support, stress management, organization, and more. By following these tips, you can make parenting while your spouse is deployed easier and more rewarding for yourself and your children.

Prioritize Quality Time

Carving out quality time for your loved ones becomes a valuable and necessary standard during the demands of military life.

Nurturing Relationships Through Time Together: Quality time offers the opportunity for deeper connections and understanding between family members. For couples, quality time fosters intimacy and strengthens the foundation of their relationship.

Making The Most of Time Spent Together:

  • Planning Family Activities and Outings During Leave Periods: When your partner is on leave, take advantage of this time by planning special family activities and outings. Explore local attractions, parks, or plan day trips to create lasting memories together.
  • Engaging in Shared Hobbies or Interests: Discovering and enjoying activities that everyone in the family loves can be a bonding experience. Whether it’s hiking, cooking, playing sports, or working on a craft project, shared hobbies promote teamwork and joy.
  • Establishing Family Traditions: Creating and maintaining family traditions is a beautiful way to anchor your family during times of change. Whether it’s a weekly game night, a special mealtime routine, or holiday traditions, these rituals strengthen the sense of belonging and create a shared identity.
  • Unplugging and Being Present: In a world filled with distractions, make a conscious effort to unplug from screens and be fully present during quality time. Engage in active listening, genuine conversations, and show appreciation for one another. Remember, quality time is about the depth of connection and presence during those moments. 

The Importance of Resilience

Resilience isn’t merely about “being tough”. It combines emotional strength, flexibility, and optimism. For military families, resilience equips children with the ability to tackle changes and separations with bravery and optimism.

Strengthening Your Children’s Resilience

 Facilitating Emotional Expression:

  • Create a comfortable environment where your kids can freely discuss their emotions.
  • Validate their sentiments, making sure they know it’s okay to express whatever they are feeling.
  • Listen actively without minimizing their worries.

Enhancing Problem-Solving and Flexibility:

  • Involve your children in the decision-making, letting them have a say in their actions.
  • Encourage flexibility and adaptability by embracing change positively as a family.
  • Impart problem-solving methods, guiding them to tackle obstacles bit by bit.

Celebrating Their Strength and Successes:

  • Celebrate achievements and growth to support their confidence.
  • Praise their efforts when confronting challenges, regardless of the results.
  • During tough times, recall their prior successes to reinforce their self-belief.

Prioritizing Self-Care

  • For Parents: Military commitments can drain you, both mentally and physically. To best aid your family, self-care is pivotal as it rejuvenates energy, alleviates stress, and nurtures emotional stability.
  • For Children: Self-care techniques benefit kids by helping with stress management and emotional regulation, setting them on a path of lifelong health.

Self-Care Techniques for Parents:

  • Rest: Ensure adequate sleep and rest, sticking to a routine and emphasizing its importance. 
  • Mindfulness: Incorporate mindfulness through meditation or yoga for stress reduction and mental focus.
  • Boundaries: Recognize your limits and decline when overburdened. 
  • Personal Time: Dedicate moments for self-relaxation or activities you love.

Addressing Deployment and TDY (Temporary Duty assignment) Concerns

Preparing for reunions and adjustments afterward can be important for a smooth transition. Here are some suggestions for deployment or TDY scenarios:

Staying Connected When Physically Separated: 

  • If you or your partner is away on a deployment or TDY, there are still ways to stay connected to your family. To read about how to make your long-distance military relationship work, click here.

Preparing for Homecomings and Adjustments:

  • Realistic Forethought: Acknowledge that separations might bring about change. Patience is key during both separation and reconnection.
  • Transition Period: Allow for a transition period after the reunion, as both the returning parent and the family may need time to readjust to each other’s presence.
  • Open Dialogues: Post-reunion, try to converse openly about roles and expectations.

Seek Support and Utilize Resources

Navigating military family life becomes smoother with available support and resources.

Embrace the Military Community’s Support:

  • Tap into the vast network of fellow military families who understand the journey you’re on: The Modern Military Association of America is the nation’s largest non-profit organization dedicated to advancing fairness and equality for the LGBTQ+ military and veteran community.
  • You can find more support programs for military families here. 

Counseling and Relationship Aids:

  • Counseling: Experts like those from Military OneSource offer safe spaces for discussions.
  • Relationship Guidance: The OurRelationship program provides a free online program for military couples to learn about and address their core relational issues with their partner.

Remember, seeking help showcases your dedication to a healthy family life. 

Conclusion

For military families, robust, connected relationships form the foundation for resilience. Fostering open dialogues, quality time, and mutual understanding establishes trust. The bond and affection within the family can act as a security net through military life’s challenges. Implement these strategies to cultivate a loving, resilient, and united family that stands strong over time.

References

(1) Positive Parenting Tips for Military Parents | Military OneSource. https://www.militaryonesource.mil/parenting/responsible-military-parenting-tips/.

(2) Parenting While Your Spouse Is Deployed | Military OneSource. https://www.militaryonesource.mil/parenting/family-life/10-tips-for-parenting-while-your-spouse-is-deployed/.

(3) 8 Best Things to Do with Your Kids When Your Spouse Is Deployed. https://www.uso.org/stories/2279-8-things-for-military-kids.

(4) Divorce and Children: Military Parenting During Divorce. https://www.military.com/spouse/relationships/divorce-and-children-military-parenting-during-divorce.html.

(5) 9 Essential Tips for Pregnant Military Spouses & New Moms. https://spouselink.aafmaa.com/9-essential-tips-for-pregnant-military-spouses-new-moms/.

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