Coping with Deployment
Supporting Children of Parental Deployment
Parental military deployment can be a very difficult adjustment for children, who may not be able to speak to that parent regularly, and may experience a great deal of stress and worry.
How does deployment affect children?
Young children dealing with parental deployment may experience feelings of abandonment or anger. Often these children do not know where to turn—some are told to be proud or to “be brave for Mommy,” which may contradict the complex sadness or anger they are currently feeling.
Research has shown that adverse childhood experiences, such as deployment, can significantly affect children’s learning, emotional and behavioral issues if unaddressed. Childhood trauma can change pathways in the brain that impact impulse control and hormonal responses, and the high stress associated with these events can have long-term effects on health issues like disease and depression. Parents, guardians, teachers and other caring adults can help children adjust and process these events in a healthy way.
How can you help?
The emotions of children experiencing a life-altering event may manifest themselves in different ways. Therefore, it is important to recognize that children of military families may respond with sadness, anger, guilt or another emotion when adjusting to a change.
Many adults may sense that a child in their care is suffering but feel that they lack the ability to get a child to open up and share their experiences. Peer-to-peer settings, like those offered by Rainbows for All Children, help children to communicate more naturally and support each other, sharing ideas and feelings using age-appropriate language and concepts. These peer groups also emphasize that others validate and support a child’s experience, providing a community in which children can process safely.
How does Rainbows provide support?
Those who want to support the children of military families can recognize the conflicting emotions that deployment kids may experience and provide children with tools to address the situation’s complexity. Children can engage with their feelings through play, discussion and art, and understand their experiences from their own developmental standpoint.
By joining the Rainbows community as a facilitator or a participant, you gain access to an effective and engaging curriculum, a community of peers for those experiencing a loss, and materials and training to help facilitators prepare. Sign up today, and begin your process as a facilitator with Rainbows for All Children.
“8 Best Things to Do With Your Kids When Your Spouse Is Deployed”
by Danielle DeSimone
An article detailing eight creative and family-oriented activities to create cohesion and boost morale within a military family before and during a parent’s deployment.
U.S. Army Deployment Support Handbook: Children and Youth
by U.S. Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command
This handbook identifies childhood developmental needs and provides strategies and resources to nurture children during a parent’s deployment.
Children of Military Service Members Resource Guide
by Defense Centers of Excellence
This guide assists parents, other family members and health care providers in addressing the mental and emotional health needs of military children through topic-specific, age-related, public-domain literature.
by FOCUS: Resilience Training for Military Families
This website has multiple articles, activities, and guides for navigating family life during deployment.
Road Home Program
This organization provides support services for veterans and their loved ones facing the challenges of life after deployment.
This site offers military personnel and their families resources for living the most fulfilling military life possible.
Operation We Are Here
This site offers resources for the military community and military supporters and practical suggestions to communities and individuals on how to support and encourage the military community.
Military Child Education Coalition
This organization works to ensure every military-connected child is college, workforce, and life-ready by offering resources and knowledge to support children’s academic, social, and emotional needs.
Family things to do with deployed parent
Deployment handbook about childhood development
List of skills
“Coping with Grief and Loss” from Help Guide
Articles and Educational Brochures
“Helping Children Cope When a Loved One is on Military Deployment”
by Megan Allen and Lynn Staley
This article shares strategies that teachers can use to help children and families of deployed persons who are active military or members of reserve units.
Natural Beach Living
Visual Cards for Managing Feelings and Emotions Free Printables
*Note: not all books only fall under the ages they are listed under. Some with a * can work for older ages as well.
The Healing Code: 6 Minutes to Heal the Source of Your Health, Success, or Relationship Issue
by Ben Johnson
Your healing kit for life—to recover from issues you know about, and repair the ones you don’t.
Buy the book here
The Fall of Freddie the Leaf: A Story of Life of All Ages
by Leo Buscaglia
This beloved classic has helped thousands of people come to grips with life and death.
Buy the book here
by Brenda Ehrmantraut, illustrated by Vicki Werhrman
When a soldier’s work takes him half-way around the world, he enlists the help of the North Star for a nightly game of catch with his son. Night Catch is a timeless story that connects families while they are apart and offers comforting hope for their reunion.
My Dad’s a Hero*
by Rebecca Christiansen and Jewel Armstrong, illustrated by Jen Robertson
A children’s book with war as a backdrop is not an easy subject to pull off, but the creators of My Dad’s a Hero have found just the right approach. The reader they address is any child whose father is serving in the military, far away from home. These are children who miss their dads, worry about them, and have lots of conflicting emotions and unanswered questions.
I Miss You!: A Military Kid’s Book About Deployment
by Beth Andrews, illustrated by Hawley Wright
Military families face stressful times that are unique to the military lifestyle. This book is designed to help children especially, but also their parents, during such difficult times. Based on many years of experience as a social worker who has assisted military families experiencing stress, author Beth Andrews has created an excellent tool for allowing children and their loved ones to deal with the many emotions caused by deployment.
Lily Hates Goodbyes*
by Jerilyn Marler, illustrated by Nathan Stoltenberg
Lily is a young military child. Sometimes she must say goodbye to her Daddy for about a billion days. She feels a swirl of unhappy emotions that can be scary. Join Lily as she learns how to cope with her emotions and to be happy in her daily life when she looks forward to joyfully saying hello when Daddy gets home.
The Invisible String*
by Patrice Karst
The Invisible String delivers a particularly compelling message in today’s uncertain times that though we may be separated from the ones we care for, whether through anger, or distance or even death, love is the unending connection that binds us all, and, by extension, ultimately binds every person on the planet to everyone else.
Buy the book here
Countdown ‘til Daddy Comes Home
by Kristin Ayyar
Countdown ‘til Daddy Comes Home is the story of a young boy waiting for his daddy to come home from a trip. To make their separation easier, his family creates rituals to stay connected and make the countdown fly by. A perfect book for military kids who have a parent deployed or kids who have a parent that is a frequent business traveler.
While You Are Away
by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Renee Graef
In first-person narrations, three children anticipate happy reunions with their parents, who are on active military duty abroad. All three vignettes are upbeat and reassuring, and the book concludes with the safe return of all three loved ones, each from a different branch of the armed forces.
My Dad’s Deployment: A Deployment and Reunion Activity Book for Young Children
by Julie LaBelle, illustrated by Christina Rodriguez
This activity book features mazes, dot-to-dot, counting, matching, coloring, crafts, telling time, and other activities familiar to preschool and early elementary children. Shown within the context of common deployment and reunion topics, the activities reinforce concepts young children are already learning and offer children the opportunity to ask questions, talk about their feelings, and feel connected to their deployed parent.
When Daddy Goes Away
by Kristie Algeo, illustrated by Brandi Neighbors
When Daddy Goes Away uses a familiar childhood experience to help children from military families better understand and handle deployments. The book also includes creative ideas and strategies to help children cope with deployment situations.
When Dad’s at Sea
by Mindy Pelton, illustrated by Robert Gantt Steele
Emily’s dad is in the military and sometimes he has to leave for months at a time Emily knows her dad’s job is important, but she doesn’t want him to leave her. Her dad makes her a paper chain to count down the days of his trip.
Deployment Journal for Kids
by Rachel Robertson
Deployment Journal for Kids is a special journal created for children to record feelings and events during a loved one’s military deployment. A variety of proven journaling techniques provide a framework for children to better understand deployments, express and communicate their feelings, and tell their own story.
My Sailor Dad
by Ross H. Mackenzie, illustrated by Marvin Jarboe
My Sailor Dad is a loving tribute to all families Navy and non-military. The book uses lively text and beautiful illustrations to celebrate the sacrifices of today’s sailors, to showcase the awesome scale of today’s Navy, and to serve as an invaluable resource to Navy families who struggles with questions like: Why do you have to go to sea? Does your job really matter? Do you love me when you are gone? Will you ever come home?
by Carolina B. Cooney
When high school sophomore Laura Herrick’s mother goes off to Saudi Arabia with the National Guard, life on the home front changes for Laura, her father, and two brothers. Nothing gets done as their days are spent glued to the TV screen waiting for news about the war. How will the family manage without mom at home?
Heart of a Shepherd
by Rosanne Parry
Brother has never been the rancher that his father and the older boys are. When Brother’s dad is shipped off to Iraq, along with the rest of his reserve unit, Brother must help his grandparents keep the ranch going. He’s determined to maintain it just as his father left it, in the hope that doing so will ensure his father’s safe return. The hardships Brother faces will not only change the ranch, but also reveal his true calling.
Beneath Wandering Stars*
by Ashlee Cowles
After her soldier brother is horribly wounded in Afghanistan, Gabriela must honor the vow she made: if anything ever happened to him, she would walk the Camino de Santiago through Spain, making a pilgrimage in his name. An up-close look at the lives of the children of military families, Beneath Wandering Stars takes readers on a journey of love, danger, laughter, and friendship, against all odds.
My Story: Blogs by Four Military Teens
by Michelle D. Sherman, Ph.D. and DeAnne M. Sherman
My Story: Blogs by Four Military Teens highlights four teenagers’ feelings and experiences before, during, and after parental deployment. It provides support and education for all military teens and pre-teens by honoring their unique joys and sacrifices, addressing their fears and hopes, and exploring how parental deployment affects their lives.
Parents and Professionals
Deployment: Strategies for Working with Kids in Military Families
by Karen Petty, Ph.D.
Children with parents in the military face unfamiliar and complicated emotions. This comprehensive handbook is for civilians and military personnel who work with or care for children who experience separation through deployment, death, or divorce. Written by an internationally known, hand-on trainer and presenter in the field, this book contains theory-based, practice-driven strategies for handling separation and helping young through elementary-age children move forward and live full lives.
Children of the Deployed
by the Building Capacity Consortium, the University of Southern California Schools of Social Work and Education, and Command Media
This video is a montage of testimonies of military students describing their feelings about being a military child in a civilian public school where the war and family sacrifices are not recognized or addressed. Schools can play a supportive role when their parents deploy. These testimonies can be used to educate others and how schools can alter their practices and school climate to help military students going through family stress related to the wars.
Military Kids Struggling At Home With Parents Deployed Abroad
by Ana Tintocalis
San Diego County has one of the largest concentrations of military families in the nation. The children of those families are affectionately nicknamed “military brats.” But that nickname does little to explain the emotional and academic struggles these kids endure when a military parent is deployed or reassigned. KPBS Education Reporter Ana Tintocalis has the fourth part in the series, “War Comes Home.”
Open Studio Project
The Open Studio Project, located in Evanston, IL, emphasizes the use of art to facilitate growth, healing and understanding.
Institute for Therapy Through the Arts
The institute uses art to conduct therapy sessions. Therapists only use empirically researched methods and provide them within a continuity of care model.
The Family Institute by Northwestern University
This institute offers counseling for families who can’t afford therapy. Therapist of graduate-level therapist-in-training. Committed to strength and healing the whole family system by supporting children, adults, couples and families across their lifespan.
Metropolitan Family Services
From early learning, afterschool and job readiness programs to counseling, mental health services and legal assistance.
Erie Family Health
Provides high quality medical, dental and behavioral healthcare to all regardless of ability to pay.
Largest national bereavement for youth grieving the death of a significant person in their lives.
Move Your Mind
Stress free environments where we can all connect as teens through movement and creative outlets.
Provides affordable mental health services that make lives better for our clients, their families and the community.
Find More Resources
We provide resources for all forms of grief.
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Find A Support Group
Rainbows’ programs help children grieving the loss of a parent or guardian due to death, divorce/separation, deployment, deportation, incarceration or trauma.