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Helping Children Cope During Deployment

Article | May 2019

Helping Children Cope During Deployment

Commonly asked questions from parents:

What is the best way to prepare a child for a parent’s deployment?

Children need to know what to expect. Be clear and honest, but keep their needs in mind. Children of all ages need to feel safe and secure. They need to know what will change and what will stay the same. Children want to know how long this change will last. You may have to answer the same questions many times. If deployment will change a child’s life in a major way, such as moving, living with grandparents, or changing childcare, school or activities, the child needs to be a part of the conversation.

How can parents talk to children about military deployment?

It’s important to talk to children in a calm and reassuring way. Be honest and consider your child’s age. Share at a level they can understand. Take time to learn what your child fears. Do your best to talk directly about those fears. Safety of the parent being deployed is often a worry. It’s important to let a child know that the deployed parent is trained to do their job.

How do children signal their distress?

Stress affects children like it does adults. Children may complain of headaches or stomach problems. They may have trouble with sleep. They may be moody, irritable, act out, or have low energy. You could see big reactions to small problems, such as stubbing a toe. It can be hard sometimes to sort out normal distress and more serious problems. If in doubt, talk to your child’s doctor.

How should school problems be handled?

Alert your child’s teacher that a parent is being deployed. If your child has had behavior problems in the past, it’s especially important to have the teacher track any issues. If problems do develop, talk to your child, your child’s teacher, and other school staff as needed to agree on a plan. Your child may need more support in this situation. You can call your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to talk about what is happening and how to handle it.

How can you help a child stay connected to a deployed parent?

Use all means available to connect as often as possible. Being able to talk to and see a parent is valuable, if the option is available. But children also enjoy collecting items for a care package or writing letters. While the routine of a regular call offers stability, be careful not to set up disappointment. A deployed parent may not be able to meet a schedule.

Military mom has discussion with young son

This material is provided by Cigna for informational/educational purposes only. It is not medical/clinical advice. Only a health care professional can make a diagnosis or recommend a treatment plan. For more information about your behavioral health coverage, you can call the customer service or the behavioral health telephone number listed on your health care identification card.