Talk to children about deployments

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Time should be spent with children talking truthfully about deployments. Children of different ages need to be communicated with in ways appropriate for them to understand.

Very young children can’t comprehend what is happening, so they may not understand that the separation may only be for a period of time. It may be important for them to maintain a special relationship with another parent or carer to help them deal with the changes in their life.

For toddlers, it may not be helpful to talk about going away too long in advance, as they have a different sense of time. A couple of days in advance is plenty of time.

Preschoolers and school age children should be included in discussions about deployments early, as they will know from conversations that something is going on.

In talking about the deployment, explain at the appropriate level why Dad or Mum is going, where, and for how long. Let children know that it is okay to talk about feelings by sharing your own feelings, and let each member of the family express how they feel.

Encourage older children to talk with the younger ones about previous deployments; how long it seemed, what they did, how they felt while Mum or Dad was away. Discussing the rules of the house and making them ‘House Rules’ rather than ‘Mum’s’ or ‘Dad’s’ rules will also help during the separation.

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