Time should be spent with children talking truthfully about deployment. Children of different ages need to be communicated with in ways appropriate for them to understand.
Very young children do not have the language to comprehend what is happening, so they may not understand that the separation may only be for a period of time. It is 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 a parent 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 much earlier, as they will know from conversations and preparations that something is going on. Dealing with reality is better than what they may imagine to be occurring.
In talking about the deployment, explain at the appropriate level why Dad and/or Mum is going, where, with whom, and for how long. Sit down with the whole family and talk about feelings. Let children know that it is okay to talk about feelings (even negative feelings) by sharing your own feelings, and let each member of the family express how they feel about the separation. 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 and when they returned. Discussing the rules of the house and making them ‘House Rules’ rather than ‘Mum’s’ or ‘Dad’s’ rules will also help during the