As the war in the Ukraine intensifies, more U.S. military troops are being deployed to the region.
In many cases, the deployed military personnel have families they must leave behind at home—both their spouses and children of all ages.
Because these deployments can be understandably challenging for the families of deployed military, it is crucial that spouses and children get the support that they need.
How to Prepare Before Deployment
Once a family learns when their loved one will be deployed to Ukraine, preparations can begin at home right away. Not only is it critical to review child care arrangements, it’s also important to ensure that all legal and financial documents are up to date and that the spouse who is to remain at home is ready to manage the household finances and routines.
Families should also spend time preparing emotionally. This may involve creating a plan to communicate when the spouse/parent is deployed, researching support groups in the area, and spending time together prior to their departure.
Coping During Deployment
Deployment can affect children in different ways, depending on their ages. For example, young children may not understand why a parent will no longer be around at bedtime to tuck them in, and school-aged children may feel scared that something will happen to their mom or dad while they are away. Teenagers may feel anger towards the deployed parent and be frustrated by an increase in responsibilities at home. Regardless of age, it’s important to help children of all ages cope with their feelings and understand that they haven’t done anything wrong.
For the parent staying home, it’s critical to help your children feel like they are still in contact with the deployed parent. Younger children can draw pictures or take photos of what they did that day and create a scrapbook to send to the deployed parent. Adolescents can email, write letters, and put together care packages to send to their parent overseas. Also, if you know the length of deployment, you can do a countdown on the calendar that shows when the deployed parent will return home.
It's helpful to answer questions about the deployment as honestly as you can but try to limit television coverage of the war with younger children. If teenagers want to watch the news, watch with them so you can reassure them and answer questions right away.
For the at-home spouse who is suddenly playing the role of both parents and running the entire household, it is important for you to care for yourself too. Spend time with friends, start a new hobby, and plan fun activities for you and your family to enjoy together.
The Impact on Family Members’ Mental Health and How to Get Help
While military families tend to be extremely resilient, deployment can take its toll on mental health. If you or a loved one are struggling with depression, anxiety, anger, or another mental health issue, please reach out to the professionals at Houston Behavioral Healthcare Hospital. We’re here for your support.