Double Whammy: When Back-To-School and Deployments Collide

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Invariably, it’s that time of year again. It’s back to school, and for many military families, deployment season as well. How do we balance the two? The benefits of connectivity due to technology is amazing. As a kid, watching Star Trek with it’s communication between screens was some amazing futuristic fantasy, now, it’s a technological reality. This can be both a good and bad thing. technology can help us stay more connected than ever before, while the amount of information between home and deployments may not be helpful.

Here are some ways  to balance back-to-school and deployments at the same time:

Involve the deployed parent

I remember  looking over my daughter’s homework, and working with her over Skype to go over math problems on one of my Afghanistan deployments . Although, neither my wife nor I were great at math, I was a little better at what my daughter was looking at during that time. My daughter did her homework, my wife scanned and emailed it to me, and then I looked over it and talked to my daughter about it. Provided the deployed spouse has the time and ability to do so, it could be a great opportunity to remain involved on the homefront. Spelling test next week? Send the words in an email and run through the list on a weekly call. History lesson? Have a conversation about it. Keeping up with big events can be helpful for both the kids, and the deployed parent.

Don’t get too involved

There is always a danger in becoming too involved in what’s going on either when the deployed parent focuses on home too much, or when the home front parent focuses too much on what’s happening on the deployment. When I was deployed, it would have been too distracting for  me to focus on every missed homework assignment, or constantly watching  grades rise and fall like the stock market. Overall, it was difficult for my wife and I to always get involved in  situations that were happening from thousands of miles away in both directions! Finding the balance between just enough engagement and too much engagement can be difficult, but it’s also crucial to keeping each other grounded.

Acknowledge the big wins

Use technology and any extra  time you have available to involve the deployed parent as much as possible. Homecoming games, tryouts, and all of those milestones that are so important to our kids can be captured on video and shared with the deployed parent. Any effort made to involve the deployed parent will be  appreciated. This takes some  investment on the part of the deployed parent as well; a deliberate investment of time while deployed will always pay off. If you can’t live stream the event, then if the homefront spouse records it and the deployed parent and child watch it together, it can make a huge difference.

Celebrate the little victories

Just like making a point to involve the deployed parent on the big wins, military families can also be deliberate to celebrate the little victories. That spelling test we studied for? Make sure to close the loop and congratulate them for a  gold star. Just finished the first week of football practice? Talk techniques and tactics. Take the time to engage kids with the specifics, rather than just asking, “How was school today,” and getting the  inevitable response (especially from teenagers) of “Fine.” Talk specifics and celebrate the daily wins in the kiddo’s life. Not only will it help the deployed parent remain involved, it will help the kids find specific positives during their day.

The transitions that families go through during fall back-to-school can be challenging enough, and coupled with a deployment, the stress is exponentially increased. By some deliberate planning and the use of technology, we can help alleviate some of that stress.