Being deployed or separated from family and friends is common for military families, but it’s not simple. It is a trying time, even for families that have experienced numerous deployments. Even for very young babies, as they too can sense the anxious times associated with deployment. Adding to the challenge is the realization that each deployment comes with unique circumstances and varying degrees of danger and threat to the deploying service member.
How Can You Help?
As an interventionist working with military families, it is important to ask about possible deployments or extended separations for school or training. Knowing about these types of separations can help you understand and support the family. There are, however, a few things to remember when inquiring about possible deployments.
Each deployment is part of a greater mission – The service member may not be able to disclose information about the mission or specific details such as who all is going, where they are going, when they departing for or arriving at their temporary duty location, how long they will be gone, and what they will be doing while at their assigned location. It’s important to be respectful of this and not get too curious.
Family members may not have all of the information either – Know too that the family members staying back may also not be privy to all of the details associated with the deployment. So don’t dwell on the detail of the mission, rather work proactively to support the family during the deployment cycle (preparation, deployment, and reintegration).
Two Helpful Ideas
A resource I’ve found particularly helpful is the Zero to Three publication, Honoring our Babies and Toddlers: Supporting Young Children Affected By a Military Parent’s Deployment, Injury, or Death (PDF, New Window).
Another resource I’ve shared with families is helping them make videos and pictures of the service member enjoying playful interactions with their child and family and then brainstorming about different ways they want to use the videos and pictures. During one video session with a family, the little boy sang his version of happy birthday and we made sure that his mom had a copy of the video on her deployment, where she would be celebrating her birthday.
What resource have you found helpful in supporting military families experiencing deployment?
Naomi Younggren, PhD, is the Comprehensive System of Personnel Development (CSPD) Coordinator for the Department of Defense Army Educational and Developmental Intervention Services (EDIS) Early Intervention Programs, an adjunct early childhood faculty member with Central Texas College – Europe Campus, and an independent Early Childhood Consultant focusing on early intervention and preschool processes and best practices. Naomi’s 30 years of experience in early childhood special education include being a direct provider working with children with disabilities and their families in early intervention and preschool programs, providing technical assistance, authoring early intervention handbooks and training materials, and serving in a program development and leadership capacity. Her primary focus areas include authentic assessment, IFSP and preschool IEP development, natural environments and inclusion, family-centered practices, home visiting, service delivery models, adult learning, and applying the Child Outcomes Summary (COS) for measuring outcomes. Naomi is also the co-author of a new book, The Early Intervention Workbook: Essential Practices for Quality Services.