Supporting your Child with a Deployment this Christmas

Deployment can be a difficult time for families and particularly so over the Christmas period. While children are getting excited about Santa arriving and all the fun and festivities that come with the holidays it can be hard for them not to feel the separation from a parent, or loved one, more acutely.

We’ve popped together some of our favourite recommendations of ways in which you can make deployment, and the challenges it can bring easier for your child to understand and talk to you about:

  1. Make a Deployment Advent Calendar – this can either be chocolates or messages (or both!) from your loved one. Get a jar and pop in the number of chocolates or messages that equal the number of days of deployment. Each day open the jar and give your child a sweet treat or read a message together. Running this alongside a traditional Advent Calendar if your family does this can help make your child feel extra-special! Remember though, if your loved ones dates for coming back move then you may have to readjust the number of messages or sweets needed.

Here is Office Manger Steph’s kids with their Deployment Jars when dad Martin was recently deployed overseas.

2. Read together as a family – there are a number of great books and resources out there to help your child understand deployment, and allow them to open up and express what can be difficult to explain emotions for them.  One of our favourites is The Invisible String which helps children understand that no matter where their loved one is they still love them.

A great exercise to do to reinforce the theme of the Invisible String is to get a map and draw a heart over the location of your loved one on deployment. Connect the hearts with a piece of string or a line to demonstrate that you are always connected together by your love no matter how far apart you are, or how long it will be till you see each other again.

3. On Christmas Day

If you are able to, make sure that there is a special present under the Tree or a Christmas Card from your loved one that they can open alongside their presents from Santa Claus or other family members. If you’re able to organise a letter from Santa Claus himself I’m sure he’d be happy to include some praise for your child about how well they have handled mummy or daddy being away or how helpful they have been at home with siblings or with chores!

4. For Naval families, some of the suggestions involved the serving person’s location or length of deployment may not be possible. A firm favourite with some of our naval families are ‘Talking Tins’ where dad records a message or perhaps even a Christmas story, that can be played to the children on the day or ahead of time. It can be really comforting to hear their loved ones voice particularly if this isn’t possible through regular communications.

5. Remember to take lots of pictures and videos of Christmas Day itself to show your loved one when they come back! It is often just as much of a struggle for them that they are missing out on these precious moments as it is for you, and your children.

Looking ahead to them coming back

6. Make a Deployment Time Capsule – where your child or children can store all the important things that they want mum, dad or another loved one to see in the future when they come back. Some things that are popular to store in there are: drawings made, gifts your child wants to keep for their loved one, things that they are proud of such as stickers from school, medals or certificates from after-school activities or a good report card. When your loved one is back they can sit down together open the time capsule and share all the special memories that they have missed.

If you would like more advice or support on how best to help your child to understand and cope with deployments please contact our Education Programme Manager Moira on edprogrofficer@rcet.org.uk to arrange a time to speak in more detail.

On behalf of everyone at RCET we’d like to thank your loved one for their service all year-round but especially at Christmas and we wish you and your family a lovely festive period.