Magazine article Soldiers Magazine

Helping Children Adjust

Magazine article Soldiers Magazine

Helping Children Adjust

Article excerpt

CHILDREN experience a variety of feelings upon a parent's return. While they are often resilient, change and uncertainty can be frightening for them. The parent who stays behind should talk about the deployed parent daily and leave pictures of the deployed parent at the child's eye level. Encourage children to stay in contact with their parent through e-mail, letters, packages, video, phone calls and audio messages. Also keep a calendar to record the passage of time and special events.

Toddlers and preschoolers might not understand "duty" and "mission." Elementary school children and teenagers may understand but still show anger or fear.

Reactions                            Techniques

Birth to 1 Year                      Birth to 1 Year

Cries, fusses and pulls              Hold the baby, and hug him or her
away from the parent                 a lot

Clings to the parent or caregiver    Bathe and change the baby
who stayed behind

Changes sleeping and eating habits   Feed and play with the baby

Does not recognize the parent        Relax and be patient--the baby
                                     will warm up

1 to 3 Years                         1 to 3 Years

Shyness                              Don't force holding, hugging or

Clinging                             Give them space

Does not recognize the parent        Give them time to warm up

Cries                                Be gentle and fun

Has temper tantrums                  Sit at their level

Regresses (no longer toilet

3 to 5 Years                         3 to 5 Years

Demonstrates anger                   Listen to them

Acts out to get the parent's         Accept their feelings

Is demanding                         Play with them

Feels guilty for making the parent   Reinforce your love for them
go away

Talks a lot to bring the parent up   Ask about interests, from TV to
to date                              preschool

5 to 12 Years                        5 to 12 Years

Has fears of inadequacy              Review pictures, schoolwork,
                                     activities, scrap books

Dreads the parent's return because   Praise what they have done
of discipline

Boasts about the Army and the        Try not to criticize

13 to 18 Years                       13 to 18 Years

Is excited                           Share what has happened with you

Feels guilty about not living up     Listen with undivided attention
to standards

Is concerned about rules and         Don't be judgmental

Unwilling to change plans to         Respect privacy and friends
accommodate parent

Is rebellious                        Don't tease about fashion, music

Because children need warm-up time like adults, changes should be gradual. …

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