I will never forget my first time shopping at a commissary. At 21 and newly married, my husband Jim and I had just packed up all of our belongings to drive across the country from Seattle to Fort Belvoir. We were new to the military way of life, moving for Jim’s new orders with the Army Corps of Engineers. I went to the commissary and had no clue how the system worked – I didn’t even know that I needed an ID card! When we began adding our kids to the mix, I found out there was so much more I needed to learn.
Although we’ve come a long way in helping service members and their families, navigating deployment is still challenging. I want to share with you some tips that helped my three sons and me get through the tough times when my husband was called to service.
1. Network with other military wives and moms. Early on in our marriage, I met a woman who was raising four daughters. She gave me some tough love about coping with the day-to-day stress while Jim was away, but she was also a great example of how to face deployment. I learned that if she could do it, so could I! Make it a priority to meet fellow wives and moms to share your experiences and get the support you need from friends who truly understand.
2. Listen to your kids. Though you might feel alone without your spouse, pay close attention to how your kids are feeling. I realized that I had to be strong for my boys, but they often felt like they needed to be the adults while dad was away. Reassure your kids that it’s okay to be sad or angry and that you will get through the deployment together.
3. Reach out for support. As the director of the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program [link to www.yellowribbon.mil], I’ve had the opportunity to meet military wives and moms from across the services and around the country. We host programs that help National Guard and Reserve members and families connect to other folks who understand what they’re going through. At these free events, you can meet other military families and get expert advice on everything from family communication to employment issues to financial planning.
Raising kids when your spouse is deployed can be challenging, but there are a number of support resources out there to help you. Register for an upcoming Yellow Ribbon event near you at www.yellowribbonevents.org.