Helping your kids stay connected with a deployed/traveling parent is very important, but it is equally critical to not dwell on the issue.
If your son or daughter is missing Daddy or Mommy, validate his or her worries and help him to connect by looking at a picture, sending an email or sharing stories.
One great way we stay connected is with our Daddy Dolls. I ordered one for each of my sons right after my husband deployed, last December. They sit at the foot of the beds of my 11 and 13 year olds, but my 4 and 7 year olds hug their daddy every night while they sleep. It’s a small way that the boys stay connected.
We also have a life size flat daddy that we take with us when one of the boys has a special event that Daddy would have attended, had he been home. We take pictures and send them to Daddy by email. Also, it always prompts positive, supportive comments from onlookers who thank the boys for their Dad’s service and their sacrifice, which is really nice. Sometimes, when one of the boys is really missing Daddy, he takes the Flat Daddy into whatever room he is in to keep him company.
Finally, we fill a large bowl with Hershey’s Kisses. Each evening, the boys each get a “kiss” from Daddy. As his return nears, I make sure the number of kisses is right so that the last ones are taken the day before he comes home. It’s a visible reminder for the kids that homecoming is approaching.
It’s not easy to have a parent away from home for long stretches, but if the at home parent works at it, the absence can be managed with grace.