One of the toughest roles in the military is that of our BRATs. They didn’t have the chance to choose this life–it was decided for them. I understand that no child really has the ability to control where they’re going to live or their parents are going to work, but military children go through upheaval. The difference between the children and spouses of a service member is that the kids often don’t have other tools to properly express what they’re feeling.
I’m lucky enough to be truly blessed with resilient children, but they’ve been through a lot. I have no idea whether this pattern will continue as they age, but I’ll enjoy it while I can. The truth is, though, that while our military service continues, my children will live in a household full of constant ups and downs and drastic changes in parenting styles as we work our way through deployments and reintegration periods.
So, the question becomes, “how can we work to lessen the emotional trauma of deployment cycles for our children?” Here are a few of tips that have kept my family together through 9 deployments.
Try to maintain stability
The idea of maintaining the status quo when your spouse is deployed is probably my weakest area. My husband and I have VERY different styles of parenting, housekeeping, time management, socializing with friends, and on and on the list goes. We are the perfect example of “opposites attract.” This makes it really interesting when he’s gone so much and we switch back and forth between “Daddy mode” and “Mommy mode” in the house.
The first 3-4 deployments, I allowed myself to run the household as I would without taking his preferences into consideration. I had my own set of rules for meal times, bedtime rituals, behavior in the car, where food was allowed in the house, and a number of other things. I figured that since he was gone I deserved the right to make it entirely My house, my rules. After a few tough reintegration periods, though, I realized that this was a pretty selfish way of looking at things. I realized that the kids were going through an unnecessary amount of upheaval simply because I wanted to insist on my preferences ½ the time but was willing to make compromises when their dad was home. The frustration this created wasn’t worth the gumption required to put my foot down and insist that no snacks are allowed in the basement.
After analyzing the tension in the household and realizing that I had the ability to make things a bit easier on everyone (myself included), I went into the next deployment determined to keep as many of the little day-to-day rules in place that are there when my husband is home. It was annoying at times when I didn’t want to enforce a rule or wanted to insist on something I knew would get me the “calm down Mrs Type ‘A'” look from my husband, but I really tried to stick to what the kids were used to as much as I could. Miraculously, it worked! The next reintegration went SO much more smoothly.