4-H Military Family Book Sheets: 'The Kissing Hand'

Children’s books provide a way for parents, caregivers and young children to learn about deployment and the many changes that happen by reading about other military families, children or situations that have experienced deployment.

Painted hand prints
Books offer an opportunity to talk about how the family will adjust to the changes that happen during a deployment.

Deployment can be a stressful time for families, especially young children. During deployment many changes are taking place within the family and young children may not be able to fully understand them. Many times, young children are unable to fully process what a deployment means and why their service member is gone. A great way to help explain deployment and give young children an idea of what to expect can be to use children’s books.

Children’s books provide a way for parents, caregivers and young children to learn about deployment and the many changes that happen during a deployment. By reading about other military families, children and situations, they will be able to recognize that they are not alone and that other families are having experiences and feelings that are similar to their own. Books also offer an opportunity for parents and caregivers to connect with their young child one-on-one and provide a special time to talk about how the family will adjust to the upcoming changes.

The 4-H Military Family Book Sheets help parents and guardians find books and activities to help their children during the various stages of their service members’ deployments. Each book sheet contains a summary of the book, author and publication details, and activities they can use with their children pre-, during or post-deployment to extend the message of the book. To find each book, check with your local library, bookstore or online retailer.

Michigan State University Extension has put together a family book sheet on the book "The Kissing Hand" by Audrey Penn. In this story, Chester Raccoon feels anxious about starting school. His mother tells him a family secret called the “The Kissing Hand” to reassure him of her love when he faces scary situations.

Download a PDF file of The Kissing Hand.

Pre-deployment activities

  • Record your service member reading The Kissing Hand. Then have your service member make kissing hands out of paper for your family members. He or she should trace his or her hands on pieces of construction paper, and draw a heart in the middle of each hand.
  • Make a kissing hand puzzle for family members and for your service member. Purchase a blank puzzle piece template at a craft store or online, and put the puzzle together. Then using washable paint, dip one hand in the paint and press it in the middle of the puzzle. Then, once the handprint dries, place a heart sticker in the middle of the hand. Have family members make puzzles using both the service member’s handprint and family members’ handprints. Have family members exchange puzzles.

During deployment activities

  • Have your child listen to The Kissing Hand, pre-recorded by the service member. Give them the kissing hand that your service member made. Once you finish reading the book, have your family members make kissing hands and send them to their service member.
  • Make raccoon puppets out of paper lunch bags. Have family members decorate all the puppets. Use the puppets to read The Kissing Hand and act it out with the puppets. Record the family reading the story and send it to your service member.

Post-deployment activities

  • Together, use the puzzles you made under the pre-deployment activity as time to reconnect once your service member has returned. Talk together about how knowing that each person had a kissing hand helped during the times when the service member was gone.
  • Learn about raccoons together. Look up information on the internet or in books. Investigate what raccoons eat and where they live. Put together your own storybook about raccoons using printed or drawn pictures. Read your story together as a family.

If you are looking for more articles about deployment support, check out "Finding support for children and youth with deployed family members" for a helpful checklist on who might support your child or youth during your service member’s deployment, and the "Emotional cycle of deployment" that explains each stage of the deployment cycle and gives helpful activities you can do to keep your family connected. You can also find additional deployment support information on the Military OneSource website, the Operation: Military Kids website and the 4-H Military Partnerships website.

For more articles on child development, academic success, parenting and life skill development, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

To learn about the positive impact children and families experience due to MSU Extension programs, read our 2017 impact report. Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan 4-H and MSU Extension positively impacted individuals and communities in 2017, can be downloaded from the Michigan 4-H website.

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