Keeping deployed service members in everyday routines

Learn ways to stay connected while service members are deployed and keeping them involved in the everyday routine.

Consider these ideas for keeping your service member involved in everyday routines while they are away.
Consider these ideas for keeping your service member involved in everyday routines while they are away.

Being a military family is rewarding, but it does come with challenges, especially during times of deployment. Deployments are stressful for all families. It can be hard to keep deployed service members involved in everyday routines when they are far away. Michigan State University Extension suggests these tips to help keep your service member involved in everyday routines while they are away.

  • Create a display that shows where the service member is stationed. Include things like a map of the country, what the weather is like or the time zone.
  • Use file sharing technology like Google Drive or DropBox to create a family journal so everyone has access; family members can share stories about their day with each other. Have younger children dictate while a parent or caregiver types what they say.
  • Take pictures of everyday events like waiting at the bus stop, eating dinner together or watching a movie together, and send the pictures to the service member. Have them take pictures of their everyday events and send them back to the family.
  • Try the local cuisine of your deployed service member’s location. As a family, try a popular food dish from where your service member is deployed. Talk to them over chat, video chat or write a letter about what you like about it and why.
  • Laminate smaller-sized photos and keep them in backpacks or wallets so family members have easy access to pictures of each other throughout the day.
  • Trace a handprint of the service member and place it in a common area for kids to give “high-fives” when something good happens or for times when they are feeling sad to hold hands.
  • Send care packages to each other with special mementos from daily events like a test or photos from practice.
  • Record video stories of each other talking about what happened that day or week, then send them via email to each other.

It’s also important to know when to reach out for extra help while your service member is deployed. Here are some helpful organizations that can find resources and support for military families experiencing deployment.

  • Michigan National Guard Child and Youth Programs: Serves all branches of the military and provides resources and referrals, education outreach, child care assistance, youth council, summer camps, educational events and much more.
  • Michigan National Guard Family Assistance Centers: Located around the state of Michigan and provides information, referrals, outreach and support services to all military families regardless of branch.
  • Military OneSource: A free resource to all military families to connect with support and materials on a variety of topics including deployment, homecoming, relocation, parenting, finances, relationships and much more. Support and counseling is also offered 24/7.
  • Sesame Street for Military Families: Designed for preschool children, school-age children and families to keep in touch with their service member by using popular Sesame Street characters.
  • Military Kids Connect: A way for children ages 6-17 to connect with other military youth their age through message boards, interactive games and learning about deployment.
  • Our Military Kids: Provides support for extracurricular activities for military children and youth during deployment.
  • Operation: Homefront: Helps military families in need with specific requests.
  • Online tutoring and homework help for all K-12 students in U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, National Guard, Reserves, Wounded Warrior and deployed DoD civilian families. Also helps with college and career transition assistance for adult service members, spouses and college-age dependents.
  • Sittercity Military Program: Army, Marine and Air Force families, including active duty, Reserve and Guard can access the website for connecting families with high-quality local caregivers including babysitters, nannies, senior care, pet care, housekeeping and tutors.
  • Zero to Three Military Families Project: Resources for providers and parents around topics such as deployment, relocation and helping families reconnect after deployment.

These are just a few of the many resources available to military families. If you are interested in activities that can help your family prepare for an upcoming deployment or homecoming, visit the MSU Extension website and take a look at the 4-H Military Family Book Sheets. These are helpful activities to help families during all stages of deployment, all based around children’s books.

If you are looking for more MSU Extension 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. Also see “Deployment: The emotional cycle of military children,” which explains each stage of the deployment cycle and gives helpful activities you can do to keep your family connected.

For more ideas about activities and articles on child development, academic success, parenting and life skill development, please visit the MSU Extension website.

To learn about the positive impact children and families are experience due to MSU Extension programs, read our 2016 Impact Report. Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan 4-H and MSU Extension positively impacted individuals and communities in 2016, can be downloaded from the Michigan 4-H website.

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