The time apart is never easy, but there are some things you can do to set yourself up for deployment success.
It’s your first deployment and you’re not sure what you’re going to be up against. Maybe you’ve heard about the deployment curse? You know, the one where once your service member leaves, something’s going to break. That one doesn’t always come true, but if and when it does, now you know who to blame.
Fortunately, there are some things you can do to set yourself up for success before a deployment. Here are ten ways to make the time apart from your service member easier.
1. Have friends in your corner. If you’re new to the area, you need to put yourself out there and connect with others. You may have to do this several times before you really click with someone. Try to get together with some of the unit’s significant others before they depart, meet your neighbors, or join a club with something you’re interested in. Meetup.com has great local get-togethers you can easily check out from home.
2. Give back and volunteer. Not only is volunteering an amazing way to pad your resume, but giving back can be very gratifying. Pick a cause you believe in and you never know where those connections and opportunities may lead – maybe you’ll even get hired!
3. Get out of the house. Those first few days or weeks can be really tough and any one of us can get sucked into feeling sorry for ourselves. I say go for a walk, go window shopping, or just get outside. You’ll feel better being around others and breathing in some fresh air.
4. Have a goal. Don’t go into the deployment without a plan. Talk to your service member and see if you can both work towards something together, whether it’s saving money, paying off debt, or finishing a project. Plan milestones and small celebrations for yourself along the way. Don’t forget to call your insurance provider to see if bumping down your auto coverage would benefit you.
5. Know when to hold back. Your service member has a stressful job and many risks are involved. If you had a rough day or want to discuss something that’s more serious in nature, make sure you find out if it’s the right time. You may have to wait until they have more time to talk or are away from a dangerous situation.
6. Plan to celebrate. Plan out the halfway mark and have fun with your friends to rejoice in the milestone. If you’re going to have a birthday, anniversary, or special event, plan for it in advance so you don’t find yourself alone. Make something special happen at home with your friends or loved ones.
7. Don’t strive for perfection. If you are having a rough go of things, know that there is help out there. Everyone handles stress differently and if you’re having trouble dealing with certain people or issues, talk to someone. There’s free and anonymous help at Military One Source, (800-342-9647) where you can get counseling up to eight times, and more with a referral.
8. Make your service member feel loved. They’re living in isolated conditions and miss you. Make sure you let them know you’re in it for the long haul and you appreciate how hard they’re working for your family. Don’t forget to send special care packages and letters, even if you talk, Skype or email with them regularly. There’s just something special about getting letters from home!
9. Read to your younger kids. If you have young children, make sure to check out United Through Reading and have your service member record reading a story to them. I’ve read countless stories about young children recognizing their deployed parents and embracing them right away because they recognized their voices from recorded stories. Bonus – it’s also a keepsake kids will have through the years.
10. Play a game with older kids. Have your service member hide some gifts in the house, (make sure you keep a list too!) then have them email clues home so your children can search for the coveted items. It’s a fun and easy way to keep your family feeling connected despite the distance.
Krisine Schellhaas is the founder of USMC Life and author of the award-winning book 15 Years of War.