Elizabeth Cabibi answers a tough question from an anonymous male military spouse on Helping Kids Cope with Deployments
First, turn off the news! As a spouse, naturally, you worry. The media certainly does not help you out. Occasionally, I would watch the news or see internet headlines that just “grab you” to make you read. But, this really is a balancing act. If you have the news on all day, you will end up making yourself sick!
Believe me, I have been there too many times. You need to separate yourself and (for my second point) find something to do with your spare time. Some spouses may find they have no time, especially after working full time and then spending time with their kids, doing all sorts of housework, playing with their kids, etc. But, somehow, try to find time for you.
Through my wife's first deployment, after work, I spent just about every day working out in a gym and running around the neighborhood. But, granted, I was not a father during this time. Through this last deployment, I did not follow my above advice, and I can tell you the stress can really get to you! Exercise is a great release -- not only for the stress, but it also makes your body feel physically better. I've recently taken up running again, and hope I can stick with it no matter how busy things get. I recommend setting a goal for yourself before your spouse gets back.
Third, social interaction is important! This is where I think it is harder for male spouses to interact with other military spouses (which I would like to discuss soon), but joining a Family Readiness Group (FRG) allows you to meet with other spouses, discuss important events/things on your mind, and it helps you build relationships you can count on when you are in a bind. I have had the opportunity to be a company FRG Leader through my wife's first deployment and as a Company FRG Co-Leader through this last one. All of us are really a “family” and, even after our spouses get back, many of us stay in contact with each other for years to come.
Finally, teach your children to take age appropriate actions should your family have an emergency at home. For instance, I thought it was important for my eight-year-old to know how to call local emergency numbers and family members. I made a list and posted them on our refrigerator.
These are the four things I would share with a spouse experiencing their first deployment. I want to encourage other military spouses that have been through a deployment to share your thoughts or advice. And, if you are a military spouse currently making your way through a deployment, hang in there. You are not alone!
Thanks, and God Bless!
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