Every time we go through a long-term separation I feel like I learn something new. There’s a new experience or emotion that is felt that was different than the last one. But this latest one has been a unique experience that has challenged even this eighteen-year military spouse (girlfriend/fiance). My littlest child began to struggle with his sleep. This was something that I had never experienced with the other two. Yes, we’ve experienced anxiety, stress, sadness, separation issues from me, but never sleep issues to this extent. Not only was falling asleep difficult, but his sleep was just not restful. He had giant circles under his eyes all the time and it was starting to affect his school work. He would just sit and stare at his work, the morning being especially difficult.
We tried a lot. We tried melatonin, we tried staying up later and he even slept with me. Thankfully our school is amazing and have worked with me since my oldest was in Kindergarten to support not only my kids but other kids in the school that are military. The school counselor is stellar and has worked with me to create small groups for military kids, as well as set up a mentor program in which older students spent time with younger students with deployed parents. There is a lot of support for military kids on base, in military schools and schools within the military base pyramid. But the further you get away from the bases there is less available institutionally for the students. After much discussion, we launched another small group, and also decided to let him sleep in and have an excused absence for school.
Make sure to establish a good relationship with your school as a military family! Connect with teachers, specialists and your school counselor! These relationships will be vital to your child.
The other thing I looked into was a weighted blanket. I have previously looked at these for my oldest son, who has struggled with anxiety and focus. But I went for it for my boy and headed over to Amazon. First thing when ordering a weighted blanket is you have to make sure you get the right heaviness. Here’s a chart to help you decide on the right weight for your child. There are plenty of places to get your weighted blanket, and if you’re crafty you can find some great tutorials on making your own. But I went straight to Amazon and ordered this blanket right up! It came and it has been such a success! Combined with letting him sleep as needed and the small group sessions with the counselor, he is slowly starting to be himself.
Weighted blankets are an amazing resource for families that have kids, or even adults, that struggle with anxiety and sleep issues.
I’m a believer and I was skeptical at first. It’s been such a hit that the other two have wanted to steal it away, so two more are on the way to my house as we speak! I think its so important to be open when it comes to dealing with deployment or long-term TDYs, or even just lots of travel, and kids. You never know how they are going to process it. Each time can be different, as has been the case in my house. With each phase in a kid’s life comes new experiences, and that is true even without the added stresses of military life. Some things have not changed. Communicating with your kids about your feelings is important. I’ve always been open with my kids about being sad or missing daddy. It has ended up making them feel more open about sharing their own feelings. It is a way to connect on a deeper level to each other. As my kids have gotten older I’ve shared with them how Mommy needs a little more help than normal because we are busier. They have responded so well to that simple honesty. I also do my best to pull them in when I really need them and give them a break on some of the smaller chores that they would normally do, and it has been truly amazing. Don’t be afraid to give them more responsibility. The way that has made my kids feel has been great. They have felt empowered and important like they are really contributing to the family and helping while daddy is gone.
Have you tried a weighted blanket? What did you think?
What are some strategies that you have developed over time to help cope with deployment?
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