Being a military spouse isn’t easy by any means. There are so many different issues to navigate as you move to a new area or learn to navigate life on base. Things like shopping and medical care are not the same as they are in the civilian world. Add to that a deployment and life can be very hard. Staying connected can make a world of difference. Here are some tips on how to stay connected during deployment.
How to Stay Connected During Deployment
When your spouse goes overseas communication may not happen as regularly as you might be used to. It can be difficult to adjust to not picking up the phone and talking to the one you love whenever you want or need to. It could be days or weeks before you speak to each other. This can put a strain on any relationship without a plan in place. However, there are some means of overseas communication you may be able to take advantage of. These will depend on the location of deployment and demands on your spouse as they serve.
5 Ways to Communicate with Your Spouse During Deployment
Skype - Skype offers a video call feature that you can use to speak with your spouse during deployment. Find your spouse in your contacts list. Select them and then select the video call button. You can use the webcam on your computer or the video camera on your phone to speak with your spouse. Keep in mind that depending on where your spouse is deployed, they may not get a great reception and the video could break up. However, this is a good resource for connecting when possible.
DSN - If your spouse does not have internet access, you will probably expect shorter phone calls. These calls may have to rely on the Defense Switched Network and these calls can be limited to as little as fifteen or thirty minutes. These calls may not always be the best signal and your call may get cut off. You can also expect calls to be cut short by things happening overseas that you may not be aware of.
Email - Email is a reliable and consistent way to communicate with your military spouse. While they may not get to check it often, it is a way to communicate important information that may strain the internet less than a video call might. Keep in mind that your spouse may not get time to read long letters. Keep the important information at the beginning of the letter to help your spouse read the most important information first.
Social Media - Some of the time you will be able to reach your military spouse via a social media platform such as Facebook messenger. This gives you a direct contact point where you can either write messages, share images, or even video call if their internet service allows it. For some areas of deployment images may not load reliably. If this becomes a case, you may need to opt for short simple messages instead.
Mail a letter - The slowest means of communication is a good old fashioned letter. Send a letter to your spouse to encourage them or to fill them in on what is going on at home. It may take a while to get to them and it may take a while to get a response depending on where your spouse is stationed. However, your letters can be a tangible reminder that you care and that you are thinking of them.
Gifts and Mementos
Another way to stay connected is through gifts and mementos either sent to your spouse or from your spouse to you. This could mean setting up a flower delivery for each month on deployment, sending a special gift for birthdays and anniversaries, or even having special items ordered for holidays. When your spouse is on deployment it can be hard for them to miss out on a lot. Having some of these items set up in advance to come to you can mean the world. Here are a few ways your spouse can send home special mementos or gifts.
5 Gifts or Mementos a Deployed Spouse Can Send
Flowers - Many flower delivery services will allow you to schedule a delivery in advance. Some deployed spouses may choose to send a flower for each month or deployment or schedule a bouquet of flowers to be sent on a birthday or anniversary. This can be set up before leaving for deployment and be a great reminder of how your spouse feels while deployed. Reach out to a local florist to see what kind of deal they can give you on an arrangement like this.
Gifts - When birthdays and holidays come around it can be very difficult to be without your military spouse. Using services like Amazon can allow your deployed spouse the opportunity to send something home to remind you that they care until they can be home with you again. If mailing gifts on deployment is not an option, it may help to have gifts wrapped and put away before you deploy.
Cards and letters - Whether they mail the cards from the location they are deployed or leave a handful of prefilled out cards/letter with you, these can be a great way to encourage a spouse that is home while deployed. It can also help relieve anxiety while gone Before heading on deployment your spouse can take time to write out letters/cards and have them left with you with an opening date.
Set something up with friends - Another way a deployed loved one could encourage their spouse back home is to set something up with friends. This might mean sending an email to your spouse’s best friend to have them plan a girl’s night. It could also be as simple as reaching out to a friend to babysit so the spouse at home can take a break. Little things like this can mean the world to the spouse who is stateside.
Emails / eGifts - Sometimes the above options aren’t a possibility. For a deployed military spouse, they may only be able to send an email or do something small via a digital memento such as an eCard. While these may seem small, they could mean the world to the spouse who is still stateside. By taking a few minutes to send a favorite memory or special note of encouragement, a deployed military spouse can really encourage their spouse that is stateside.
Mailing Letters and Packages
Where your spouse is deployed will impact what you can send, how frequently, and how much. However, sending a letter or care package can be the boost your deployed spouse needs to keep going. Sending these physical items can be a huge encouragement. There are some items that you definitely need to send. However, with longer shipping times, there are also some items you will want to avoid.
5 Things to Put in a Military Care Package
Necessities - Start by packing in some of the necessities. Items like sunscreen, lip balm, socks, underwear, powder, or other items you know your spouse uses regularly can be a big help. It can also help to send over a favorite soap or personal care item they can not get overseas. These items aren’t always easily accessible overseas. By sending over things you know your spouse will need you are offering them a huge encouragement and a little bit of comfort.
Snacks - Food items can bring a huge smile to your military spouse and break up some of the monotony of deployment. When mailing cookies, candies, or snacks, wrap each piece individually pack them in commercially popped corn or foam to help with cushioning. The food gifts need to be in a sturdy box and sealed securely with packing tape. Military care packages can take two to three weeks to arrive so you will want to avoid anything perishable.
Games / Books - Items like poker cards, crossword puzzle books, or poker chips can be a fantastic addition to a care package. These items can give your spouse something to do on any downtime they might be granted. Make sure to pick out things you know your spouse would actually use. Keep it small and compact so it is easy to store wherever your spouse is deployed. Larger items can get in the way.
Stationary - If you are hoping to get letters back you will want to include paper, envelopes, address labels, and pens. You will not need to provide stamps. By providing these items you are making it easier for your deployed spouse to send back a letter to you. If you have kids, send a card your spouse can fill out and send back to them for a special day or for birthdays.
Photos and notes - Make sure to include photos from home or notes of encouragement. Some options might include sending a compact photo album/photo book or sending a few pictures for your military spouse. It can also be helpful to send a series of notes they can open over the course of their deployment until your next care package arrives. These notes can be the encouragement they need on a hard day.
While the hope after a loved one leaves on deployment can be to hear from them often, this may not be practical. Instead, lack of internet access, long hours on duty, and other factors can greatly limit your communication. One of the most important things you can do when you have a loved one overseas on deployment is to manage your expectations. It may not look how you thought it would but there are still ways to stay connected.
5 Realistic Expectations When Your Spouse is Deployed
The first few days are for grief - Many military spouses say that the first few days of deployment are spent grieving the deployment. Many spouses say that during these few days the tears flow more freely and it’s harder to find the motivation to tackle other tasks. Grief is a healthy emotion. As long as you are still caring for responsibilities, allow yourself this time to grieve what was.
You will set a new routine - When your spouse is deployed you will have a moment where you realize you definitely can do this. However, it will probably involve a new routine. Take some time to sit down and work out what your new day to day routine will look like without their help. Look for ways to organize ahead of time, like packing your bag for the next day the night before. You will have to change a lot of what you did with your spouse but it is very possible to get a working system in place.
Your communication can be more meaningful - You may not talk extensively about the things you did when your spouse was home. Instead, you may use the time you do have to talk to discuss things that genuinely matter to both of you. Taking this time to focus on the needs of one another can be a great way to bring you closer together in your relationship.
There will be seasons with no communication - Depending on where your partner is deployed, there will be seasons where you don’t hear from them for an extended period of time. This can be frightening depending on where your spouse is deployed. During these times it’s important to remind yourself that it may be related to a lack of internet or time instead of because of something happening to your spouse. Prepare yourself for these seasons by being honest about the fact that they will come.
You may get lonely - With no face to face contact or minimal communication back and forth, you may start to get lonely. Make sure to set up a time to spend with loved ones or friends when you find yourself starting to feel lonely. It can be easy to feel like a burden on your family and friends during this season. However, I can assure you that they want to help you and encourage you. They may simply not know the best way. Reaching out to them for help can give them a tangible way to be there for you.
Have a Plan for Serious Issues
While your spouse is on deployment life will go on. This means that serious things can happen that need to be discussed with your partner. However, talking about these in the wrong setting or the wrong way can cause issues. You will want to take some time to set up a plan with your spouse before they deploy for how these issues will be handled. It may mean that you have a dedicated communication channel or a set phrase that lets them know you are moving on to a more serious conversation. Here are a few tips for discussing the harder life issues you have to approach with your spouse.
5 Tips for Discussing Serious Issues with a Deployed Spouse
Ask if it is the right time - When your spouse is deployed, they can go through some very difficult experiences. While your situation may be serious, they may have nothing left to give by the time they get on the phone. They may need nothing more than encouragement. Ask them if they are up to a conversation about something serious. If not, it may need to be addressed in another way.
Is it something they can help with? - While an issue may be important to you, ask yourself if it is something they can help with. When it comes to that issue, are you burdening your spouse with something they can’t help with? Is it something you can talk to a friend about instead or is it something only your spouse can address? Having this simple question in place can help you to only discuss the most important issues with your deployed spouse.
Should it be emailed? - Sometimes heavier discussion topics do better via email. It gives your deployed partner the time to read through it, process their answer, and respond in a better way. When addressing issues on the phone they may not have the same ability to answer appropriately. By giving them this lead time to digest the information, you are more likely to get a response that better addresses the issue at hand.
Will it take their focus off of more important issues? - Sometimes it can be hard to decide which issues to bring up and which ones to leave alone. It may be wise to take some time to look at the situation before bringing it up with a deployed spouse. It is something you can process through with a friend or relative instead? Some heavier issues can be a huge distraction when your spouse needs to stay focused on the job at hand.
Don’t lead with defensiveness - When your spouse is on deployment it can be easy to put up your emotional walls. However, you will not resolve issues with your walls up. Continue to keep an open dialogue with your spouse about things that matter to you without getting defensive. Your spouse isn’t attacking you.
Helping the Kids Stay Connected
Kids can have a hard time understanding the implications of deployment. For kids it can feel like the parent they were used to seeing is just gone. No matter how much prepping you do, this can still be a difficult transition for them. There are some ways for the kids to stay connected to their deployed parent.
5 Ways to Keep Kids Connected to a Deployed Parent
Phone and video calls - Like the above calls, children can take part in phone or video calls with their parent. It is important to make them aware of the amount of time that they will likely get on the call and that it may not be as long as they like. However, having this connection can help them to handle deployment a bit better. It may not always be an easy option with differing time zones but having calls as a possibility can be a big help.
Prerecord story times/messages -Before heading on deployment, have your spouse record story readings or special messages for the children. By taking the time to record these in advance, you will be able to give these to your children when they need them most. Another thing to record would be day to day life videos for your children to enjoy when their parent is no longer there. You can even pack a “care bag” for your child, that has items connected to the deployed parent, including special messages.
Have a letter writing station - Set up a station with envelopes, paper, coloring supplies and other items to help your child be able to write to their parent. This will make it easy for them to grab paper and write a letter or draw a picture on a hard day. You can send these the day they are done or save them for a care package. It can even help to put a small mailbox at this station for kids to put letters in that are meant to be mailed out at a later date.
Involve them in care packages - When you are planning on sending a care package let your kids get involved in the process as well. This might mean helping with shopping for snacks, drawing a special picture, or helping to pack items up so they are ready to be mailed. By giving them a role in this part of the process they will feel more connected to their parent that is serving overseas.
Encourage them to journal - Children who are old enough to journal can write about their days and experiences. This will make it easier for them to update their parent on their week as they can easily go through their journal and pick out a few highlights. It is also a great tool to help them cope with the change and process what they are going through. By taking some time to journal, kids can write out what they are thinking or feeling in their own way.
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