The Internet has given us a lot of gifts including jobs, information, and conveniences. However, arguably, the biggest gift the Internet has given us is the ability to communicate over great distances. Today, even if you and your loved one are on opposite sides of the world due to a deployment or otherwise, you can easily communicate via email, Skype, social media, and many other platforms. This is great news for the many children and their mothers that will be separated from one another this Mother’s Day. In addition to being able to speak with and possibly even see mom on Mother’s Day, thanks to the explosion of ecommerce sites and communication abilities, you can even send her that perfect gift. Here are just a few ideas….
Spa Packages – According to a Forbes article entitled “What Mom’s Really Want for Mother’s Day”, most women (48%) want a spa day for Mother’s Day (Bourne, 2012). Just because mom is in another state or even in another country doesn’t mean you can’t pay for a day of relaxation on her behalf. A quick Google search can help you find highly rated spas in mom’s area; pick a spa and then browse their website for electronic gift cards (gift cards sent via email). If you can’t find that, call the spa and ask if you can prepay for a package. If you can’t quiet afford to send mom to the spa, you can always send her a spa inspired gift basket such as this Lavender Relaxation Bath and Body Spa Basket for $29.99.
Flowers – The second most sought after Mother’s Day gift, according to the Forbes article mentioned above, is flowers with 38% of moms saying that was at the top of their Mother’s Day wish list (Bourne, 2012). Luckily, if this is what your mom wants, this one is super easy to secure no matter where mom is. You can contact local florists to order a beautiful bouquet; however, in order to save money and see exactly what you’re getting, you can try sites like Red Envelope. For example, you can get a stunning array of spring lilies for under $25!
Technology – Okay, believe it or not, 30% of the moms surveyed for the Forbes article said they wanted a smartphone or tablet for Mother’s Day (Bourne, 2012). If your mom is craving the latest high-tech gadget, oblige her this Mother’s Day. With ecommerce sites, its super easy to go online, customize a device, and have it delivered directly to mom. In addition, many sites will allow you to include a message with the gift.
In addition to sending mom some of the great gifts mentioned above, you can also send her something personal. For instance, a customized eCard or video greeting is sure to bring a smile to her face. You could also send her a picture slideshow full of photographs from the past and present.
Just because you can’t be with your mom on mother’s day doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate it with her and let her know just how special she is to you. Video platforms such as Skype and Google+ hangouts will allow you to see mom and watch her open her gift even though your thousands of miles apart.
Sometimes the act of asking for help can be more difficult than just doing the task yourself. Military families are not strangers to adjusting family roles and taking on extra responsibilities, especially during times of deployment. Asking for help and allowing yourself to receive help can be two of the most challenging aspects of adjusting your life while your soldier is deployed. There are several reasons why it is important to share your burdens, and ways to go about it that won’t leave you feeling helpless or alone.
Why Accept Help?
Whether you are the spouse, sibling, child, or parent of a soldier, your life alters when your soldier is deployed. The contributions your soldier would typically make at home, both tangible and emotional, can’t easily be replaced. However, allowing those around you to help you not only eases your responsibility load, but it can give someone who is helping a feeling of contributing to more than just your family. For those people without loved ones in the military, assisting those who do have soldiers in their lives can be one way they are able to support military families and the troops. Perhaps one of the biggest reasons of all, though, why accepting help is a positive thing, is that it will give peace of mind to your soldier to know that you are not alone and that you are supported.
How Can You Ask for Help and Receive It?
First and foremost, don’t just dismiss offers of help or generosity. You don’t need to accept on the spot, but you can let the person know that you appreciate the kindness and that there might be a time in the future when you need the help. You can even ask what the best way is to get ahold of them – phone, email, or other – so that if the need arises you have some way of reaching them and accepting help.
When someone says, “Let me know if there is anything I can do,” you might be tempted to shout, “Make this deployment over today!” However, try to refrain asking nearly the impossible, and instead find some little ways that others might help ease your stress level. These things might be:
- Drive the kids to practice one day a week.
- Provide a meal one day a week.
- Help with a home maintenance project, even as simple as rearranging furniture.
- Assist with yard work.
- Help with pet care – walking the dog and checking in on pets can be ways for even kids to help share the responsibilities at home.
- Be available to listen to the stress so you don’t have to dump on the kids or someone who is going through the same stresses as you are already.
- The list goes on and on!
You can even keep a list handy of “one time” things that you need help with that normally your soldier would be there to do. Keep another list of people who you know are willing to help with certain tasks, and one more list of people who have simply offered to do anything. Even though you might never call upon these people, having the tangible proof that you are surrounded by support can ease stress.
It is important to remember that even if someone hasn’t offered to help, it doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t ask. Sometimes people are just waiting for the invitation because they don’t want to offend you and present an image that they don’t think you are capable. You can also seek out other sources of support from places such as:
- Community outreach programs
- Neighborhood groups
- Online forums
- Military resources
Asking for help is not easy for most people, but if we can pay it forward and offer help to others, sometimes that action allows us to accept help at some point in our own lives. In the end it is much better to swallow a little pride, accept the generosity of friends and strangers alike, and take care of yourself as your soldier would want to be able to take care of you.
Photo credit: Tom
The homecoming of your soldier is one of the most anticipated events you can imagine. It is more exciting than waiting for Christmas morning as a child. It can also be filled with a little apprehension as you wonder what it will be like to see him again, have him with you in the home, sharing and experiencing life together as a family again. Help start your new chapter together with a special homecoming.
Planning the Homecoming
Homecoming after a long deployment means that there will likely be other people in your soldier’s life who want to be there for his return. Depending upon the size of your family, their proximity to where you will be for the homecoming, and the personal requests of your soldier, your celebration can take on many different looks. Start by asking yourself a few basic questions about the best way for you and your soldier to celebrate his return.
- Does your soldier have family and friends who have requested to attend the homecoming?
- Will the homecoming be too emotional for your children if there are dozens of family and friends wanting to share the time?
- Has your soldier indicated any preferences for his homecoming?
Once you get a sense of everyone’s plans, needs, and expectations, you can consider the following possible scenarios.
Celebrate the homecoming with just you and your children on the immediate day, giving your soldier time to adjust and your children a day or two to have their special time. Then you can host a reunion of sorts, inviting family and friends to a celebration.
Bring as many people to the homecoming as you can find! Sometimes soldiers and their families truly need this immediate togetherness. You can spend a short together at the immediate location, then move to your home or another venue, depending on size.
Surprise your soldier with a fan bus. Arrange to have a bus (or two!) waiting, filled with family and friends. You can all drive together to your celebration, and then have your private homecoming moments the following day.
How to Have an Amazing Homecoming
Whether your family needs or wants a huge party the moment your soldier returns or you prefer to slowly build up to that event, there are several great ways to create a magical and amazing homecoming for your soldier.
Have at least two people appointed as photographers, one for still shots, and the other for videography. These are moments you will cherish and want to be able to see later, as the moment will seem very surreal.
If you’re serving food, consider an “All American” menu of hot dogs, hamburgers and corn on the cob. Add in boxes of Cracker Jacks – you can even use these for centerpieces and party favors for the kids, and some apple pie and colored Jell-O for dessert (red, white, and blue, of course!). If your soldier has some favorite foods, you could always put in requests to family and friends to bring their best recipes. Maybe Aunt Jane makes his favorite cookies, while his mom makes his favorite lasagna. Getting others involved will lessen your workload, help others to feel a special part of the celebration, and serve your soldier his favorite dishes.
Get your community involved. Many neighborhoods or entire towns are more than willing to pull together and join in the celebration. They can line the road and hold flags, tie patriotic ribbons on their mail boxes, or perhaps even gather the local school choir to sing some favorite songs. Local businesses also might be willing to help with the costs of food, transportation, or decorations.
Make matching shirts for you and your family to wear to the homecoming. You can purchase iron transfer sheets at local craft stores and print your family name on them, then apply them to the shirts. Get creative and add a family crest or family pictures. Make sure to make an extra shirt for your soldier!
Maybe you just want to get back that familiar feeling and celebrate at home. Even if it is April, put up a Christmas tree, hang the stockings, and serve some gingerbread cookies. The best present of all will be the return of your soldier.
Photo credit: Jack
If as an adult you struggle with your soldier being deployed, try to imagine for a moment how your children feel about this confusing and stressful time. Or perhaps you were a military child yourself and you understand the angst that goes along with waiting for a deployment to end and wishing for a sense of normalcy to return. Parents, grandparents, and caregivers often face the challenges of caring for children who struggle with understanding their emotions about their soldier’s deployment. They do this all while trying to deal with their own roller coasters of feelings during deployment. Fortunately, there are several things that can be done to help children understand their own feelings and keep communication open between you and them.
Establish a Safe Method of Communication
Kids sometimes simply don’t know what is OK to talk about and what causes people to become agitated or frustrated at the mere mention. As they try to handle their own emotions, they add to that worrying that brining up their own sadness will make others sad, so they avoid the conversation altogether. Try some of these activities to keep kids talking and give them safe zones for doing so.
Invest in an inexpensive conversation ball, like the ones available here. There are numerous vendors who offer these fun, inexpensive conversation starters. There are dozens of phrases or questions listed all over the ball. It gets tossed around and when given a prompt or when the music stops, the person holding the ball reads the question under his left thumb (for example), and provides an answer. These can be as basic as: “When I grow up I want to be a…” to something more significant such as, “The last thing I prayed about was…”. These balls give families opportunities to have active fun together but still incorporate conversations. You might be surprised at what your child reveals during this game.
Whether you play a game or not, find a way and a time each day to let your kids know that you would like to hear from them how they are doing. Make sure you are not rushed, there are no spying ears around to overhear, and you come into the situation without your own overwhelming emotions.
Help Your Kids Understand their Emotions
Find a method that works for your child to record her feelings. For some kids this is a simple as a diary or journal, but for others it might be recording their own stories onto the computer, keeping a collection of drawings and artwork, or using a camera to capture pictures that reflect how they feel. They can use the camera to take reverse images in the mirror, seeing themselves and the emotional faces they can make.
Give words to emotions and build your child’s emotional intelligence. Instead of using general terms to sum up emotions, such as sad, happy, OK, scared, and fine, elaborate on deeper feelings. You can do this by discussing the feelings that others display, even on television or in a movie. Say something such as, “It looks to me like that man is feeling frustrated that his family didn’t listen, and he might be feeling scared about what he will do next. What do you think?” This is an example of how you can show your child that sometimes we are feeling more than one thing at a time, and it is not always easy to figure that out and find a way to deal with those emotions. Then you can ask for their thoughts and ideas. It is safer sometimes to discuss what someone else might be feeling and how they deal with that, and then apply those examples to our own lives.
Children move through transitional stages physically, emotionally, and mentally, and it is challenging to raise them even in the best of circumstances. Work to acknowledge their feelings and give them opportunities to share them. If you are ever concerned that you just can’t give them the help they need with their emotions and concerns, bring someone into their lives that can help – a friend, neighbor, or even therapist. Our children’s emotions require more care than all of the glassware in the world, but you can do it through persistence and patience.
Photo credit: Andy