The Importance of Receiving Help – and How to Ask for It

· Filed Under Family, Health, Help, Military Resource · Comment 

A hand of help

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:

  • Churches
  • Community outreach programs
  • Neighborhood groups
  • Online forums
  • Military resources
  • Family
  • Co-workers

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

Celebrating Thanksgiving and Birthdays During Deployment (Part 2!)

· Filed Under Health, Relationships, This & That · Comment 

Thanksgiving and Birthdays!

In America Thanksgiving is a time of gathering with family and reflecting on all we have in our lives. Even though your soldier might not be able to be present for the celebration, you can include him and help you and your children feel connected to him during this holiday season.

Cornucopia of Blessings

Take an empty wicker or other decorative cornucopia, a symbol of overflowing bounty, and place it in a central location in the home. Several weeks before Thanksgiving, take time each day to write with your children one thing they are thankful for and place this note in the cornucopia. Use orange, yellow, and red pieces of paper, and fold them to give them depth before you place them in the cornucopia. By Thanksgiving you should have visible evidence of all of the wonderful things in your life. At dinner, read these aloud among whomever is there, then take them and create a scrapbook of thanks for your soldier and send the book as a wonderful reminder of the love waiting back home.

Turkey Cookies

You can’t easily send mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie in a box overseas, but you can still send some holiday treats to your soldier. Use your regular sugar cookie dough recipe, divided into two, and add just enough food coloring to each batch to make one yellow and the other orange. Roll out the dough and use turkey shaped cookie cutters. Have your kids help you decorate them with fall colored sprinkles, and then send a sweet treat to your soldier. If you have teens or tweens, consider letting them have a baking party where they can invite friends over to make and decorate the cookies, and have enough to share with neighbors or send to other soldiers.

Birthdays – Gotta Have ‘Em

For your soldier’s birthday, send a care package that the kids help create. You can include the usual birthday cards, but add in there some unique surprises such as trick candles, a roll of streamers, balloons, and a list of all the things you love about your soldier – the number should match the age the birthday brings. You could even opt to send a clue as to what the birthday gift waiting at home is, but keep the actual gift at home, creating anticipation your child can get excited about with this fun secret.

If your soldier is missing the birthday of your child and that is causing sadness, you can plan ahead and have your soldier pick a special gift to give your child. Have the gift wrapped and with a card from your soldier. It could even be the first gift of the day, or a special token left on a pillow just before bed time. Your soldier could record herself singing Happy Birthday and either send it to you online or on a flash drive to play for your child. Take two pieces of birthday cake, one each for your child and your soldier, and borrow a tradition from weddings and place the cake in the freezer to be shared when your soldier returns.

No matter what the holiday, celebration, or special event is, it is important to make sure you don’t put your lives on pause while your soldier is deployed. For children this matters even more. The younger they are the more their memories will be shadowed by emotions. Do what you can to make sure that those special times are celebrated when your soldier is deployed, but include your soldier in little ways to bring all of you closer.

For the first installment of this two part series, see Creative Ways to Celebrate Holidays During Your Soldier’s Deployment (Part 1!)

Photo credit: Adrian

Creative Ways to Celebrate Holidays During Your Soldier’s Deployment (Part 1!)

· Filed Under Family, Health, Relationships · Comment 

Christmas with kids!

Holidays and birthdays are those special times when we try to gather with loved ones to celebrate and create memories. When those who are important to us are deployed abroad, keeping traditions and celebrating without them can be a sad reminder of the distance separating you from them. When there are young children involved, finding ways to recognize special days can become even more challenging.

Keep Celebrating

Soldiers have some of the only jobs that continue right through the holidays, and sometimes days abroad are barely recognizable as holidays compared to typical celebrations at home. However, for loved ones at home holidays can be markers of time that are bittersweet. Children sometimes feel guilty about celebrating without their parents or older siblings, and may not want to acknowledge the holiday until the soldier comes home. Find ways to keep celebrating, even if you need to modify the typical plans.

Celebrating Christmas During Deployment

Christmas is celebrated all around the world, and the distance might never seem so great between you and your soldier than at this time of year. Use one or all of the following tips for creating memories, keeping traditions, and making new ones this holiday season with your children and your soldier.

Christmas – The Sequel

Make holidays Part I and Part II celebrations, and reinforce to kids that this is the best of both worlds! Part I of the holiday can be celebrated on the original date, such as Christmas. There are just certain things that mark these passages of time, such as attending a church service, singing carols with the neighbors, and decorating a tree. Hold a Part II celebration when your soldier returns, and account for some of the traditions that can be done “out of season”. This might be snuggling together to watch It’s a Wonderful Life, making a gingerbread house, or exchanging Secret Santa gifts. Your soldier will love the homecoming celebration, and your child will be able to continue celebrating and create memories.

Trimming the Tree

A Christmas tree can be a symbol of life, and decorating one is often a family tradition. One way to make trimming the tree special for families separated by deployment is to ask your soldier to send back little trinkets from the base or the area in which they are serving. These can be as simple as buttons, postcards, or even pictures. Help your kids to use these items to make Christmas ornaments to hang on your tree at home.

In return, send your soldier a paper handprint tree that the kids make together. To do this, start with the smallest hands first (if you have more than one child), and trace 2 or 3 handprints on green construction paper. Do this for everyone in the family. Cut out the handprints. Arrange the cutouts with the fingers pointing downward, overlapping each other like this one, and glue the pieces to form a tree. Let the kids decorate the handprint tree with markers, glitter, stickers, and more, then wrap up this great Christmas tree and send it to your soldier.

thijs

Adjusting to Life After Your Soldier Returns from Deployment

· Filed Under Deployment, Health · Comment 

Happy Couple

You’ve waited months, perhaps more than a year, to welcome your soldier home. You’ve shopped for food to make his favorite meal, arranged for his parents to visit upon his return, and helped the kids make signs welcoming him home. But are you really ready for the return?

Sometimes even after all of those sleeplessness nights, counting days until the return, the homecoming doesn’t always lead to sunshine and rainbows. There is often a honeymoon period when you won’t be able to stop looking at each other, and the kids will be stuck like honey to his side. However, some military families are caught off guard by the feelings of resentment that might emerge, the adjustment to new routines, and the fact that somehow life went on during deployment and not everything is just how it used to be.

Possible Threats to the Honeymoon after Homecoming

Even thinking about the idea that there might be negative emotions upon return from deployment might be more than you want to do. However, preparing for the possibilities will help to diminish the likelihood that these situations will occur, and the effects of them won’t have to be so severe. There are bound to be adjustments that need to be made – start thinking early about how things have changed for you during deployment and what those changes might mean to your soldier.

  • The children have an earlier bedtime, necessitated by the fact that you needed an extra 30 minutes alone each night.
  • The kids have had one authority figure in their life and aren’t used to the ramifications of two in the house.
  • You have developed a new weekend routine. On Saturday the kids do their activities, you spend the afternoon working on projects, and in the evening you hang out with other kids and their moms.
  • Your mom spends at least 2 afternoons each week at your house, helping with the kids and household chores.
  • The financial planning has been on your plate and you have developed a method to the madness.
  • You’ve met new friends and enjoy one evening a month going somewhere special with them as a treat for you.

While all of these scenarios are not necessarily negative ones, the effects they might have on your relationship with your soldier upon his return could become negative if you’re not prepared. Make a realistic assessment of how your relationship looked and worked before deployment and make sure that you don’t just assume that it will continue in the new routines without compromise. Your soldier will be facing his own readjustments so it is imperative that you work together as a team to make the homecoming a long lasting positive experience.

Make sure you communicate regularly about daily life. You might be used to independent living and decision making, but you need to remember to include your soldier in the daily routines.

Be watchful for signs of PTSD in your soldier or other stress related issues. Don’t hesitate to encourage him to seek help or talk with someone yourself. Also keep in mind that you might benefit from sharing with a third party how you are adjusting to life after homecoming.

Be aware of changes in the kids’ behaviors, either increased anxiety over your soldier being gone for even a few minutes, or rebellious behavior that tests the waters. Nip this in the bud and work together with your soldier to form a parenting unit. Don’t let the kids create a great divide between you now that you have just gotten him home.

Soon after homecoming sit down and revisit the responsibility list. Maybe you will continue to mow the lawn now, and he wants to take over weekend cooking for the family. Go over the family calendar and get your soldier up to speed on the activities of everyone and how he can participate and help. Just don’t direct the show – form a team. Whatever your decisions are, work on making them together.

Photo credit: Rachel

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