With recent affairs I know of a decent amount of soliders who have been deployed.
Although I am not an expert and I, myself am just trying to take it one day at a time, I wanted to share coping mechanisms and tools for toddlers that I’ve learned through reading materials, experience and of course trial and error.
Your toddler’s cry for heartache will not look like your own. I would say the first step in helping is understanding. Toddlers will lash out when they are upset. Their behavior will seem off, they will act out and be extra whinny. With my own daughter I saw a direct correlation between poor behavior, whining and clingingness on the days she was missing her daddy more than normal.
You should also expect for your toddler to regress in some form. We were informed of this by her pediatrician.
This is single-handily the best tool I have. I put together a 10 minute video of my husband with random clips of him doing whatever. I made sure to include solo clips, clips with her and him, clips in his uniform and clips of him and I. I did this purposely as to show her he can be with her, with me or by himself and the video still carries a happy, positive tone. My toddler watches this video (usually) once in the morning and once at night on the TV (YouTube app). She loves seeing him on the big screen. Myself and other family members really enjoy watching it too. Here is the video if you would like reference! https://youtu.be/QwGfIlYCZ44
We also have 3 “reading a story” videos my husband sent over. My toddler enjoys these but I will say the video with a collection of clips attracts her attention longer as it is more like a movie and it’s cheery with music.
We also have a good morning and goodnight videos. She loves seeing herself sitting on his lap in these.
My daughter loves her Daddy Doll. She has to snuggle it every night before bed. I know other toddlers who bring their daddy dolls with them everyyyywhere. I think this gives her a type of physical comfort and soothing at the end of the day. She also became very needy at night, “sad” she would tell me. I allotted time at the end of the day to give her the extra love I know she needed.
This is tricky. There are not many toddlers who want to look at a screen and chat. You need to find what “clicks” with your toddler. My daughter would get mad and frustrated if we called and her dad was unable to pick up. She would also get frustrated if she was forced to talk to him which made both parties upset. So what I did is set expectations. We found a time where he was available the most often and it also worked with our schedule. This happens to be during our morning. When she wakes up we send a quick texts to make sure it is a good time to call. She is awake, but not crazy yet. She also doesn’t have tv or toys in front of her face. This makes for the perfect combination of being interested in talking to him for the longest amount a toddler can withstand being still. It is also works great that she can expect to hear from him and he’s part of her morning routine.
We have a few books that have really helped. One was gifted and the others were given by the Yellow Ribbon event. The book that started to help her understand what deployment actually was is the book “Over There”. It shows the dad in military clothes, it is simple and at the end it has a slot for a picture of your military member. It also talks about the emotions of deployment which is where I really saw her grasping the concept of the entire book. There is a part where it talks about being sad, it says something along the lines of “sometimes I’m sad or even mad that daddy is away. But that’s ok to feel that way!” She always says “sad…”. Although that sounds really, really bad it is actually a good thing. Understanding helps with coping. Recognizing our good and bad feelings helps to sort out what we feel in the young and old.
Here is a link to purchase “I’ll Lend You My Daddy” http://liketk.it/2LntM
The other two you can not buy, perhaps resale sights or garage sales keep your eye out! If your solider is to be deployed, as I said I did get these at the Yellow Ribbon event for free.
Patience & Prayer
Your loved one AND your toddler need all the encouragement they can get in this time. I started praying with my toddler when my husband went away. I explained what praying was and then kept it simple. We both did the same nightly prayer which turned into a whenever, all the time prayer. She can even say the entire prayer on her own now.
Thank you for the roof over my head
The food in my belly
& please keep my daddy safe
Overall, the best thing you can do is instill patience within yourself which is easier said than done. Like I said it’s frustrating, confusing time for your little one. This results in lashing out. They are dealing with feelings they have never experienced before and they need extra love and support during this time. We talk about being sad, missing daddy and we give extra hugs. We count to 10 when we feel frustrated and have dance parties when the days feel long.
This is only a chapter, and if you’ve read this you’re already doing a great job mom or dad. Take a deep breathe because it will all be over soon, homecoming will be here before you know it and of course, thank you for your family’s service.