If you’re a traditional National Guardsman, one weekend every month you dig your uniform out of the closet and make a physical transformation from civilian to soldier.
If you’re a traditional M-Day soldier with children you know the impact that drill weekends, schools, annual training, temporary duty assignments, and deployments can have on your family.
I’m a Mom, I have two young children. When my kids see me scamper around the house searching for my combat boots and tie my hair up into a bun they know that for the next few days our family’s schedule will change significantly.
Here’s where I’m going to be completely honest.
The 24 hours leading up to and following a drill weekend are difficult for my family. Longer separations for temporary duty assignments, schools, and mobilizations are even more challenging. Separations, even just for the weekend, are hard on most National Guard families.
It makes sense, as our military duties disrupt the routines that our children are used to.
This month, the Department of Defense celebrates the Month of the Military Child and it’s left me thinking about how to help our families cope whenever their lives are impacted by our military responsibilities and obligations.
Here are three things that we can do to prepare our children for drill weekends, TDY, schools and deployments.
First, talk to your children about what you do in the National Guard. Are you a mechanic, a medic or an infantryman? How does your weekend job support the military? Chances are that your military career is significantly different than your civilian career. Our children know what we do every day when we aren’t in uniform but explaining to them what we do when we put a uniform on can help them understand the importance of our service. Your children might be fascinated by the fact that you teach school Monday through Friday and operate a bulldozer on drill weekends.
Next, prepare your children for drill weekend, annual training and deployments by talking through how their schedule will change while you’ll be gone. Let them know who will be babysitting them, what they’ll be eating for dinner and any fun activities that your spouse or their caregiver might have planned during your absence. My kids know that on drill weekends they’ll get to go skiing with their Dad and order pizza for dinner, two special things that they can look forward to.
Finally, reach out for support. Sometimes with our irregular schedules it can be difficult to find a babysitter to watch children at 5:30 a.m., or in the evenings so you can do unit PT.
There are times when my husband is traveling or working during drill weekends making the logistics of scheduling babysitters and commuting difficult. But, knowing the drill schedule ahead of time so you can reach out to friends and family can help. It’s also important to communicate honestly with the chain of command if the drill schedule or meetings leading up to drill simply aren’t feasible.
Fortunately, the Wyoming National Guard has several resources to help military families. Be sure to check out the www.facebook.com/WyomingNGYouth/ for information and activities for National Guard children and the Department of Defense Military One Source for more tips and advice. http://www.militaryonesource.mil/