When a deployment is looming, it’s normal for military spouses or loved ones to feel a mixture of stress, fear and insecurity. Even for those who have been through a deployment before, it can be intimidating to be separated from your service member and navigating life alone. Here’s why one of the best thing you can do before deployment is to take the time and plan it out.
- Planning for the unknown removes the weight of anxiety. One of the scariest things about deployment is not knowing what to expect. It’s difficult to anticipate when your service member will communicate and what your daily routine will look like without them. The more you learn about deployments—especially those specific to your service member’s branch and deployed location—the more clearly you will be able to think and make decisions for your family. Connecting with other military families and reading their deployment experiences are good ways to build up your confidence and prepare for deployment.
- Planning for emergencies reduces your stress. Deployments are rarely predictable and smooth. Things break, kids get sick and your service member may have infrequent communication. The military has numerous forms and paperwork that can help you handle emergency situations, but these are only helpful if you and your service member take the time to complete them in advance. Learn about the different versions of a Power of Attorney. If you have children, complete a Family Care Plan. Know how to send an American Red Cross message. Have a plan in case a natural disaster forces you to evacuate. Completing these forms may feel like an additional hassle before deployment, but it will give you peace of mind during an emergency because you have already explored your options and know what to do next.
- The more you prepare, the more confident you will feel. Caring for a house and children by yourself can be difficult. While you can never prevent all disasters, regular maintenance can help lessen the odds of things going wrong at home. Learn the basics of home and auto maintenance before your service member leaves. Build up the support system you will need to care for children as the solo parent. Know where to find important paperwork in your home, and how to pay all the bills. Consider hiring temporary assistance for things like lawn maintenance, child care or even grocery delivery. The sooner you get into a manageable deployment routine, the more energy you will have to get through deployment.
- Planning ahead with your spouse gets you through limited communication during deployment. Maintaining your marriage or relationship can be challenging when deployment limits your communication. It’s important to discuss your concerns with your spouse/loved ones in advance so you can get on the same page. Talk to them about your deployment expectations so they can help you evaluate what is realistic. Make a budget together so you are both aware of goals and limitations. The more you discuss ahead of time, the less you will allow minor deployment nuisances to strain your relationship.
- Planning is essential if you are moving or going home during deployment. If you are considering leaving the base or moving to a different house during deployment, this is something you and your service member should discuss in advance. There will be financial and logistical challenges, so it’s important to map out the options together. Try to arrange help from family or friends so you won’t get stuck with the stress of moving on your own. Make sure you have informed the military unit of your new location so you don’t miss out on important updates.
- Planning for R&R leave helps you maximize your time together. During longer deployments, service members can get one to two weeks of leave to return home for a visit. Discuss mid-deployment leave options with your service member and plan so you can both get the most out of the visit. Some service members want to take a vacation or see family during that time. Others simply want to sleep and relax at home. Discuss your priorities so no one is left disappointed.
- Planning your goals and milestones gives you something to look forward to! Deployment planning doesn’t only have to focus on negatives and emergencies. You can also have fun planning positive goals and breaks for yourself throughout the deployment. It’s important to have something small to look forward to each month, even if it is just coffee with a friend, a new yoga class or a few hours with a babysitter watching the kids. When you plan out little breaks and rewards, you will feel encouraged and ready to face your next hurdle.
Using the Plan My Deployment tool from Military One Source can help you with these and other steps. Reading the articles, getting informed and completing the pre-deployment tasks will help you feel prepared and confident, while giving you peace of mind about the deployment ahead. What preparation tips would you add to this list?