October 26th, 2009 17:09 EST
Military Families Find Ways To Deal With Deployment
By Elaine Wilson
Oct. 23, 2009
Last month, I read an article about a Florida woman who takes her boyfriend with her everywhere " on dates, to the beach and to restaurants " in spite of the fact that he`s deployed.
She`s one of the many users of a life-size cardboard cutout of a deployed servicemember sometimes referred to as a Flat Daddy " or Flat Mommy. "
I found the concept fascinating. Not only can the Flat Daddy serve as a stand-in, but it also can help keep a deployed loved one connected. Through pictures and video, a deployed dad can still see himself at family events even if he can`t be there in person. In an Ohio National Guard article, one woman raves about her Flat Daddy.
I have every intention of taking him lots of places and sending him pictures of where he`s been. He won`t feel like he missed much, " she said. It`ll be helpful for the kids to have him there. "
But as with all seemingly great ideas, this one doesn`t work for everyone. In an American Forces Press Service article, Alison Buckholtz, a Navy wife and author, talks about her Flat Daddy experiences.
I had never really thought that Flat Daddy would be a good idea for us, " Buckholtz, author of Standing By: The Making of an American Military Family in a Time of War, " said in the article. Just knowing my kids and their personalities, it seemed kind of creepy to me. But I try to be open to as many ideas as I can, so I gave it a try. "
It didn`t work out for the Buckholtz family, but for many others, it`s a great substitute till the real thing comes home.
The idea of a Flat Daddy inspired me to search for other ideas to help military families cope with deployments.
Here are some great tips I found on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District`s Family Support Network :
" Keep photos of your deployed family member in children`s rooms and in main living spaces.
" Communicate about your deployed family member often. Think of ways to remember your deployed loved one around the holidays and special occasions.
" Make videos and send them to each other. Play them for your children often.
" Keep kids on a schedule. It will help make their day more secure and also help pass the time.
" At the dinner table, light a candle and place it where your loved one normally sits.
" Change a clock to reflect the time where your loved one is deployed so you have an idea of what they may be doing throughout the day.
" Share everyday activities with your loved one.
" Take special pictures of the children, family and pets and have them made into poster-size pictures for your deployed servicemember.
" Create a legacy letter. " Keep a pad or paper near you and your kids at all times and every time you have a thought about your loved one, write it down or have your kids write it down. Do this for a week and send it so your family member knows he or she is with you all day long.
Crystal Riehle, whose husband has been deployed twice and often travels on military business for weeks at a time, talked about how her family copes when Dad is away. We have special things that we do only when Dad is gone. " Riehle said. Her family will often have special meals or eat in unusual places like a picnic on the kitchen floor or have sleepovers in the living room, she said.