One of the hardest parts about military life is frequent separation. Deployments, station changes, and temporary assignments can make military life lonely and challenging for both military personnel and their families. Even families outside of the military face the challenges of separation on occasion. Luckily, with a combination of modern technology and old-fashioned pen and paper, distance doesn’t have to equal separation.
Out-of-sync schedules can make it difficult to keep in touch, particularly when you’re on opposite sides of the globe. But a bit of planning can bridge this communication gap. Set specific times to communicate, ideally once a day, or at least two or three times a week.
With today’s technology, it’s easier than ever to stay in touch over long distances. But that doesn’t mean all communication has to be digital. Here are a few ways military personnel—and parents who are away from their children for other reasons—can stay connected and active in family life.
- Video Chat: With free video chat programs like Skype and Google Hangouts—available for whatever device or operating system you need—it’s never been easier to keep in touch with and actually see your loved ones, no matter how far away you are. Military families can use video chatting to do more than just chat. It’s a great way to play games, read together, or even tuck your kids into bed from across the globe.
- Read Together: Reading together is a fun and educational way to keep in touch over long distances. There are many ways to do this. You can read the same book, pledging to read a chapter a week on your own time, and discuss the book with each other when you get a chance to connect. Or you can read aloud with your kids—either to them or have them read to you—when you talk on the phone or video chat.
- Online Games: Depending on the type of deployment, military parents may have some time to play games with their kids. There are thousands of online games to chose from, and playing a game together helps make the separation a little easier to handle. You might even convince your spouse to play a game or two with you.
- Educational Activities: School-aged children often have homework and activities that make it difficult to keep in touch with a deployed parent. However, if the parent is actively involved in the child’s education, bonding will be easier and the child will likely do better in school. Try working on homework together or even supervising online lessons. Some military families choose to homeschool or enroll their children in online programs to allow for more consistency in their education and greater involvement of their deployed parents.
- Write Letters: Just because we have e-mail and video chat doesn’t mean a pen and paper are obsolete—especially when schedules don’t match up. Kids can treasure paper letters sent to and from military parents for decades to come, and writing letters to a deployed parent is a fun way for kids to practice handwriting.
While advancements in video technology, online gaming, and even consistent schooling have made it easier than ever to keep in touch from anywhere in the world, communicating with loved ones is still a challenge for many military families, but these ideas may make it a little easier.
What other tools or strategies do you use to help your family stay connected? Please share with us in the comments section below!