Dad should get back from Afghanistan after Easter, but we won’t know exactly when until he is returning. I hope grandma won’t die from her cancer, but the doctor’s will be able to tell us more after her first 6 months of treatments, or I don’t know if this will be our LAST family move, but we definitely won’t be moving again this year or next.
Along with your responses, you can ask your child to tell you more about the thoughts or worries that led to the question. You can’t answer a question well if you don’t know what the REAL question or worry truly is.
Sometimes you might want to withhold troubling information from your child as a way to protect them, but usually they know more than we imagine and are worrying alone with information that seems too upsetting to be discussed. Children tell me they feel excluded rather than protected. Remember that if we want our child to be honest with us about difficult things, we need to model that honest talking is part of our family culture. It doesn’t mean revealing every detail, just a simple explanation to open the subject for a child to ask questions and talk more.
Some children share their thoughts and worries easily, and others are very private. Sometimes parents tell me “my child never talks”.
Either way, it’s always helpful to identify the settings in which your best conversations have occurred. Is it at bedtime, in the car, while you are making dinner or washing up, out fishing or walking the dog? If you identify these settings, you can make it a priority to try to spend time with your child in this way, especially when you have news to deliver or you’ve noticed a change in your child that might be a red flag that something is troubling.
Sometimes you’ll need to communicate with your child across thousands of miles, whether you’re across the country, out of country or in harm’s way. At these times, it’s especially important to be flexible. You’ll want to communicate interest in your child’s day and loving concern whether by computer, email or letter. These special long distance communications bring with them special challenges and a heightened sense of expectation on both sides. In my experience, this anticipation at times leads to disappointment when for example a child waits for a call that doesn’t come or a parent waits to talk with a child who is unwilling to engage on the computer.
At these times, it’s so important for you and your child to have the support of other caring adults reminding each of you of the love in the relationship in spite of that day’s disappointment. By communicating well, you can help your children become stronger, more capable and more confident, and make your family a stronger home base for each of you.
For more information on how to strengthen military families and how to tackle the issues they may face, visit the Staying Strong website, www.StayingStrong.org. Staying Strong is an initiative of the Home Base Program.