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xahm

Long-term distance parent-child bonding: ideas?

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Dh will be deploying soon. He'll have 3 months in a different city, able to come home lots of weekends. Then he'll be it of country for 9 months. Hopefully, he'll get a few weeks of block leave upon return to have some "vacation" time before returning to his regular job. He's national guard, and this is our first deployment as a family. We've been lucky. We're used to 3-6 week things several times a year, but this is, clearly, far longer. My kids will be newborn, 2, 5, and 6 when he goes overseas. I know many of you have done this sort of thing before, so please give me ideas for how to keep parent-child bonds strong. (No stuff yet about home coming. I know that will be its own thing later and I'm not ready to think on that yet.)

My ideas so far are letting the kids leave him lots of video messages and have him respond as he is able. They love baking videos but aren't good talking on the phone for more than 30 seconds, even with video. Also, the oldest loves stories and drawing, so she and dh could work on stories together: one writing a part and the other illustrating, then switching. I don't have many great ideas for my 2 and 5 year old sons. Dh is in the middle of a 6 week thing right now, and my almost two year old was searching the house for him, checking his closet, and mad when he wasn't there. Maybe taking the Flat Stanley idea and sending dh with a laminated picture of the kids to pose with (though he likely won't go many places that are great for pictures, they can see where he lives), while we cart around a picture of dh to pose with. That just seems sad, though, and I'm crying thinking about it! Planning helps me cope, though, so I'm trying to enter planning mode. 

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Those are lovely ideas.  What about having DH record several bedtime stories (favorite books) that y'all could listen to again and again. 

Best wishes. That's such a hard situation. 

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Have you thought about getting a daddy doll (or multiple daddy dolls)?  Recently there was a video in the news of a baby getting excited when he saw and heard his for the first time.  Here's a link to it, and there's a link to the company's website inside that: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2018/08/14/video-babys-excited-reaction-to-doll-resembling-military-dad-goes-viral.html  I'm not positive, but I think you pay extra for the voice recording.  

 

 

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When my husband was in Iraq, the USO was phenomenal in helping the service members stay connected with families.  They would video record dh reading a bedtime story, then mail the video along with the book home to us.  They would set up VTC (video tele-conference) links for us.  They had XBOX stations set up so dh could play live video games with our kids, complete with audio connection. 

Edited by Kinsa
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Can you get a copy of the Sesame Street deployment DVD?  Or it might be online?  I thought it was very well done.

If communication is sketchy because of limited opportunity or time zones, it is really common for parents to make up things to little kids.  “Daddy wanted me to get you this treat.”  “Daddy wanted you to have your new shoes.”  Or make up saying how proud Daddy is of something a little kid has done, even if you haven’t been able to tell him yet.  The moment passes for little kids sometimes, and then they don’t quite remember.

For 5 and 6 it’s easier to talk about things you can’t wait to tell Daddy when you talk.  

This never was something my kids liked, but a lot of people will have the Dad buy a stuffed animal, one for him and for each kid, and then have that be a special thing they all have the same.  They can all have them if they Skype.  

 

 

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https://sesamestreetformilitaryfamilies.org/topic/deployments/?ytid=a3KlVU-EUhE

This looks like the Sesame Street DVD we had. It was the nicest thing I saw for younger kids.  

There are some childrens books but they weren’t out when my kids were little, I’m not as familiar.  

I have seen this one for sale:  https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/144245735X/ref=pd_aw_sim_14_of_8?ie=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=GSRQC2FCXCBJHKHB45CV

And I have seen others, there are quite a few on Amazon other customers have also bought.  If you live near a PX sometimes they will have a display of books like this.  

Edited by Lecka
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Thanks so much for the suggestions. We need to remember to do voice recordings, and hopefully he will be able to do more while there and send them home. Someone in the frg is organizing something with teddy bears. I may look into a doll for the two year old as well. (The others would be able to enjoy it with him). We have the Seseme Street video from when he got within a month of deployment before. I'm hoping he's on a base like Kinsa describes. He did two tours in Iraq before we were married. One of the times he would have access to that a lot of the time, but the other time they didn't even have hot meals a significant portion of the time. We hope to know more when he goes for training since an advance team has already been over. Unfortunately, he was recently promoted and moved "departments" and so isn't in the gossip loop for this "department" yet. (I know department isn't the right word, but I forget exact terminology. I think I may have created a mental block against army lingo.)

Edited by xahm
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Recordable story books are another option to pull out for times when videos and Skype type things aren't available.

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It depends on his job, but he may not always stay at the same place, he may have better access sometimes and worse access other times.  Hopefully he will have good access the whole time!  

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If he goes to Build a Bear he can make a stuffed animal for each kiddo and put a voice recording in them saying he loves them, or whatever he'd like. They can just press the paw and hear his voice. 

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My husband has never been deployed but does travel quite a bit. I have found FaceTime (or Skype) can be frustrating with little kids because they like to see themselves, but it is better than talking on the phone, they like getting instant feedback. My friend played Pictionary and Connect 4 via FaceTime with his young boys though and that worked well for them.

When my husband will be out of reach, I text him short videos of the kids that he can watch when he gets back to a signal. They might be just a quick I love you and goodnight, or they might be about their day. My husband always sends the kids a video of his hotel room. He have company wide safety reports and he’ll tell the kids a funny one of the day. The videos help especially when he’s in a different time zone so I’m not stressed that the kids won’t get to hear from him.

Our kids have special bedtime songs so my husband will sing those over the phone to the kids when he can. 

Keep up your family traditions as much as possible if you can, but don’t feel guilty if you are too tired and just can’t deal with it. I hope it goes well!

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I've never experienced this, but I have a nephew who was deployed.  He organized a daily (? maybe not that often) skype  or facetime, whatever, session with his kids. One of their little rituals was to eat a Hershey's kiss "together."  It was like their bedtime kiss from Daddy.  Even if it wasn't bedtime.  My memory is a little unclear on the details but I do remember that the bedtime kisses were very special to them. 

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