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Celebrating during periods of deployment

Separation is part and parcel of military life. Naval families often face longer periods of deployment, resulting in missing landmarks such as Father’s and Mother’s Day or birthdays. Here are some tips for celebrating during periods of separation. 

Looking at social media, you’d be excused in thinking there’s a day to celebrate any small thing in today’s world. From National Eat Your Vegetable’s Day to International Hug Your Cat Day, humans seem to find a way to celebrate their favourite causes and shower love on their family and friends. 

Of course some are more important than others. Birthdays, religious holidays such as Christmas and Eid, and Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are landmarks in our calendars. 

These rituals bring comfort and give an excuse to blow off some steam. They also bring a sense of normalcy and of the passing of time, benefits that have taken on greater significance in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

For Naval families, these special dates are often celebrated apart. Periods of deployment can last up to six months, resulting in parents missing multiple days of celebration. 

This can turn these celebratory moments on their head, bringing stress to both the parent on deployment and at home, as well as their children. 

We’ve put together some tips on how you can celebrate important landmarks while a parent is away. 

Make sure you celebrate

With small children, the responsibility of arranging gifts and treats falls on Mum and Dad. This can be difficult for the parent at home to organise, especially if the day is celebrating them. Marking the day in some way will give you a morale boost, while sharing pictures or stories with your deployed partner will also cheer up their day. 

The Henderson family mark Father’s Day by taking a ‘huggable hero’ toy of their Daddy, Stephen, on their adventures, making sure to send lots of photos along the way. His wife Kat says that the family always celebrates on the day, before planning for a special meal upon Stephen’s return. 

Involve the children in making or buying a gift

Buying a gift to mark your own special day can be a tricky task. Involving the children in the process will give you a fun activity that will make things easier. From arts and crafts to picking out a gift together on a special shopping trip, you can turn this into a fun activity for both you and the kids. 

Meet up with other families

There may be another family at your child’s school that is in the same situation. Meeting up with another parent will allow you both to distract one another, and empathise, while the kids can play and be around their friends. 

Let Mummy or Daddy know you’re all thinking of them

Touching base with your loved one on deployment, be it a day celebrating you, them or the children, will give everyone a massive uplift. Video calls allow the kids to open their presents in Mummy or Daddy’s presence, or see their parents’ faces light up when they see the gifts they’ve been given. Above all else, the parent knows that even when they’re away, they’re missed at home.

Avoid social media or other triggers

On special occasions, social media is awash with messages of love and pictures of families celebrating together. If you think this might be difficult for you, or your children, to process, stay clear of your social media feeds for 24 hours. 

Plan your day

Keeping to a loose itinerary will help both you and your children celebrate the day happily. Empty space can often lead to periods of feeling down due to separation. Even with a plan there may be wobbles. Filling the day with fun is the best way to celebrate as best you can. 

What are your tips for celebrating special days while a parent is away? Let us know, and we’ll add them to this article, and share them on social media before important celebrations.

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How we can help you

The Naval Children’s Charity supports children up to and including the age of 25 whose parent(s) serve or have served in the Naval Service: Royal Navy, Royal Marines, QARNNS, WRNS, their Reserves and the RFA. If you need information or advice regarding support for your child(ren) please fill in the form to the best of your knowledge. One of our caseworkers will then contact you.

If you would prefer to call us we can be contacted on 023 9263 9534, our office hours are 0830-1600 Monday to Thursday and 0830-1300 on Friday.