Quick tips for parenting alone during your partner’s deployment

It can be tough to parent alone during your partner’s deployment. And just when your Service Member returns—and you feel like you’re getting back in sync with parenting together—another deployment can happen without notice, often without you knowing how long it might last. Communication with your military spouse also can be limited during deployments, leaving you with a lot to manage by yourself.

While deployments can disrupt the pace of life, you likely adjusted before and found there’s more than one way to get things done. You also can dig deep within yourself to find inner strengths that help keep everyone on track while your spouse is away.

Planning ahead is your best bet, so you feel prepared for the transition to parenting alone. Try to talk with your spouse in advance about how things will go with the kids when you’re at home alone, and brainstorm ideas on how you can best manage things. Think about what worked well in the past, and consider the following tips to adjust your approach to parenting when it’s just you, rather than both of you.

  • Do you need help with childcare? Identify which family members and/or friends might be available, and make a plan to talk with them. When possible, provide your dates and times up front, so your helpers can plan on their end too. Consider contacting your local DoD Child Development Center or visit Militarychildcare.com for programs that can subsidize the cost of childcare, if needed.
  • Are there ways to simplify your family’s schedule when your Warfighter is deployed? Perhaps there are a few activities you can skip or delay when a mission or TDY training rolls around. It’s important to keep routines consistent, but if you feel overwhelmed flying solo, it’s okay to cut back on your obligations. It’s important to stay as dependable and organized as possible.
  • How will you handle emergencies if, for example, you or your child gets sick? Make a list of local contacts—such as neighbors, babysitters, friends, or other family members—you can count on in a pinch.
  • How can you maintain consistent discipline during your spouse’s absence? If your Warfighter typically takes on this role, talk about how you can become comfortable with this shift in responsibility. Outline what you both think are fair punishments and rewards for your children.
  • How will you care for yourself while your partner is away? Think about this together, and work some “me time” into your schedule. Plan outings with friends or pencil in trips to the gym when your kids are at their own activities.

Then, before each deployment, schedule a brief family meeting to discuss what will happen at home when your Service Member is away on a mission or training. Let your children know what will change at times, including any adjustments to your family’s schedule or childcare. Give your kids time to ask questions, and consider any feedback they have to offer.

Once she or he deploys, make sure to keep your Warfighter in the loop with updates too, especially if you need parenting support or advice. Still, try to think of each deployment as an opportunity to become more confident in your abilities to parent alone.

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American Academy of Pediatrics. (2007, 11/21/2015). Stresses of single parenting. Retrieved from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/family-dynamics/types-of-families/Pages/Stresses-of-Single-Parenting.aspx

Duncan, S. F. (2015). Being a successful single parent. Retrieved from https://foreverfamilies.byu.edu/being-a-successful-single-parent

Meadows, S. O., Beckett, M. K., Bowling, K., Golinelli, D., Fisher, M. P., Martin, L. T., . . . Osilla, K. C. (2015). Family resilience in the military: Definitions, models, and policies. Santa Monica, CA: Retrieved from https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR470.html

Pisano, M. C. (2010). Military deployment and family reintegration. In A. S. Canter, L. Z. Paige, & S. Shaw (Eds.), Helping children at home and school III [CD-ROM] (pp. S9H13-11–S19H13-13). Bethesda, MD: National Association of School Psychologists.