PARENTS ‘It’s not easy’: How military families prepare their kids for deployments

Published on
January 20, 2020

Protecting children from scary news and managing expectations can have a huge impact.

By Meg Holohan,

Michelle Norman’s husband has been deployed with the U.S. Navy almost a dozen times during his 25 years of service. At this point, she doesn’t even keep track of the short deployments he’s had. Still, saying goodbye always feels tough.

“It’s not easy no matter how many years we’ve been in this lifestyle,” Norman, 49, an advocate for military children with special needs, told TODAY Parents. “My husband just left today, actually. He was here on holiday leave, a very short visit we thought would be a little longer. But he was recalled back.”

It’s always tough preparing children for overseas deployments. Michelle Norman tries to keep her children off social media and away from TV news so they don’t learn scary details that might impact their father. Courtesy Amanda Manupella Photography

While Norman has learned to expect the unexpected, her children, Marisa, 16, and Chace, 10, still feel upset.

“It was tough because the kids thought he would be around a little longer,” she explained.

No matter how much experience a family has, preparing for a military deployment is challenging. But managing information and expectations can help children cope with a parent’s absence.

“How I perceive deployment impacts (them),” said Norman, who lives in Virginia. “Our children feed off of whatever my feelings are.”

Norman keeps her children away from TV and social media as much as she can — especially when something frightening happens, such as Iran’s ballistic missile attacks on military bases housing U.S. forces in Iraq.

“There’s really a lot of hype around current events that I really don’t want my children to hear about. If anything, we listen more to morning radio,” she said. “The visual piece brings up images that I don’t want them to see.”

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