For most people, Memorial Day is little more than the unofficial start of summer, but for military families, Memorial Day is a reminder of the profound sacrifices made by millions of men and women for their country.
While it’s common to see politicians and newscasters pause to honor fallen troops, the families of currently deployed troops are often forgotten. These families bear the brunt of their loved one’s deployment. Better services for military members, shorter deployments when possible, and frequent contact with family members can help to minimize some of the common effects of deployment on children and spouses.
Attachment is the normal process through which a parent bonds with his child. Attachment can occur at any time during development; for example, children adopted late in life typically grow attached to their adoptive parents. However, attachments are strongest when they are established in the first two years, and parental absence due to deployment can be extremely traumatic for children.
Children react in a variety of ways; they may long for their absent parent, or they may struggle with developing a loving bond with the parent. Children who have not properly bonded with a parent experience something called an attachment disorder, which can affect intelligence, future romantic relationships, mental health, and social development. Parents should encourage children to have frequent contact with deployed parents and should talk frequently about the absent parent to help prevent attachment problems.
When a parent is deployed, the parent left behind temporarily becomes a single parent. The loss of a supportive partner and the obligation to do everything oneself can be extraordinarily stressful, especially when coupled with fears about the deployed spouse’s safety.
Parental stress affects children in a number of ways. Babies frequently mirror their parents’ emotions and may be chronically stressed when a parent frequently exhibits symptoms of stress. Stress is especially damaging during pregnancy.