Active military duty is hard on families. Too often, marriages are a casualty of war. When our servicemen are deployed for long periods of time, it is not uncommon for husbands and wives to grow apart. Even when marriages survive, relationships with children can suffer.
If you and your spouse are having marital difficulties, and you anticipate separation or divorce, don’t forget the children. Your efforts to maintain contact with your child during duty and deployment will directly affect the amount of parenting time you are granted when the divorce is final. It could even determine whether the other parent is permitted to move out of state with your child. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Keep the lines of communication open. Don’t let communication problems with the other parent keep you from speaking with your child. Maintain telephone contact. Utilize video-conferencing such as Skype so that you can see your child and your child can see you–it helps communication tremendously when you can see the other person and read body language.
2. Don’t forget to write. Send your children letters and emails often. If your child is old enough to have a facebook or similar account, check in regularly. Text them. Show them you are interested in what they are doing. Ask them about grades, friends, and activities.
3. Send cards and gifts. Make sure to remember your child’s birthday, as well as holidays and special occasions. If you won’t be home for Christmas, ship gifts home, or buy them in advance and leave them with a friend or family member. When you return home, bring the children a treat or souvenir from your trip.
4. Exercise your visitation. When you are in the country and stationed near your child, don’t neglect your visitation. See you children every chance you get. If you have court-ordered parenting time, ask for extra time. Don’t let the other parent unfairly limit contact with your child. For example, if you have already separated and you are in a new relationship, and the other parent says you can’t see the child when your boyfriend or girlfriend is around, then send the boyfriend or girlfriend away for the weekend and spend time with your kids! Show the other parent and the judge that your children are more important to you than your new love.