Preparing for Deployment as a Family

Whether this is your first time preparing for a deployment or you’ve been through one before, including your family in the preparations is very important. Planning should begin well before the deployment occurs, and should include:

Make sure to include the whole family in the planning as much as possible to help everyone feel part of the team.

Understand your service member’s role

Discuss the role your service member plays within their unit, where they are going and the overarching mission they’re working to accomplish – but remember there are some things your service member may not be able to share for security reasons. Make sure you understand Operations Security rules and regulations. Following these guidelines will help assure your family’s safety, as well as the safety of your service member and their unit.

Communication plan

Communication with your service member plays a critical role during deployment. Discuss expectations about how often you may be able to talk with each other and what you’re allowed to talk about. Remember that there are times your loved one may not be able to talk due to mission requirements. Be sure to make plans for the deployed service member to speak with any children as well.

To prevent challenges, familiarize yourself with available communication tools and how to use and interact through these methods of communication. Options available may include phone, email or video chat — figuring out which method is best for your situation is key. Check out these tips for communicating in a long-distance relationship.

Family care plan

It’s important to create and discuss a family care plan. A family care plan should include logistical, financial, medical, educational and legal documentation for your family. If an emergency should occur, your family care plan will provide you with a plan of action to best handle the situation.

Child care assistance

Before your loved one deploys, review and discuss the available child care options and decide what is best for your family. Options include:

On-installation child care: is the Department of Defense online request for care system that helps families in any service branch find and request military-operated child care worldwide. Look for full- or part-time care at facility- or home-based child care programs, including before- and after-school care, or for summer and holidays.

Expanded options for hourly child care: Through Military OneSource, military families now have free access to a national database of more than a million caregivers so they can find hourly, flexible and on-demand child care. This nationally recognized subscription service lets families search for caregivers based on their own needs, check references, and even interview potential caregivers. It’s easy to access and is an online solution that allows parents to choose, hire and pay caregivers on their terms. Learn more about the expanded child care service.

Off-installation care with fee assistance: Child Care Aware of America manages fee-assistance programs for the military services and you may be eligible. Visit their website or call 800-424-2246.

Parenting resources

A wide variety of resources are available to support you and your family throughout the deployment life cycle. Learn more now about helpful resources so you’ll know where to find support when you need it.

  • The Military OneSource Parenting Resource Center offers an overview of available resources for children by age group: Infants-Preschool, School-age, Youth &Teens, and Young Adults. It also has links for specialized support for families with special needs, survivor families and new parents, as well as a link to the DOD MWR Libraries.
  • Military OneSource provides free, confidential non-medical counseling to help you manage challenges of military life such as deployment adjustments, parenting and relationship issues, stress management and more.
  • Military and Family Support Centers provide information, education and support programs to help balance the demands of military life. Contact your installation Military and Family Support Center for more information.
  • Installation youth centers offer a variety of recreational programs for youth and teens. Programs vary by location so contact your installation youth center for more information.
  • Military OneSource Blog Brigade is an online community that shares tips and insights on a wide variety of military life experiences.
  • Sesame Street for Military Families offers a variety of multi-media resources to help young children cope with military life challenges such as deployment, relocation and more.
  • Thrive is a free, online parenting-education course that provides evidence-informed positive parenting practices to help promote healthy, resilient children and families. Check out their downloadable parent resources for children ages 0-18.
  • School liaisons act as a bridge between families and schools and have resources and partnerships to help military children thrive academically, socially and emotionally, regardless of duty station, deployments or transition status. Contact your installation school liaison office for more information. Read this short article for more information about staying connected with your child’s teachers during deployment.

Friends and extended family

Friends and extended family can also be a source of support during deployment, for both service members and their families. Share information how friends and family can stay connected with your service member, and make sure to let them know if there are ways they can help you as well.

Getting ready for deployment can be a challenge, but advance planning helps make sure you know what to expect and have your support networks in place.