Blue Star Families recently released the findings for their 10th annual Military Families Lifestyle surveys. One of the many eye-opening discoveries was that more than 1/3 of military families said that “they do not have anyone to ask a favor.” This brings to light the fact that one of military life’s most significant stressors is feeling isolated with a lack of support, especially during deployments.
Hope For The Warrior staff is comprised of 46% military spouses who have first-hand experience with the highs and lows of military life and deployments. From helping their kiddos understand why mommy or daddy are shipping out, Murphy’s law of deployment and everything in between.
With the sudden deployment of troops overseas during the holiday season, thousands of military families were given little time to mentally and physically prepare for the deployment of their hero.
For those of you who are friends, family or neighbors of these families, our HOPE military spouse staffers put their heads together and came up with 10 ways you can meaningfully help military families during deployments and throughout crazy military life.
1. Express positivity, appreciation and pride
Deployments are always hanging over our heads and are just a part of our reality. They are something that our service members strive and live for as they tirelessly train day in and day out to be prepared to defend our nation and the world. Despite the feelings of nervousness and missing our service member, the moment deployment orders are issued, we are PROUD of our spouses beyond words. Be proud of them too! Show us that by saying, “thank you,” “we are so proud of you” and “we are always here for you!”
Plus, positivity is contagious! Your positivity helps maintain our positive mindset because there are days when we are tired and just don’t want to be.
2. Check-in on us frequently
When spouses are deployed, a quick text or a phone call just checking as a reminder that you are there for us means the world, especially when we are states away from home or even overseas. Taking the few seconds to ask how we are doing shows us how much you genuinely care and that we are not alone.
3. Invite us over for coffee, dinner or a playdate
“If you want to know where your heart is, look where your mind goes when it wanders.” Whenever we are sitting at home or have downtime our minds are going elsewhere. Our minds race a mile a minute! “What is our loved one doing? Where are they? Are they safe? What is going on around them? Wonder when they will call?” The list goes on and on. Honestly, at times it can drive us crazy!
We would love your company, and it helps keep us distracted. An invite for coffee, dinner or a playdate would mean so much to us. Trust me; we will reciprocate the offer!
4. Offer to babysit our kids
This! Please! This is the most helpful act of kindness you could do for us with kiddos when our spouses are gone. If you could watch our kids for us to go grocery shopping, get a haircut or get a pedicure, we would feel like we are on a mini-vacation. We know this is a big ask, and we will never ask unless it’s an emergency. Your offer would be the biggest breath of fresh air after months of solo parenting.
5. Help us practice self-care
Help us remember to take care of ourselves. This is something we often forget when we are trying to juggle many things! Drop a little goodie bag of face masks, bath bombs, a manicure kit, a gift card for coffee, a new book or a sweet treat on a friend’s doorstep.
Or, if your friend or family member has kids, refer to tip #4. Offer to take their kiddos so they can attend their favorite workout class or even go to a movie they’ve been waiting to see.
6. Drop off a meal or send a gift card for takeout
This is probably the ultimate act of kindness you could do for a military spouse with a deployed service member. By dropping off a meal, sending a gift card to order pizza, or even delivering a sweet treat, not only make us feel loved, but you just scratched another thing off our to-do list. Plus, most military spouses are women. We never know what we want to eat.
Note: This could cue an ugly cry…we aren’t joking!
7. Be helpful
It’s a HUGE adjustment having our other half away for months to a year. Not just emotionally, but also because we now must take over all the other tasks and chores our spouse did. If you’re stopping over to hang out, don’t just push the giant pile of laundry over on the couch to sit, help fold it. We will do the same for you! If you’re the neighbor of a military family, while you’re out cutting your grass, cut theirs too. This could also be as simple as changing a burned-out porch light.
8. Check-in during major deployment milestones
This is an excellent tip for military spouses to help each other! Check-in with each other during the milestones of deployment like month marks or the halfway point! Send your friends a “thinking of you” note or a note of encouragement. Usually, around the midway point, we feel drained and need a pick me up.
Also, this is the perfect opportunity to celebrate milestones in a deployment! Just as we are proud of our service members, we must be proud of ourselves too! Plan a fun date with your military spouse friends on the month mark of deployment with a potluck dinner, ice cream date or care package crafting party! Also, as you’re getting closer to homecoming, plan a weekly dinner as a countdown, an activity like homecoming sign making or an at-home spa mani/pedi day. One of our military spouse staffers shared that they asked their hairstylist if she would provide her services at her home. They scheduled a cut and color night at home to ensure they looked fabulous for homecoming!
9. Be there
Being there for someone through the good and bad is challenging, but military life is a doozy! Every day isn’t rainbows and butterflies, and sometimes we just need to vent. Be there for us on those days. We aren’t always looking for advice or a solution; we want to be heard. By just being there and lending an ear or a shoulder to cry on, your kindness means more than you will ever know.
10. Be mindful of discussing politics, current events, and headlines on the news and your news sources
When you have skin in the game, every article or headline about troops being wounded or killed in action takes on a whole new meaning. It literally makes your heart stop and makes your stomach queasy while you anxiously look at your phone waiting to hear from your loved one. Be mindful of this. Check-in on us but, be mindful and refer to tip #1.
Also, we know this is America, and we are the land of the free because of our brave. We know you are entitled to your own political opinions, but please, even if you don’t agree with why we are fighting overseas, respect our family and our service members’ sacrifices. We serve so you can continue to have your opinions. Regardless of all the crazy politics, we are lucky to live in a nation where people volunteer to fight for each other’s freedoms that uphold our values as Americans.
To quote author Leo Buscaglia, “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” We HOPE that as you go about your day, this list reminds you to share kindness in meaningful ways. These acts of kindness can be shared not just with military families, but with neighbors, friends and family. Above all, always remember that acts of kindness, no matter how small, are never wasted.