Getting through the holidays with while the father or mother is deployed is a great challenge for many military families.
Asking for help is difficult for anybody, but for these families it is especially hard:
Many of their needs are not temporary, but rather long term, and they expect of themselves to find a way to make it through the deployment with their own resources only.
They often feel misunderstood, as their situation is hard to comprehend by families who don’t have a loved one overseas.
As a cancer survivor, who learned firsthand the enormous feeling of strength and gratitude that comes from a reliable support chain of caring friends in difficult times, I’d like to make a suggestion:
If you know a military family who has a loved one overseas, don’t ask if they need anything, but assume that they do.
If one “best friend” steps forward and addresses the church, school or sports team that the family belongs to, and is able to find 16 people who commit to sending one meal per month, the family will receive four meals per week.
– If you can find 10 parents who are willing to offer a play date for a military kid after school care for a once per month, this child can feel loved and supported by many friends, while the mother, father or grandparent gets a break.
– If 4 community members are willing to ask what groceries are needed once a month, and run this errand for the mother, she doesn’t have to worry about getting her shopping issues done and can spend more time playing with the kids.
– If 4 people can be found to plow the driveway after a snowstorm, the coming winter will not be as hard.
– And if 4 families decided to take turns taking kids over night every other weekend, the military wife or husband could get out of the house with a friend and socialize. This would be invaluable relief for the isolation that many families report.
It can be done, if the community comes together and organizes this proactively.
The trick is, to offer the support without being asked, and to provide a reliable support system that lasts until the returning soldier has settled in (or maybe beyond that).
Many family members share that they are overwhelmed with their new tasks but don’t want their loved one to worry.
Imagine the relief and gratitude overseas, when the soldiers know that they are supported by their communities.
This is truly meaningful, personal support that can be done easily, when a group of people comes together and shares the support chain in a way that is comfortable for them
Here is a checklist of how to set this up:
1) Address the church, school or other community that the family is a member of
2) Describe the situation of the family and have volunteers sign up
3) Ask specifically what can be offered easily and consistently ntil the soldier comes home. If it is too much work, it will be hard to keep going through the entire deployment cycle
4) Make sure that at least one meal per week is on the list
5) Ask for special skills (bookkeeping, organizing, handy man talent, cleaning support…) that might be available
6) Ask who is willing to add another shopping list to their own or run another errand regularly
7) Put a list of possible play dates together
8) Approach the family and tell them what you have organized (it will be easier to accept this way)
9) Have them give specific requests and needs (foods, supplies, clothes,…)
10) Have all the supporters make the commitment they can make and put it in the calendar
11) Get their email addresses and phone numbers
12) Create a website online, where the menus can be posted, information exchanged and specific needs expressed http://www.lotsahelpinghands.com is one free option
13) Then it is just a matter of sending weekly or monthly updates to everybody, reminding them of their specific day to help
14) Important: If you are willing to organize this support chain, make sure you get others to help you, too.
Imagine how a soldier, who is worried about his spouse and three young children, will feel when he learns that his community has committed to support his family while he is gone. This will last a life time, and it will change the families of the helpers, too.
But the trick is to make the first step and not wait for the military family to ask for help. Chances are they won’t do it.