Being separated from your loved ones is hard. The reality of military life is families frequently experience long separations -whether due to deployments, training, or long working hours. It is difficult for everyone in the family, but perhaps the most difficult for young children who may not understand the reasons for separations or their reactions to them.
We put together a list of items to help children feel close to their parent while they are away. These are items we have found out about from other military parents and use ourselves.
1. Talkie Toy
This is a relatively new toy that launched from Toymail, a company that is finding a niche in using smart phone technology to connect children to loved ones. It works like a long distance walkie talkie. It sends and receives messages between a recording device inside a toy, and a phone app. The adult who sets up the Toymail account has control over which adults are invited to send and receive messages to the toy. Once the connection is made between an designated adult with the app and the toy messages can be sent a received. This works well when your service member is in the field or deployed and has access to their phone and a wifi connection.
The sell for $59 on the website. We found them cheaper on Amazon. The toy consists of a stuffed animal “skin” with a recording and receiving device inside a zippered pouch. The toy uses three AAA batteries.
Milmom thoughts: We love that this is a screenless use of technology for kids to stay in touch with deployed parents as well as grand parents, aunts, uncles, and other loved ones that live far away.
2. Daddy Dolls
Do not let the name of the company is “Daddy Dolls” guide you to thinking this is only for Dads. A Daddy Doll can be made in the image of anyone. This company will print a photo image of any person you choose and make it into a stuffed doll.
Their Hug-a-Hero line allows you to customize your doll with a backing made from the camoflauge material of the different branches of the US Military. They cost between $25-65. Contact your unit Deployment Readiness Coordinator to see if they have a unit specific discount code, or follow their Instagram account for periodic discounts around military celebrations like the Army birthday, USMC birthday, month of the military child, etc. We have had success using the MIL15 code for a 15% discount for military families.
Milmom thought: Get the optional voice recorder that goes inside a pocket in the Daddy Doll. Hearing the voice of the parent they are missing while holding and hugging them is big comfort.
3. Custom Quilt
Volunteers with the Armed Services YMCA will make a custom quilt for a child in the lead up to a deployment, or during a deployment to bring them comfort. The quilts include your child’s name and images of your child with the deployed parent printed on fabric squares. You submit your photos when you fill out a form to request a quilt. You can request a quilt for your child through the Operation Kid Comfort program. The accept requests whenever they have the funding for volunteers to make the quilts. A quilt provides physical comfort and the photos are a soothing reminder of the parent they are missing.
4. Recordable Books
We included a recordable book, Under the Same Moon, on our list of Books to Help children on Deployment. There are a variety of books on the market where you can record a voice reading the story. Having recorded books on hand allows a child to choose when they would like to read a book with the parent they are missing.
We know the title of this blog post said it was a list of four items. This is included as a bonus! Much like the previous item on the list the United Through Reading program records a video of the military family member reading a story to their child. The recording and the book are then sent to the child. This allows the child to hear and see the parent they are missing read a book to them. This service is sometimes offered on ships and installations where military members are deployed. It is also sometimes offered on military bases, usually through a chaplain’s office.
We hope this list gives you some ideas of ways you can keep your family close when your loved one in uniform is away. Do you have additional ways you help kids when separated from a parent? We want to hear about them.