HOW YOU CAN HELP:
In The Classroom
As an teacher, you are a significant source of support for children affected by deployment. Below are some suggestions and strategies that can be
- Maintain a predictable, structured class schedule with specific rules and consequences.
- Plan for shorter lessons and proceed at a slower pace if necessary.
- Be approachable and sensitive; limit aggressive or negative communication.
- Take note of children who express themselves inappropriately in an effort to cope with overwhelming emotions.
- Acknowledge that feeling sad, angry, and hurt is normal when someone we care about leaves.
- Reinforce ways to express negative emotions without hurting.
- Reassure students that everyone adjusts to change at a different pace.
Beyond the classroom:
- Refer students or families to military support organizations for information on deployment workshops, educational materials, or counseling services.
- Invite representatives from military family support organizations to PTA meetings to talk about separations and children.
- Encourage military families to attend deployment-focused programs.
- At the start of each school year, encourage military parents to provide the school with the name of the unit they are assigned to and update the schools on deployment plans throughout the year. This would allow the school to keep a confidential master list of students who have/will have parents deployed. This information helps teachers and counselors to be attuned to any emotional, behavioral, or academic changes that may occur with a student as a result of a parent being deployed.
- Facilitate deployment support groups for students whose parents or relatives are involved in a deployment.
Ideas for Your Classroom: Lesson Plans/Activities
- Work on craft or science projects that illustrate the change in seasons - pumpkins, snowflakes, leaves, and planting seeds. This helps young children identify the passage of time and relate this to their parent/caregivers return.
- Encourage younger children to bring in some of the deployed parent's worn clothing and uniform items to use for dress-up play.
- Encourage students to communicate with their deployed parents.
- Have a patriotic day at school. Encourage students to wear red, white, and blue; sing patriotic songs; learn about the number of stars and stripes on the U.S. flag.
- Put together a "Proud to be a Military Kid" bulletin board and encourage students to display pictures of a Military family members.
- Display a poster of the Armed Forces insignia on a school counselor's door or outside their the office.
- Have a clock in the classroom that shows military time. A child with a deployed parent might want to help the class learn how to tell time the way their mother or father does.
- Arrange a field trip to a nearby military base or training facility.
- Make a memory book or calendar reflecting positive thoughts and actions while a loved one is deployed.
- Write cards or letters to the deployed family member.
- Ask the parent/caregiver at home to leave stamped, self-addressed envelopes with the teacher to mail school newsletters as well as student work to the deployed parent.
- Have a deployed family member pen pal program. Ask parents to send postcards, maps, stamps, coins, menus, or information and articles that describe the foreign duty station, port, etc and use them for lessons.
- Track the deployed parent's journey on a map, allowing the class to learn about the world.
- Turn a shoe box into a deployment time capsule. At the beginning of the deployment fill the box with items like a piece of string as long as the child's height, a tracing of the child's hand or foot, a list of the child's favorites (song, candy bar, television show, toy, etc.). Open them when the deployed parent returns to measure changes that have occurred.
- Ask more experienced military students to assist those students who have little or no experience with deployments.
- Have a "no homework pass" which entitles a student to a night off from homework so that he can spend more time with the returning parent.
- Adopt a Soldier, Airman, or Unit. Students can write letters, send craft projects or other items to the Soldier or Airman.
- Arrange a puppet show through Army Community Services (ACS) from Fort Bragg. This program is offered to early elementary students to help them understand and cope with the stressors brought on by deployments.
- Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. have partnered with The New York Office of Mental Health (NYSOMH) and Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC) TM, to develop "Talk, Listen, Connect", an outreach initiative to help the young children of members of the United States Armed Services, National Guard and Reserves cope with the feelings, challenges, and concerns they experience during various phases of deployment: pre-deployment, deployment and homecoming. Call Military One Source (www.militaryonesource.com) at 1-800-342-9647 for a free DVD to use with students ages three to five.