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How to Be An Engaged Parent While Deployed

November 11, 2014

By Judy Razo

How to Be An Engaged Parent While Deployed | A soldier chats with his family on a tablet.

A military deployment comes with a lot of stress and a long list of things to do before departure. For a military parent who is about to deploy, the emotional strain of leaving a family and the distress that it will put on the children can be especially stressful.

Children don’t often understand why mommy or daddy has to go away. They might blame themselves for the absence or assume responsibility for the well-being of the family while their parent is gone. They may also act out or fall into a depression due to the parent’s absence.

Regardless of the child’s age, the biggest impact a deployment has on a child is emotional, which can manifest in a number of ways. When you are the parent being deployed, how do you stay engaged in your child’s life and relieve some of that emotional strain for your child?

Before deployment, talk to your child’s teacher, school counselor, and principal. Let them know you are being deployed, for how long, and share any necessary information they may need from you. By being aware of this emotional strain on your child, the educators can help your child cope at school. Your child may need quiet time to him or herself or extra attention that the teacher, counselor, or even principal may be able to provide.

Talk to your child’s teacher about upcoming class projects. You will then be able to ask about those projects when you talk to your child during your deployment. It will also give him or her something to work on so he or she can have an update for you the next time you communicate. Ask about your child’s grades and how he or she is doing in school.

If possible, continue to email your child’s teacher while you’re away. Consider it a partnership—let the teacher help you monitor your child’s academic and social well-being while you’re gone. He or she observes your child’s behavior at school and can alert you and your partner to any changes so that you can help your child.

Communication is essential during your deployment. Depending on your accessibility to technology and the Internet, you can use platforms like Skype or Google Hangouts to have face-to-face check-ins with your child. Send regular emails and photos when possible. Describe where you are and tell stories of your adventures. What might seem mundane to you will help color your child’s imagination and most importantly, let him or her know that you are okay.

Not all days will be good days for conversations during your deployment, but it’s important to stay positive in front of your child. Come up with a code word for you and your partner to use on those tough days in case the conversation needs to remain light and short or if you are free to talk openly.

Everyday Life
Have your partner or child’s caregiver maintain as much normalcy and routine as possible. Children thrive on routines, so keeping one in place while you’re away will help your child cope. Ask your partner to plan events and help your child stay busy to pass the time.

If your child needs to be disciplined by your partner or caregiver, be supportive of your counterpart. You may not be there to implement the discipline, but your opinion still counts a lot both to the caregiver and to your child. The disciplining will be more effective if you are behind it.

Although you will not physically be there, try to surround your child with your presence before you leave. Put photos of you with the family and with your child throughout the house. Leave a special photo for each child to have in his or her bedroom. Before you leave, make a gift for each other—the activity serves as a bonding opportunity and you can each keep a token from the other during your time apart.

When you return from deployment there will be an adjustment period for both you and your family. Take time for yourself to readjust to your environment. Use the military’s resources and support for you, your partner, and your child as you acclimate back to daily life at home. Spend time with your family as well as one-on-one time with your child before attending or organizing welcome home parties. Your child will need to feel that he or she is a priority and that you have returned as his or her mommy or daddy.

There are many resources you can use to help with every phase of deployment, including Military One Source, Military Child Education Coalition, and the Family Readiness Centers available at military installations.

A deployment away from your child will never be easy on either of you, but hopefully some of these ideas will help make it a little less stressful.

Thank you for your service.


Take the Parent Pledge

November 6, 2014

Take the Parent Pledge during Parent Engagement Month! Click the image below and print the PDF. Snap a photo of your signed pledge and share it with us on Facebook and Twitter using the #EngagedParent hashtag. 

Parent Pledge textparent pledge text

This pledge is part of a month-long recognition of Parent Engagement Month. For more Parent Engagement Month downloads, click here, and come back each week for new activities and tips. 


4 Steps to Support Learning at Home

November 5, 2014

By Dr. Bruce Marchiafava

4 Steps to Support Learning at Home | A mother helps her daughter with her homework.

Most parents today have limited free time, but still want to help their children succeed in school. National Parent Engagement Month is a great opportunity to evaluate how you support learning at home.

Whether we choose to or not, our children will learn from us. Basic learning begins at birth and continues right up to kindergarten. During these years, children acquire an amazing amount of knowledge. They learn to walk, run, and play games and sports. They acquire a language or two, they learn to read, and they develop social skills. They explore their world, starting with what they see in their cribs and continuing through their home and neighborhood.

This is quite a curriculum. Fortunately, parents can seek help with teaching these skills to their children from social agencies, formal and informal groups of parents, family members, books, and educational videos.

Once the child enters school, parents’ roles in learning shift to two major responsibilities: supporting the child in understanding what is taught at school and advocating for the child with the school.

Support your child’s learning at home with these four steps:

A healthy child is better prepared to perform well in school. Ensure good health by seeing that your child eats properly and sleeps enough, by making sure his or her backpack has the required books, pencils, and assignments due, etc.

Learning Environment
This environment can be a room or a desk in a corner or the kitchen table. It must be free from TV, music, phones, and other distractions. Multitasking rarely works for studying. See our article on creating an ideal DIY study room for kids for more ideas.

Parents should guide and supervise a child’s homework but not do it for them. Know the assignment and the due date and check to see what grade the teacher gives. Look for opportunities to praise your child for a job well done as well as for improvement on future assignments.

Speak with the teacher on a regular basis, not just when there’s a problem. Remember, teachers are your partners in helping your child succeed in school.

By practicing these simple parent engagement tips, you can help your child continue to learn and succeed once he or she has started a formal education.


Happy Birthday! You can vote now.

November 4, 2014

By Amelia Orozco

Happy Birthday! You can vote now. | A teen shows his "I Voted" sticker.

This December, my middle child will be turning 18 years old. Although she still seems so young in my eyes, the U.S. government will legally consider her an adult. Many new adventures and possibilities come with that age. As parents, it is important to instill a sense of pride in our children early on about democratic values and their rights and responsibilities as citizens. One important and exciting way for young adults to exercise these rights is through their legal right to vote.

It Starts With History
Depending on where you live and which offices are up for election, parents and educators have an opportunity to integrate voting history and practice in regular lessons and interactions.

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of voting is the actual right to vote. There are countless stories we can share with our sons and daughters about the fight for voters’ rights, democracy, and the continuous struggles that some countries still face today when it comes to electing governing officials.

Here are some notable topics and activities to discuss with your children:

  • Learn the history of the 15th Amendment, which granted African-American men the right to vote in 1870.
  • Click the colored states on this map to learn when women gained the right to vote in that state.
  • Read about the Voting Rights Act, which eliminated legal barriers—like literacy tests and poll taxes—that prevented many, including African Americans, from exercising their legal right to vote.
  • Tell stories about other countries’ fights for fair elections. For example, one critical moment in South Africa’s journey to end apartheid occurred in 1994, when they held their first fully democratic election, electing Nelson Mandela as president.

Share these stories with your children, as well as current events and happenings around the world. These examples will give your sons and daughters a real-world connection to help develop their thoughts and opinions.

Democracy in Action
Over the years, my children have witnessed me go to the polls to vote, listened to me talk about the issues, and we’ve even laughed together at those issues through funny sketches on Saturday Night Live.

We’ve formed some of our most memorable moments while participating in events together. Each year, we attend events honoring the late Latino hero, Cesar Chavez, and the United Farm Workers movement. At these events, my children have made picket signs and marched in re-enactments of historical events. That part of our history, along with the firsthand experience of having physically joined the activities, has enabled me to expand on the message of democracy and show my daughters what the end result can be when we cast a ballot and make our voice heard.

It’s not always necessary for your children to be part of the school debate team to understand and appreciate politics and democracy. It is mostly important for them to understand the process and that their voices and opinions really do count. Volunteering at or visiting a campaign headquarters, where they can get a behind-the-scenes look, is an excellent hands-on learning opportunity.

This new phase is an exciting one for your children as they go to college or embark on a career. They will be making their own decisions and expressing their support for the issues and candidates. Be assured of their successes, whichever their paths, because your children’s first teacher, YOU, has prepared them every step of the way.

Amelia Orozco is the senior editor and writer at the Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo and a community and entertainment reporter for TeleGuía Chicago. A mother of three, Amelia also maintains an active role in her community and church by working with youth and promoting education and diversity through her writing and volunteer efforts.


Celebrate Parent Engagement Month!

November 3, 2014

Celebrate Parent Engagement Month! | We heart parents. Show us your pride as an #EngagedParent

November is Parent Engagement Month and we want to help you show your parenting pride. All month long we'll have featured articles on parent engagement, from easy and more difficult activities you can do with your child to personal stories of how parent engagement can help children succeed. 

Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter by sharing your stories with the hashtag #EngagedParent. Show your pride by updating your profile and cover photos to the ones we've provided below. 

Downloading is easy. Just click on an image below and it will open in a new browser window. Then right-click on the image to save it to your computer. You can then upload it to Facebook or Twitter directly from your computer-- we've already sized each image for you. 


A heart-shaped apple logo.

I heart my child. I am an #EngagedParent. November is Parent Engagement Month. From YOU: Your Child's First Teacher.


A heart-shaped apple logo

I heart my child. I am an #EngagedParent. November is Parent Engagement Month. From YOU: Your Child's First Teacher.

Click here for the Spanish versions. 

Don't forget to take the parent pledge, too!

parent pledge textparent pledge text

Educators, support your school's parents during Parent Engagement Month by changing your social media photos, too. We created special images just for you over on our sister site, If you're interested in bringing the YOU Program or books to your school, you can learn more about the Parent Engagement Month discount on that site, too. 

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