By Greg Boudonck
The key for any relationship to be healthy is communication.
It doesn’t matter if it is a client – business, boss – employee, parent – child or husband – wife, communicating is what keeps the relationship strong, and non-communication can destroy it.
There are also multiple forms of communication; it doesn’t always have to be the spoken word, even though that is the most prevalent form.
Simple gestures and facial moves are a method of communication too.
But, I really did not start today’s post with the idea of explaining the psychology of communication.
No, the goal behind this post is to help loved ones understand some important tips on communicating during a military deployment.
Over my years, I have watched military couples destroy their relationships because of communication issues during deployments.
I have also watched relationships grow stronger during deployments thanks to proper communication.
I am hoping you or someone you know who is getting deployed can use the following tips to help keep their family relationships on a solid foundation.
These tips are in no certain order, and some are for the person Stateside and others for the deployed person, while others are for both persons.
I hope they help, and do please share them with any families with a deployed soldier.
Before we move further, if you are being deployed, are already deployed or are the spouse of a deployed soldier, we highly recommend that you get involved with the Army Family Readiness Group that your unit should have in place.
This allows others who have been, or are currently in the same deployed situation to help you manage and understand the issues that can come with having a deployed member.
If there isn’t a Family Readiness Group in place, make moves to get one started.
So without further ado, here are 18 important tips about communicating during deployment.
1: What not to disclose in communications
While it is not a comforting thought, the fact is: anyone could be reading or listening to your communication.
For both people, there are certain things that should not be said or written.
- A unit’s mission and the number of personnel
- The tentative return date of the service member
- Deployment times and locations
- Family location
- Unit morale or other problems
- Troop movements
These are just a few.
The easiest way to realize is to pretend you are the enemy; what communication could help you?
If there is any thought that something could help the enemy, do not speak it or write it.
2: Don’t expect a quick response
You may have sent a letter 2 weeks ago to your husband in Korea, but he still has not responded.
You need to try not to worry.
First, the mail can be a fickle creature overseas.
He might just receive that letter today.
Maybe he has been ultra busy with missions.
There are many factors, so don’t worry… He will contact you.
3: Solving problems constructively
Murphy’s Law is always at work.
We see it all the time; a family is having no issues and when one family member is deployed, things happen.
- The roof leaks
- A child gets in serious trouble
- A thief enters the house
So these are issues that will come up in communicating, and we must remember that both parties are feeling stress.
So there is a constructive system to solve problems.
They come in 4 parts:
- Start the conversation gently. “I feel” or “I’m concerned” is a good way to start with a gentle voice. Describe the issue in the most positive way possible.
- See it from your mate’s perspective. It is easy to view a situation from your own perspective, but using empathy and seeing it from your partner’s perspective can be more difficult. But you must!
- Find a compromise. Both parties need to work from a compromising position. If we consider what is best for the other person, it will work out great.
- Recover. This is the time to fix your feelings for each other. Talk about wonderful things you have done together and other conflicts you have overcome.
4: Answer all questions
If you get a letter and there are any questions, make sure and answer them all.
If they would violate security procedures, just explain that you cannot answer that for security reasons.
Remember, your mate is asking questions out of concern, so you must give them an answer to relieve those concerns.
5: Try to keep emotions in check
When you are on the phone or Skype, emotions can sometimes be overwhelming.
Humans are emotional creatures and there is nothing wrong with feeling emotions, but for good communications, it helps to try and keep those emotions in check.
6: Be honest
No matter if you are Stateside or overseas, when your mate asks you a question, you need to be completely honest.
Don’t try to hide anything as it can only cause problems further on.
7: Have all possible phone numbers
Before deployment, make sure that both parties have all possible phone numbers to get in touch with the other.
We all know that “stuff happens.”
If a cell phone gets lost or broken, at least the mate can contact you in another way.
8: Remember… Security!
I know I already touched on it, but I just cannot stress it enough; remember security not only for your loved one, but for all other members of the armed forces.
9: Do parenting together
Just because your loved one is many miles away does not mean you have to be the lone parent.
Use Skype or any of the other programs online to do parenting together.
Other Posts You Might Enjoy:
- The Unit Movement Officer Deployment Planning Course: An Overview
- 10 Important Pre-Deployment Considerations
- Top 7 Mistakes Soldiers Make During Deployments
- Career Advice for Army Soldiers Coming Back from Deployments
- The Letter Home From Vietnam: A Lesson For Those Serving In War
10: Be creative
Use your creative instincts to send and show your deployed loved one how much you love them.
You can sew, knit, draw, paint or any number of other things to impress and surprise them.
11: Take a laptop with you
The military does have computers personnel can use, but there can be wait times.
It can be much easier if you just invest in a laptop and take it with you on your deployment.
12: Number your letters
As I stated earlier, the mail can be an unusual creature when you are sending across the ocean.
Your loved one may receive a letter sent after another letter he/she has not received yet.
If you number your letters, it can make it much easier for your deployed loved one to understand the order.
This goes both ways too.
The deployed individual should number their letters too.
13: Keep a journal of everyday activities and share it
Some of the little things that go on in a day’s time can easily be forgotten.
That little statement by a child or something the pet did can make a huge difference in the morale of a soldier and vice versa; that joke or something that happened to the 1st Sergeant may make your Stateside loved one have a good giggle.
14: Send photos and videos
Just seeing some pictures or videos can take that loneliness away.
Send some of these to help them not be homesick.
15: Read to the kids
There is a great program that allows deployed parents read and interact with their children.
Use United Through Reading and watch the kids smile.
16: Send food items and more
Trust me, the food when you are deployed is not nearly the same as what we get at home.
Make your deployed soldier happy along with his/her fellow soldiers by sending some brownies, cookies, or anything else that is legal to send overseas.
Care packages make soldiers very happy.
17: Use the view and talk method
I hinted at this earlier, but make sure you have a Skype, Google Hangouts or Facebook Messenger account so you can view each other and talk.
This is a great way to actually stay in touch and face-to-face.
18: Let anger subside
Maybe you read something in a letter or your mate said something that made you angry.
The best advice I can give you is let your anger subside for 24 hours before confronting the situation.
After you have done that, go back and look at the #3 tip here.
Use that tip to work through the anger issue in a constructive manner.
Communication is the key to keeping your family on a solid foundation.
Being deployed can bring some issues to the surface, but by communicating a couple can keep their relationship working in a healthy way.
So use these tips and be happy.
Also, thank you for your service no matter if you are the person deployed or the one who is alone while your mate is serving our country.