A reader wrote to me: Dear Karen: One of our neighbors is in the Army Reserves and will be leaving for a 9 month tour of duty in Afghanistan. As neighbors we want to be supportive of him and his wife and three young children. What can we do for their family while their loved one is away serving our country? -Sonya
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Some of the followers of Wisdom of the Wounded offer the following ideas to those individuals whose spouse is in the military and away from home.
Suggestions from Karen: The girl that grew up next door to us has been going through this. I usually talk to her once a week, and some of her friends do really nice things for her: They have helped her with carpooling her kids, and have invited her kids to dinner, but not her, so she had some time off. Two of her friends took her on a special weekend outing for her wedding anniversary and her mom took care of her kids. One of their guy friends takes their two sons out about every other week to do “guy stuff”. When Tim (the service member) has a video call planned with his family, one of her friends comes over to entertain the kids so Heather has some time to talk to Tim alone after the kids have talked to him.
Suggestions from Jeri Mulder: I saw once a “prayer chain” was made. A family made a link for every day the dad/husband was going to be gone. They hung it all around the house and took off one link each day until he came home. It gave them something to do and was a visual reminder of how many more days before dad would be home.
Below are ways to help a parent handle the long list of daily jobs they are handling on their own while their spouse is away:
Laundry duty: Offer to do the laundry. If you have time, offer a “pick-up and delivery” perk.
Grocery shopping: Offer to do the grocery shopping. Slip a surprise in one of the grocery bags like a gallon of ice cream with three toppings or chips and salsa or a pizza.
Meal Planning: If a group from her church or neighborhood is interested, check out the website: http://takethemameal.com/. This is a great website packed with ideals for scheduling, menus, recipes and other ways to show you care.
Pack school lunches for kids: When one parent is in charge of everything, packing school lunches for a week or more is such a blessing. Check with the parent on what items the children like and dislike. Again, if you can spread out this responsibility among many individuals, it will not be a burden for anyone.
Be a “Handy Man”: Get someone handy to come over every two weeks to do a running “honey do” list of stuff that breaks or needs replacing. What a wonderful gift this would be!
Send children fun care packages with snacks and a small toy or activity or book.
Offer to help carpool once a week or more.
Help them keep a photo journal of everyday activities for the spouse who is away. When he or she returns, they will have a review of all they missed and can get caught up.
For The One Serving: Send him or her care packages, updates from home (local newspaper, church bulletin), beef jerky, chewing gum, dice or cards, photos of their family at home, pictures of local happenings (buildings going up, new restaurants, road construction, simple things like local parks, ice cream joints etc.), things to bring “home” to them – a photo of their house, notes about what’s being done to support their spouse and kids.
If you have additional ideas or comments on how to care for a family whose loved one is away serving our country, please share them below.
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