Serving in the United States military presents a range of challenging circumstances that families have to be able to overcome together as a unit. Perhaps the most difficult possibility among them is that you, as a military member, cannot spend as much time with your children as you would typically like to. Even though you are serving your country and are benefiting from the personal experiences inherent in military service, that cannot make up for the fact that you are losing time with your children. As a result, feeling like you are hurting your relationship with your child is a part of military service that, for many parents, is unavoidable.
Couple that with already being in a divided household due to a past divorce and you as a military member parent likely feel even more disconnected from your kids. Going through a difficult divorce was hard enough. Still, now that you have been deployed across the world away from your kids, you are very rarely able to see them in person due to your job responsibilities and the sheer physical distance between the two of you. What can you do to spend quality time with your kids under circumstances that are incredibly trying and stressful? That is what I would like to devote today’s blog post to discuss with you. Namely, what tips and tricks are out there for you to take advantage of when you build a strong relationship with your kids during your period of deployment.
Designating someone else to take your time with the kids while you were deployed
Hopefully, you are in a position where you could anticipate being deployed at some point in your military career. If so, you likely included language in your final decree of divorce that allows another competent adult to step into your position and spend time with your kids while you are deployed. Whether if he is your sibling, parent, or another family member, your child can benefit from an arrangement like this even if you cannot be the one they spend time with.
It may even be the case that you were required to put language in your final decree, which specified the adult who would be able to step into your shoes while on deployment to spend time with your children in your absence. You should review the language in your final decree of divorce and make sure that you are familiar with it to be comfortable with any visitation arrangements with your children while you are overseas.
The person who is stepping into your shoes for this time can send you updates about your children, photos of the time spent together and can generally act as your surrogate while you are overseas. It can be a tremendous advantage for you to have someone in your corner who can work with your kids and help them keep a connection with you while you are overseas. The more you can communicate with your family member, the more quality visitation sessions they can have with your children.
When it comes time for your deployment to end, you can resume regular Visitation based on your parenting plan. You may even be able to negotiate some makeup Visitation with your co-parent as you are able. Making up the time lost with your child is an essential aspect of resuming life after deployment, and I have some advice on how to do that effectively with the co-parent.
Working with a co-parent to schedule makeup visitation time after a deployment
Once you are back in the United States and can plan your schedule a little bit better, you can begin to work with your co-parent, if you choose, to schedule makeup visitation time with your child. Suppose you have been following the plan outlined in your final decree of divorce where another adult has had visitation time during your previously scheduled periods of Visitation. In that case, you may not be able to plan much personal makeup time with your child. However, you can always ask your co-parent to see how they feel about you having additional time with your child since you have been gone for so long.
The best way to do this is to address the subject with your co-parent directly and then wait for them to respond. Dating them with your feelings or thoughts on the subject will not accomplish nearly as much as you would like. Instead, I would spend a lot of the conversation listening to what the co-parent has to say and being patient with their thoughts. Do not be surprised if your request is met with some pushback. After all, your co-parent has had to do the daily child-rearing on their own for the duration of your deployment. They may be stressed out more than usual due to the increased share of responsibilities that they have had to shoulder while you have been gone.
A smart thing to do would be to ask your co-parent how to help them with parenting responsibilities daily. This assumes that you have resumed a civilian-like schedule and may even have completed your military career. In your transition back into civilian life, you will hopefully find that your plan is a lot more open and able to take on responsibilities when it comes to your child’s daily needs. Again, I think you would be best served by asking your co-parent how you can shoulder additional burdens when it comes to child-rearing rather than ask for more time with your child. Showing concern for your co-parent may end up scoring you more time with your child than merely asking would have done by itself.
Whatever makeup time you can negotiate with your co-parent should be done with specificity in mind. By this, I mean that you should make an effort to write down what the makeup visitation schedule will look like. Do not rely on your memory or the good graces of your co-parent. Instead, come up with some confines of the Visitation. You all can predict and expect when the period will start in stop and any other details associated with the logistics of these makeup sessions.
While any agreement you come up with is outside of the confines of a court order, I think you all can avoid surprises by inserting specific language into your arrangement and utilizing a timeline rather than Hoping that everything works out in the end; these periods of Visitation are concerned. A big lesson that I tried to share with clients a great deal when it comes to coordinating makeup Visitation with a co-parent is this: to be unclear is to be unkind. What I mean is that you should not leave it up to chance that your plans for Visitation end up working out.
Instead, I think you would be better off transparent with your co-parent about your expectations regarding each makeup’s start and stop time. Each parent’s responsibilities in transporting your child back and forth and any other information relevant to the time with a makeup visitation will occur. It is an unfortunate reality of this time where we need to be especially aware of risks to the health of our children. You all should go over any questions about keeping your children safe from my health perspective in discussing the concerns before these makeup visitation periods begin.
Technology as a last resort to stay close to your child while deployed
in the entrance of transparency, I think it is relevant for me to note that I am not a massive fan of technology. Yes, like most of us, I have a smartphone and work on the Internet a great deal of the day. However, I do not view technology as a substitute for person-to-person interaction. Then, he would rarely find me on my phone, especially when my children were around. With that said, I realized that those of you on deployment do not have many options for interacting with her children while abroad.
With that said, I realize that you have few choices when trying to stay close to your child when you are not within arm’s reach of them. As such, you should utilize technology as best you can to bridge the gap between you and your child. You probably don’t need me to inform you about all the different ways available to communicate with someone who was not physically near us. The coronavirus pandemic has perhaps increased the ability of people to build relationships when being close physically is not possible.
If utilizing technology Is something you would like to implement with your children while you are overseas on deployment, then I would recommend you do so as early on in the process as possible. Depending on the age of your children, They may or may not be as willing or able to acclimate to technology-based relationship building as another child would be. You should do your best to attempt to work with them on any challenges presented by technology and determine whether this is the feasible way for your child to grow in their relationship with you. I think we all tend to assume that children will be more receptive to using technology in these ways based on their having grown up with a phone in their hands and a television in their face. However, I know personally how some children take to technology very well, and others do not.
The bottom line is that you should take advantage of any opportunity to build your relationship with your child despite the circumstances around you. Children are experts at determining who in their lives makes an effort to spend time with them and who does not. Most children also understand that you cannot be with them but that you are making an effort to do what you can give your realities to spend time with them. You may be surprised to learn that your child appreciates you making an effort to spend time with them in a phone call more than they did while you were in the states. There is a degree of difficulty factor that I think children pick up on When it comes to parents making an effort to build a relationship with them.
Even though you may feel left out of your child’s life, you cannot use that as an excuse; do not attempt to build a relationship with them on deployment overseas. Make the best of a difficult situation. You will simultaneously improve the nature of your relationship with your child and teach them valuable lessons about maintaining a positive attitude despite adversity.
Questions about the materials presented in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material presented in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are an excellent opportunity for you to learn more about Texas family law and the services we provide to our clients. I appreciate your interest in our law office, and we hope you will join us again tomorrow here on our blog.