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Maintaining Family Traditions During Deployment

By: LIFELines Research Staff

Obviously, family traditions are customs that your family follows regularly like a birthday each year with a strawberry-rhubarb pie, singing off-key at family parties, cookouts on Memorial Day or the 4th of July, or decorating the Christmas tree on a certain day. They may be hard to follow while you’re gone, but use your imagination. At the same time, this is an opportunity to come up with some new traditions to go with your deployment and remember it when you come home. Here are a few examples:

Before You Leave

Give your family a scrapbook to hold your letters, drawings, maps, and other souvenirs.   

Hide small gifts or notes throughout your home. Jot down the location of each item and take the list with you. Every few weeks during your deployment, send home a treasure map or a clue to lead your family to one of the gifts or notes.  

If you have small children, make tapes of yourself reading their favorite storybooks. Ask your partner to play these for your children before bedtime each evening when you are away.  

Ask your children for a special keepsake, such as a drawing or photograph, to bring with you on your deployment. Give your children a photograph of you in a special frame to keep near their beds.   

Agree on a phrase you will each say before going to sleep (such as, “the sounds of love don’t just happen, you have to make ‘em.” Then everyone makes kissing noises.).

During Deployment

Ask your family members to read your letters aloud at family cookouts, at Thanksgiving or Christmas. Eating together as a family is an important way to maintain connections.   

Share a letter. Write the first paragraph of a letter or story, then send it to your family to add another paragraph. Continue adding to the letter throughout your deployment. Also send individual e-mails to your children. For a young child, you can create a Word document with big letters that can be printed.   

Have an ongoing trivia contest. Through e-mail or letters, ask your spouse or children trivia questions and have them do the same for you. Make it especially meaningful by asking questions about your family (“Where was Grandpa born?” “What was your first word?”). Reveal the correct answer in your next letter or e-mail.

When You’re Home Again

Return to your old family traditions. If you cooked pancakes on Sunday mornings and tucked your children into bed at night before you were deployed, start up these traditions again.   

Also, continue some of your deployment traditions. There’s no reason you can’t adapt these to fit your new circumstances.