Family bonds are formed and strengthened in many ways. If you think back to your childhood, you probably remember certain things that were part of your family experience. Though there might be some special highlights, we often find ourselves recalling the routines that brought a sense of stability to our lives. It could be the importance of the family dinner at the same time each evening (if you had four brothers like me, not much was left if you were late). Or the time your parent(s) walked in the door from work every day. You might also recall those Saturday chores or the Sunday church service. Whatever your family’s rituals, those repetitive patterns have probably influenced your own parenting priorities.
So why would these seemingly mundane moments have such an impact on young minds?
The answer is quite simple: Kids need a routine. They thrive in an environment that offers security and constancy. When stress or change occurs, the most important thing you can do as a parent is to keep your family routine intact as much as possible.
But what happens when the family unit is disrupted?
One of the scenes from our October film release, Indivisible, (based on the true story of a U.S. Army Chaplain) shows a special bonding moment between a child and his deployed parent. The impact of this scene started me thinking about things we can learn from the families of the deployed since they deal with change all the time. With our own family members who serve, and watching them navigate these challenges, I humbly offer a few suggestions:
- Make your marriage a priority. This is true for every couple, but I think those that know their spouse will be leaving for months at a time are more intentional about making sure the communication lines are open and quality time is spent together. If you were in that situation, what would you do differently?
May I suggest you do that now?
- Create family routines and traditions you want your kids to experience and pass on. When a parent is deployed, repetition helps with the transition, whether it’s at a holiday, a birthday or a “regular” day in family life. If you haven’t yet established these routines, take time to identify those important experiences you want to provide for your kids. Talk about what brought you a sense of security and belonging in your childhood. Was it as simple as a nightly bedtime story? A night each week dedicated for a movie, a game and a pizza?
Plan to pass along whatever stirs those feelings of family connection.
- Personal communication. The days of personal mail arriving months after being sent are almost gone. But not quite. More than once, we have experienced care packages arriving long after the recipient has returned home. There are several reasons for this, and it particular affects those who serve in isolated regions.
Thankfully there are ways to stay connected.
With Skype and other Internet options available, it’s easier than ever to see and speak with loved ones back home. Of course, this requires a strong WIFI connection. While it’s great when it works, this is also one of the biggest disappointments a military family experiences: planning a day and time, anticipating the opportunity to share what’s happening, and being unable to connect.
Enter United Through Reading.
Through the donors and volunteers of United Through Reading, Mom or Dad can read one of their children’s favorite stories on a recorded video. This is then made available to the family back home to view at any time. They can watch, follow along with pictures or read along with their parent. And if you’ve ever read a bedtime story, you know that a favorite tale never gets old (even after multiple readings on the same night). All the kids need to do is replay. So that bedtime story routine? It continues.
In my opinion, this capability is technology at its best.
When we are home every evening, we don’t realize how precious these seemingly ordinary moments are to our kids. But when you hear the stories of those who aren’t always able to be at home, you realize just how blessed you are if you can be with your family.
Throughout my professional life, traveling has been an unavoidable necessity. If that’s you as well, take a cue from these military families. Even if you are gone only a few days, connect with your kids and help their routine stay in place. Record your own videos if a meeting runs late, or schedule your own video chats. The technology is there.
Use it to your benefit and to the benefit of your family.
Do you, or someone you know, serve in our military? Would you like to donate or volunteer to the read- aloud, video-recording project and help military families stay connected? If your answer is yes, here are a few important links plus the trailer to our upcoming film, Indivisible.
Franklin Santagate is the Executive Vice President of Marketing for Pure Flix, and works with denominations, ministries, and organizations by finding common vision, assets, resources and influence. From that position, we create initiatives we can do together that we cannot do apart, reaching our mutual objectives and expanding the Kingdom of God. To discover more or to become a Pure Flix Global Strategic Alliance partner go to http://pureflixalliance.com/join/.