Christmas can be a difficult time for the children of deployed members of the military. The holiday focus on family, tradition, and home highlights the fact that a beloved family member isn’t home, traditions may be disrupted, and the child may be in a new and unfamiliar town, far from friends and extended family.
As Tricia Goyer, Cara Putman, and I wrote Where Treetops Glisten, we were struck by how hard Christmas can be for deployed service members and their families back home. On November 11, Tricia Goyer shared “Send Cheer to a Soldier.” On November 18, Cara Putman shared “Spread Love This Holiday Season to Military Spouses.” Since my novella features six-year-old Linnie Kessler, who lost her father in the early days of World War II and desperately wants a new daddy, I wanted to focus on ways we can help military kids at Christmastime.
First…our publisher, WaterBrook Multnomah, has a BOGO offer that ends November 26, 2014! Buy a copy of Where Treetops Glisten and receive a FREE book for your favorite soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine!
Buy a copy of Where Treetops Glisten by Tricia Goyer, Cara Putman, and Sarah Sundin from your favorite retailer, and pick another WaterBrook Multnomah book FREE from the approved list of available titles: Where Treetops Glisten, The Next Christians by Gabe Lyons, Radical by David Platt, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson, and Thief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer. We will match one for one, up to five books per order and address, while supplies last. You must purchase your copy of Where Treetops Glisten from a retailer between November 11, 2014 and November 26, 2014 (11:59pm PT) and FILL OUT THE FORM by November 26, 2014 (11:59pm PT) in order to receive your free book(s). The free book(s) will be shipped separately from your purchased order and will arrive by December 19, 2014. Open to U.S. residents only with a valid U.S. street address. You must be 18 years or older to participate.
Cheer for the Children
When I started writing this article, I asked my Facebook friends for ideas, and I was touched and overwhelmed by the stories they shared. Some had grown up with a parent in the military, and some were current or former military spouses. All had a recurring theme—Christmas is hard when Dad or Mom is deployed, and providing support, strong connections to the deployed parent, and a solid sense of family tradition can help the child feel loved and secure. There are two sets of tips—for parents of military children, and for civilians who want to bless military kids in the community.
Tips for Parents of Military Children
- Record a Story: Jocelyn Green, author of Faith Deployed and Faith Deployed…Again, suggested making audio or video recordings of the deployed parent reading Christmas stories for the child to listen to over and over. Jocelyn also has a ministry to military wives on her website.
- Record Carols: Michelle Ule, who served as a Navy wife for 21 years, suggested Dad record himself singing Christmas carols. These would be fun to use for an improvised family sing-along. Michelle wrote a touching blog article about her experiences as a military wife – “The Challenge of a Father in Uniform.”
- Gifts & Cards: Michelle Ule’s husband left behind wrapped gifts to be opened at Christmas, and he mailed Christmas cards. Jocelyn Green also stressed the beauty of written letters and postcards, even in the day of emails and Facebook.
- Art Project: After Christmas, have the children make an art project or scrapbook page about their celebration to send to the deployed parent—a great idea from Jocelyn Green.
- Skype the Festivities: What a blessing Skype, Facetime, and other technological wonders have been! Military wife Becca Pekrul was in Germany while her husband was in Iraq, and her children loved opening gifts while Skyping with their grandparents back in the States.
- Trace Hands: Jericha Kingston, a 20-year Navy wife, wrote: “He’d try to ship gifts to the boys, but one year, the best my husband could do was trace his hand on two pieces of paper and write, ‘I love you, Merry Christmas’ on each of them. I still remember the boys placing their little hands atop of their dad’s ‘paper hand.’ I’m getting misty just thinking about it.”
- Consistent Traditions: Kassidy Childers wrote, “One thing military families know is change and a lot of it, so anything that is familiar makes the situation easier to handle.” She suggested consistent traditions like certain movies and Christmas pajamas. Vickie Jones, who served in the military herself, always sent home a “Night Before Christmas” box with the book, jammies, and a mug for hot chocolate. When military child Kay Moorhouse was ten, her mother told her they wouldn’t have a Christmas tree since all the decorations were in storage. Kay was devastated, found a tiny pine tree, twisted it off at the trunk, and brought it home. A strong reminder of a child’s need for stability and tradition.
- Celebrate Again: Brenda Foster, a current military wife with young children, wrote: “We’ve learned to celebrate holidays when we’re together with family, not always when the calendar tells us.” So…celebrate on December 25, then again when Daddy comes home!
- Collect Memories: Brenda also wrote, “We make traditions wherever we go and collect ornaments from everywhere we visit and wherever their daddy travels to.” These unique souvenirs help create a special sense of family.
Find out how civilians can spread cheer to military kids and read the rest of this post over at Sarah’s blog!