Single Service Parents and Couples where both Parents are Serving PersonnelThe RAF has a vested interest in helping serving personnel balance the needs of their employment with their family life. However as Service personnel, serving parents must be available for deployment at anytime and so have a personal responsibility for ensuring that they have robust arrangements in place to care for their children should they need to be away. Key to this is making arrangements well in advance.
If during the deployment any children are to be left in the care of someone who is not a close relative for a period of over 28 days there are legal requirements to notify the local authorities to ensure the child receives the best possible care. The Local Authority Children Services department will be able to provide you with more advice or go to the Government's Every Child Matters website.
Prepare the Children
- Be honest with them about where their parent or carer is going, but explain things in simple terms in an unemotional way if you can – if they see that you are worried or upset, they may feel the same way.
- Even young children talk to each other, and older children may pick up on stories in the media. Be aware of what they are seeing and hearing, and be ready to explain what is happening to allay any fears.
- Plan to keep the children’s routine as normal as possible. Usually, when normal things continue to take place, children will feel that everything is actually normal. This is especially true of younger children.
- Consider telling the school that your child has a serving parent deployed and provide them with the details of a person to contact in an emergency if you are unavailable.
- Consider starting up some new activities or clubs for the children whilst their parent or carer is away. This will help whilst they are missing their parent or carer, and will also provide a break for you.
- Seek advice if you think that your child needs help to deal with their issues. Consider talking to a teacher, your health visitor or GP, or refer to the welfare agencies listed in this guide.
RelationshipsYou may not have been separated for long periods before, and this can be a worrying time especially if it is an operational deployment. Increased fears and worrying may play a part in the run-up to departure, for both of you and the person going away. Try to make time to talk to each other. You will know what works best for both of you, but here are some tips to think about:
- Your partner’s brain may ‘arrive’ in theatre before their body does. They will be thinking about their job and what they have to do when deployed, which may leave you feeling that they aren’t thinking about you. This won’t be true, so try to make allowances if their mind seems to be elsewhere.
- Consider going out together for a quiet meal or even just for a walk. This might help you both to focus on whatever issues need discussing, without distractions.
- Don’t let them leave with any unresolved problems, and try to make up before they leave if you’ve had an argument.
Ask a FriendThe Army run an initiative called the ‘trusted friends’ scheme whereby unit’s enable you to record with them the name and contact details of a trusted friend willing to support you and your children if you have an emergency. For instance if you were left without transport or childcare at short notice.
As far as we are aware the RAF do not have these schemes in operation but it may not be a bad thing to ask a particular friend to support you during the period of your partners deployment.