When A Parent Is Deployed: The Challenge Of Being A Non-Deployed Parent

Current research has revealed that children of deployed parents are experiencing heightened levels of emotional and behavioral problems. To learn more about the challenges facing military families, I had an opportunity to speak and correspond with Dr. Anita Chandra, who is a Behavioral Scientist and the Manager of the Behavioral and Social Sciences group at the RAND Corporation.

Dr. Chandra and colleagues have conducted a number of studies to examine the effects of deployment on families. Some of the most important findings concern the challenges facing non-deployed spouses and changes in family functioning. Here’s what Dr. Chandra had to say:

Our research shows that non-deployed parents are facing new household responsibilities, changes in employment (e.g., going back to work full time), and new ways of co-parenting with a parent who is overseas. These stressors are not only affecting parent well-being, but that stress is having an effect on how children are doing.

Dr. Chandra also suggests that when under stress, many parents often “put themselves last” and worry more about their children. That said, she emphasizes how important it is for non-deployed parents to try to find ways to take time out for themselves and find ways to de-stress.

One way to do this may be to lean on neighbors and communities for help. Consider these thoughts from Dr. Chandra:

Most military families live in communities and not on base or a military installation. It is important that military families feel that their neighbors understand what life is like for them, and lend a hand when they can. You may not know you have a military family living next door, particularly as many parents serve in the National Guard or Reserve. Schools, community organizations, and churches can all show their support for families, particularly when a parent deploys. Some families may not want help, but others may benefit from help with things as simple as mowing the lawn and other household chores. For teachers and other school staff, just knowing if a child has a parent (or parents) in the military can help you anticipate any potential emotional, social, and/or academic changes and be proactive in reaching out to family.

These excellent suggestions are especially important to keep in mind as the deployment time continues – the stresses do add up and there will be an increasing need for friends and community to offer both practical help and psychological support.

In my next post, I will discuss Dr. Chandra’s insights based on her research on children of deployed parents.

Image courtesy of Louisa Stokes via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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  1. by Semper Fi Momma

    On July 25, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    I love how these doctors, who probably make enough money for a pedi, a sitter, and their ‘me time’, think it’s so easy for us milwives to do that. I’m always curious to know what this research is based on, because if it’s some questionnaire than it needs to be trashed. Until you walk one month in our shoes (especially during a deployment)you have no right to even think you know what you’re talking about when it comes to our struggles and what we ‘need’ to do.

  2. by Sarah Latham

    On July 25, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    im sorry, but this article hasnt told me anything different from what i already…..i personally believe that civilians, through “research” know nothing of the honest hardships military families go through…honestly i have nothing against non military families, but the fact that this article should seem like its a big something is well, over rated. These things have been said time and time again..

  3. by Lindsy Evans

    On July 25, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    It sounds very text book- like what we were told in the FRG meetings right after the deployment started. It isn’t that easy and the community doesn’t always step up and help out. We are a National Guard family. Our community knows we are there and gave a great show of support as they were leaving and when they came home but the time in between when they were gone for that year… NOTHING. I relied on my family for support and the small group of Army Wives that I found through the FRG meeting.
    I had 1 neighbor stop and bring over cookies which was sweet and some of his co-workers helped with finding a plumber when we needed it. But overall I felt invisible as a Army Wife with a husband deployed. We had a 7 year old that acted out a lot and a 5 month old who knew no better. What the 5 month old associated her daddy with was the computer.
    It’s a tough time for non-deployed and I am thankful to have family near as one of our Army wives did not. It’s not easy to find time for yourself because you are playing the roll of both parents, provides and everything! And never mind stressing and worrying about the deployed spouse and making sure your worries and stress don’t bleed into your conversations so as not to worry them while they are gone.

  4. by Sgt. Sarabia

    On July 25, 2011 at 10:57 pm

    What about the Mom’s who deploy? Hardly nothing is ever said about that and how the Hubby is now “Mr. Mom.” Only few men can actually pull it off and survive… I think that issue needs to addressed as well.

  5. by Rachael

    On July 25, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    Hey parents.com how about interviewing some actual military wives (semper fi momma and I would suffice) about the struggles our children and I face instead of some Dr. that has never actually experienced a deployment!

  6. by Sarah Latham

    On July 25, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    id gladly give my p.o.v. to parents.com too…..actually i know an entire base full of spouse who would

  7. by Raven

    On July 25, 2011 at 11:28 pm

    Ummmm….call me dense or whatever, but why is there so much concern and worry over military families during deployment? I’ve been a single mother for most of my four children’s lives! I struggle even more than a military wife would! I have to solely provide for my children and have most of the same stressors! But, it really isn’t hard being both mom and dad….it’s just something you have to do! Why does everyone feel so sorry for these women or men? They chose to have this kind of life! I did not!!

  8. by Bridgette

    On July 25, 2011 at 11:40 pm

    These are true statements, but not new information at all. You cannot call this ‘research’ and put your name on it as if it is brand new information! During a deployment, you learn who you can or can not count on, and if you have kids, you may or may not have loved ones who can ‘give you a break.’ I was pregnant and on bedrest for the first 4 months of my husband’s year long deployment, and after that, I had to make up for the 4 months where my older son basically had no stability from mom or dad. Thank GOD my sister and mom were able to help out. Made a world of difference.

  9. by Annoyed Amy

    On July 25, 2011 at 11:52 pm

    As has been pointed out, this Dr., while researching, missed the big picture! Most of these kids don’t act out because the parent has deployed. They are really testing the parents’ love for them. Not just the parent in the house, the deployed parent as well. They want to make sure they are still loved by both parents. Most of these kids know nothing different other than a parent deploying, at least it is common practice with Sailor’s children. To me, this article sounds like a large assumption! If you’re going to bring light to the military’s struggles with parenting, do so by interviewing military families, not some lady with a PhD! This article has done nothing but a disservice to our service to this country! Very disappointing.

  10. by Whatever

    On July 26, 2011 at 12:14 am

    Bridgette, really? You clearly have no clue about military life. Might want to read up on the emotional toll of a military family before you make ridculous comments. I’ll thank my husband for you for fighting for your right to say such garbage. Oh and most of us suck it up and keep on going, without complaints. There is no need to feel sorry for us. I’m proud of my deployed husband. You’re right, we chose this!

  11. by whatever

    On July 26, 2011 at 12:16 am

    Oops, sorry Bridgette, that last comment as for Raven!

  12. by Laura

    On July 26, 2011 at 12:30 am

    My husband is about to leave and we have three boys and s baby girl. The oldest just turned five and will have just turned six when he is home. I do appreciate the article but the stuff here is true for any mom. Who doesn’t need help when stressed with kids and daddy is gone or at work? What parent doesn’t know that they need time for themselves? A lot of times it just isn’t practical to get time because after raising the kids you are just too tired. To run to the gas station I need to load up/get out four kids in car seats twice and it just isn’t practical. And let’s face it, there are people that offer to help any time and back out when you really need the help (to take your child to the er for instance).

    Also not mentioned is the explaining where daddy is and that yes daddy loves you but he can’t come home now. And the stress that NEVER goes away about the safety of the deployed spouse and the fear every single (and yes it is EVERY) that makes your heart skip a beat whenever the door bell rings. And that we have to keep stressful family matters and sometimes behavior of children from the deployed spouse until a better time (after a mission etc) because the guilt of not being there to help can be very distracting and make them lose focus on their job (and ultimately the guilt could cause a mistake that could cost lives).

    I very much appreciate the article and it is a good start but it needs more focus and not just from a professional that may or may not have kids or have been away from her husband for more than a weekend. Thank you!

  13. by Laura

    On July 26, 2011 at 1:06 am

    My husband is about to leave and we have three boys and a baby girl. The oldest just turned five and will have just turned six when he is home. I do appreciate the article but the stuff here is true for any mom. Who doesn’t need help when stressed with kids and daddy is gone or at work? What parent doesn’t know that they need time for themselves? A lot of times it just isn’t practical to get time because after raising the kids you are just too tired. To run to the gas station I need to load up/get out four kids in car seats twice and it just isn’t practical. And let’s face it, there are people that offer to help any time and back out when you really need the help (to take your child to the er for instance).

    Also not mentioned is the explaining where daddy is and that yes daddy loves you but he can’t come home now. And the stress that NEVER goes away about the safety of the deployed spouse and the fear every single (and yes it is EVERY) time that makes your heart skip a beat whenever the door bell rings. And that we have to keep stressful family matters and sometimes behavior of children from the deployed spouse until a better time (after a mission etc) because the guilt of not being there to help can be very distracting and make them lose focus on their job (and ultimately the guilt could cause a mistake that could cost lives).

    I very much appreciate the article and it is a good start but it needs more focus and not just from a professional that may or may not have kids or have been away from her husband for more than a weekend. Thank you!

  14. by Laura

    On July 26, 2011 at 1:08 am

    Sorry for the double post, there was a glitch and the page wouldn’t send it.

  15. by Laurie

    On July 26, 2011 at 1:35 am

    This is a complete load of baloney. Seriously what did they do ask 20-100 military families over the phone. I love. How it’s one Dr. Writing about another’s research too comical. Yes, deployments are stressful for everyone, the member, the spouse and the children, especially the small children who do not understand why their dad or mom just left and has been gone ” forever” as my daughter put it. It doesn’t stop when they come home either sure it is wonderful to have them home but then you have to learn show to be together all over again. The very fact that this article was written in such a manner that offered no useful help or insight is very disappointing, I am a military spouse living in a remote military area who just went through a deployment, ask us what our families go through, ask us about our children feature a real family.
    Raven, I get it being a single mom sucks, yes we choose to be in the military and we knew deployments could happen but do snot think for a second that our husbands and wives enjoy leaving us or their children, they do it for you, for their country and our pay stinks, we as the average family make so little that we could qualify for food stamps. We deal with children who cry every night because their dad or mom left, and they don’t know why, they don’t get terrioist, we shiver at phone calls, the American Flag, and the Star spangled Banner, and. We are proud to do this but like you it sucks. At the end of the day being a military wife is the hardest thing I have ever done, but I am happy to do it, so that you can not worry about having to protect your children on American soil while my husband and my family are overseas sleep well.

  16. by miliwife

    On July 26, 2011 at 1:43 am

    Wow really raven? First your right we choose this life style because it takes a real woman to actually be able to do it. We don’t get pity this talks about what dr thinks causes problems in military children. And second this research needs to be redone seeing of most civilians couldn’t make it the first 2 weeks of a deployment which is the worst for adjustment. And fyi raven the best way to describe this to your understand (milwives do not get offended I wish no harm) its been said to be the equivalent of being married for years and then being told your spouse is terminal and then one day they are gone, and the only difference between death and deployment we see our spouses again after the tour. So until you walk a mile in our shoes and experience what we do enjoy your right that my husband puts his life on the line for everyday you ungreatful person.

  17. by Richard Rende

    On July 26, 2011 at 6:27 am

    Thank you all so far for sharing your first-hand experience. This is quite important and informative, as the purpose of this piece is to make those of us who are not in military families understand the stress of those who live among us. The intent was to start a conversation using the published research, with the main goal being the last section — the idea that those of us in the community need to be aware of your lives and stresses, and need to think about ways (if there are any) of providing you with support. So I’m thankful that you are sharing your real life stories and perspectives, which certainly tell us that we need to learn much more about your lives and what we can do to support you. So I have an additional question — could a neighbor or someone in the community start doing something that would help you and your family?

  18. by Heather

    On July 26, 2011 at 8:09 am

    Richard… Its simple things that help. My husband and I were both in the military. While he was deployed, I gave birth to our daughter. I had six weeks to recover before returning to work. That meant working long days, then coming home to take care of an infant and get ready to do it all over again the next day. I would get up at 0415 every morning and not get to sleep until about 2100. 9 out of 10 times I didnt even eat dinner because I was just too tired. With how often my little one woke up, I averaged 4-5 hours of sleep. I would have LOVED if one of my neighbors just brought me over some dinner one night, or offered to cut the grass. Anything small that helps with the day-to-day life.
    Another point I wanted to make. While it was REALLY hard having my husband deployed, it also has been hard having him come back. People change over the course of a deployment. We get use to the roles we have to take on and then its hard to suddenly go back to before. I know I have been guilty of feeling like my husband didnt do things up to my standard or that he couldnt do as good of a job taking care of our daughter as I have. So many articles focus in on the deployment itself and not on what comes after…

  19. by christina

    On July 26, 2011 at 9:15 am

    Thank you for this dialogue (well the constructive and educated dialogue: while being a single mom us challenging so is mothering alone while also being in absolute fear every second that you are going to lose your husband, your children’s father and your best friend all so someone has the freedom of speech to make ridiculous judgements about others). I am working on my doctorate in psychology and was a military wife for 14 years and went through two deployments to Iraq. The question I got asked the most (and the one that hurt the most because it made me feel different) was “how do you do that?” I wanted to know what is it about military wives that makes us who we are and how do we cope and what factors affect our coping? My research seeks to answer those questions so if you are or were a significant other of a military member who has been or is deployed to the middle east, wife girlfriend husband or boyfriend, please fill out my survey at

  20. by Christina

    On July 26, 2011 at 9:20 am

    Https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/9ctcksb

    Thank you and please send to any friends who could fill it out as well.

  21. by heidu

    On July 27, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    Wow!! Raven, you obviously are far worse than “dense” !! You have no idea what types of “stressors” a military spouse/family has. Personally, I dont seek pity! I’m proud of what my husband chose to do, because it takes a great person to make a sacrifice like that. But it takes an even greater person to stand behind them.

  22. [...] was hoping to share her thoughts on Home Post as well. (Laura read about the study originally in Parents magazine.) Her initial thoughts at the study’s findings that deployments are stressful to [...]

  23. by samantha

    On July 27, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    Wow. I’m kind of upset! U might not have chose to be a single mom and you are absolutly 100% correct I chose to marry my soldier knowing I would have to be mom and dad to my son 85% of the time! My husband loves his job and he does what e does because he loves it! No one asked to have an article to be written about us or our children! So go complain to the people who chose to “reserch” this article that wasn’t helpful at all. We don’t ask praise for not having our man in our bed every night because he chose to be fighting for people like you to have the right to freedom of speach, but thank you for reminding me how lucky I am to have an amzing man who CHOSE to fight for his country and give his family everything we need I’m sexually deprived for your freedom I’m emotionally neglected for you to have the right to say what you wish and I am 100% stronger don’t brag about being mom and dad to my son but one day my son will know mommy AND daddy have word just as hard for him!!! Thanks for your single mother speach though!

    HOOAH!!! I LIVE FOR MY SOLDIER!!

  24. by Courtney Faith

    On July 28, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    I think that everyone needs to remember that the children didn’t sign up to be a military child. They didn’t ask for this. I think what Dr. Rende is doing is commendable and you should read the second installment where he clarifies that and yes, he spoke with me a military National Guard spouse. The National Guard is unique and yes we are not near our installations often. However, there is a thing called OPSEC and I’m actually glad that not everyone in the neighborhood knows when my husband deploys for a year. However, my close friends in the neighborhood know about my husband’s service and they are extremely supportive. I too, have a column on Patch called For My Soldiers. http://lakeelsinore-wildomar.patch.com/columns/for-my-soldiers The research was for home caregivers and I’m a full time working mother so I’m not included in that research. However, for anyone to claim that single parenting is harder for them then it is another is rather absurd. Not to mention the fact, that when you’re a single mother due to a deployment you are constantly worried about whether your soldier will make it back alive. HOOAH!!! OOHRAH!!! HOOYAH!!! GO BLUE!!! I ♥ our service members!