Using 4-H military family book sheets to stay connected with your service member

The Magic Box.

Deployment can be a stressful time for families, especially young children. During deployment many changes are taking place within the family. Young children may not be able to fully understand these changes. Many times young children are unable to fully process what a deployment means and why their service member is gone. Michigan State University Extension says that using children’s books is a great way to help explain deployment and give young children an idea of what to expect.

Children’s books provide a way for parents, caregivers and young children to learn about deployment and the many changes that happen during a deployment. By reading about other military families, children and situations, they will be able to recognize that they are not alone and that other families are having experiences and feelings that are similar to their own. Books also offer an opportunity for parents and caregivers to connect with their young child one-on-one and provide a special time to talk about how the family will adjust to the upcoming changes.

The 4-H Military Family Book Sheets help parents and guardians find books and activities to help their children during the various stages of their service members’ deployments. Each book sheet contains a summary of the book, author and publication details, and activities they can use with their children pre-deployment, during or post-deployment to extend the message of the book. To find each book, check with your local library, bookstore or online retailer.

The book that we are highlighting in this article is The Magic Box: When Parents Can’t Be There to Tuck You In, by Marty Sederman and Seymour Epstein

In The Magic Box, Casey copes with his dad’s frequent overnight business trips by making a surprise for his father using supplies in a special box. The book contains many valuable tips for families in which a parent frequently travels away from home.

Pre-deployment activities

  • Make magic boxes. Make one for your service member to take with him or her and one for each family member. Place a favorite photo in the magic box.
  • As a family, pick out a favorite bedtime story that everyone will read before they go to bed at night. Get two copies of the book, one to keep at home and one to send with your service member. On the inside cover of the book, write special messages to each other and read those during story time.

During deployment activities

  • Put special items in your magic box that you want to share with your service member when he or she returns from deployment. These items can be photos, ticket stubs, drawings, report cards or other special tokens. Your service member will do the same thing while away, collecting special items and placing them in a magic box to share with the family when he or she returns.
  • Make a storybook about what you will do as a family when your service member returns. Include things such as what you will eat, where you will go and what activities you will do together. Include pictures, drawings and descriptions. You can use plain white paper folded in half and stapled in the middle to make your book.

Post-deployment activities

  • Share with your service member the magic box items you collected during deployment. Be sure to include details about why you put an item in your box and what it means to you. Have your service member share the contents of his or her magic box and explain the reasons for the inclusion of specific items.
  • Read your storybook together. Show your service member what things the family would like to do together now that he or she is home. Decide as a family what activities you will do and when you will do them.

If you are looking for more articles about deployment support, check out Finding support for children and youth with deployed family members for a helpful checklist on who might support your child or youth during your service member’s deployment, and the Emotional cycle of deployment that explains each stage of the deployment cycle and gives helpful activities you can do to keep your family connected.

For more books you can use to support your child during all stages of your service members deployment take a look at the Michigan 4-H Military Partnerships website where you can download the family book sheets for free!  You can also find additional deployment support information on the Military OneSource website, the Operation: Military Kids website and the 4-H Military Partnerships website.

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