The holiday season is here, which is often a time when families come together to celebrate and kick-start traditions like putting up decorations, buying presents, and maybe eating a mince pie or two (or three, or four…).
These are important activities for many at this time of year but some parents of young people from armed forces families will have been deployed and will, unfortunately, be away during the festive period.
We know that for these young people this may create unique opportunities and challenges. The holiday season can bring up a mixture of emotions, never mind when you are also coping with a parent’s deployment.
Our Your Mind Matters Hub has lots of helpful information about how to manage different emotions.
Because of this, we have pulled together advice and activities to help you during this time while your parent is away. We’ve also spoken to two people to get their advice – one has experienced this before and the other is experiencing it right now.
It may feel that you’re alone in navigating your emotions because you don’t want to add more stress onto a family member and to avoid feeling worried for a parent that is deployed.
It can be difficult to navigate feelings of joy, excitement, sadness, loss, and change. The community of forces children want you to know you’re not alone in your feelings and you’re allowed to feel however you’re feeling.
Some days you might be really excited about the holidays, and some days you might feel sad or worried. Be aware of how you’re feeling, and you can give yourself some extra time to navigate your thoughts and feelings.
Our Your Mind Matters Hub has lots of helpful information about how to manage different emotions.Visit Your Mind Matters Hub
When speaking to children and young people, we have learnt that when big family events are coming, negative feelings might arise. It is important to start a conversation with friends and family about how you’re feeling.
Try to talk about how you are feeling. Maybe you can speak to your parent at home, or your siblings. If that isn’t something you want to do, maybe you could share with a friend that you trust?
If you’re struggling to talk to someone, you could also try getting your feelings out in some other ways!
Journalling can be really helpful for this – sometimes just getting your thoughts on paper can help clear some of the emotional noise in your head. It can be hard to write on a blank sheet of paper though, so sometimes using prompts can help to get creativity flowing!
If you feel you have things you want to say to your deployed parent, why not write some letters for them? You could write a letter and save it for when they come home – they might appreciate hearing some of the things that have been going on for you!
No matter what way works for you, its really important to talk about how you feel. Want to know how to get started? Read Rebecca’s blog below!Read Rebecca’s Blog
You might benefit from planning your festive holiday to help keep you busy while your parent is deployed. Maybe you can make an activity planner and fill it with lots of fun things like visiting friends, going a walk in the cold air, doing exercise, or baking Christmas treats.
There are also small fun things you can do during times when you feel overwhelmed. If you need a ‘brain break’, grab a dice and play this Christmas game!
For some, we know it can help to look ahead to when your parent returns from deployment. Perhaps you and your family can plan a fun family dinner or celebration for when your parent returns?
Likewise, many people find ‘journaling’ helpful when they feel overwhelmed or sad. You could use your journal to note things you want to share with your parent when they are home.
This can be anything from thoughts you’ve had, through to cool things you’ve read or watched while they were away.
While your parent is away, you might feel as if you’re on an emotional rollercoaster. You might also not feel anything – as we said earlier, its okay to feel how you feel!
It’s really important though to go with where you’re at and to feel your feelings. Giving yourself some time and space to do this can really help.
There are loads of different ways to look after yourself during the holiday season, especially when you have a deployed parent.
If you find that you need some peace and quiet to process some of your feelings, why not try some mindfulness practice or some meditation?
YouTube has some fantastic videos, including from Headspace which are guided mediations. Why not give them a try?
When we’re experiencing a parental deployment, it can often feel as if you’re facing this on your own.
There will be other young people who are going through the same thing, and who will be feeling the exact same thing as you. Your feelings are valid, and you can always reach out to others who are going through this experience.
Our Your Mind Matters hub has some information on how to look after your wellbeing in general – why not have a look and see if any of those tips help?Six Ways to Wellbeing Activity
If you are struggling and you feel as if nothing has been helpful, you can always:
Call 111 – NHS 24
Call 116 123 – The Samaritans
Call 0800 83 85 87 – Breathing Space
Text: ‘YM’ to 85258 – Young Minds crisis chat