Growing up without dad during deployment

By Brandi Hodges - bio | email

PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) -Growing up in a single parent family can be a little tougher and some families in Region eight have been put in that position because dad or mom is on deployment overseas with the military.  While this separation can be tough on the entire family, it is toughest on children.

Recently we caught up with one family in two very different places.  The mom of the family, Melissa Brown and her three children Mallory, Madison, and Kobe are here while dad is serving in Afghanistan.  Staff Sergeant Chris Brown was first at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin for training before heading for his year long deployment in Afghanistan.

"Usually I just tell my kids, 'Daddy's going to be gone for a while and I'm not going to be in any danger,' because I don't want them to worry about it," said SSG Brown.

This is the second deployment for the Brown family.  The first deployment was three years ago when the 875th was dispatched to Iraq.

"We prepared when he got back last time for another deployment," said Melissa Brown.

This time the kids are older and they understand more about where their dad is and what he's doing.

"They had to grow up a little bit faster than other kids did.  They had a little bit more responsibility," said Brown.

"After I've been through it once I know what's going to happen and I know what's going to be coming in the future," said Madison Brown.

While it's hard for him to be away from his family, SSG Brown said he knows it can be even harder for his kids.

"I know my wife is a strong woman and she's grown and can take care of herself but the kids, they learn from you and know you're not there to have that role model in their life," said SSG Brown.

Family Counselor Jeff Cline said any separation from a parent will impact a child.

"The children are at higher risk and any changes in the stability to the home environment contribute to increased stress in their life," said Cline.

It also increases the stress in the life of the at home parent who is now the caregiver, provider, and confidant. 

"A lot of people say you're a single parent but the only difference is between a single person and you is you are married and you do have a husband that's overseas that you are constantly worried about," said Melissa Brown.

Last time the Brown's say their children were more quiet and withdrawn, grades dropped, and the children were different.  Experts say there are many signs to watch for in your children to see how a deployment is affecting them.

In small children some symptoms include unexplained crying, changes in eating or sleeping or having nightmares.

Children in elementary or middle school may show their internal pain in a more physical way with headaches or stomach aches, be more irritable  or be angry towards the at home parent.

Teenagers may have a lower self esteem, get angry about small things or lose interest in their hobbies.

Over the past couple of years multiple studies have been published specifically dealing with a deployment and children

While he may be over 7 thousand miles away, Staff Sergeant Brown always worries about his family and how his absence could affect them in the future.

"The only thing I ever worry about is later on will they hold a grudge against me for not being there," said SSG Brown.

During the last deployment, Melissa Brown said she found out if her kids were more involved in activities they didn't focus so much on their dad being away.  So this time, when they knew a deployment was coming, she enrolled the kids in different activities.  Madison and Mallory are both taking gymnastics and competing in pageants.  Kobe is taking mixed martial arts and is looking forward to baseball season.

If you or someone who know has a family member who is coping with a deployed loved one it is vital to talk about it.

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