7 Ways to Share the Back to School Experience with Deployed Parents


Remembering a specific first day of school is something many of us can relate to, maybe it’s the first day of third grade or the first day of middle school. Spirits are high but so is the anxiety of the unknown. New students navigate new teachers, new classrooms and for military kids that might have just moved, they navigate new schools in a new city. Now throw into the mix, one of the parents is away on deployment and they are most likely missing that extra emotional support. The deployed parent is also missing the experience and wishing they could be there.  


Sharing a big event like back to school with your deployed loved one can take some creativity, but the extra effort can help connect your family to sharing this moment in time across the miles.  


Here are some easy ideas to help when you're preparing for the school year, while still keeping your deployed love one connected and involved in the process: 


  1. Favorite things - Have your spouse make a list of favorite things they liked to have on the first day of school. Maybe they grew up with a tradition that you'd like to continue with your kids, for example: pancakes for breakfast, a new "school item" like special pencils or even a special packed lunch with a favorite sandwich and/or treat. My spouse’s favorite treat is brownies and including this treat helped make the connection dad was right there.  
  2. Create a short video - It's never been easier to document milestone moments. Take a few minutes to capture video of your child meeting the bus, walking down the school hall, sitting in his or her new desk, etc. Keep your movie clips short, 30-60 seconds, for easier download. 

  3. Backpacks and other school items featuring favorite characters - If you know your loved one's favorite character is Captain America for example, look for a small school supply item inspired by the character. Explain the significance to your child and that they have something even mom or dad would carry to school! 

  4. Pep talk - Ask your loved one share a few words of encouragement regarding the first day of school in their next Skype session, email or by handwritten note. 

  5. Keep it positive - Celebrating key moments in our children's lives is hard when our partners are not there to share the experience. Acknowledge your feelings and your kid's feelings. It's normal to wish both parents could be part of this special time. Reassure your children and work to keep your attitude bright and positive. 

  6. Share past first day of school memories - Have your deployed spouse share their memories of past first days of school. For example, they might share they were scared and how they handled a new school and making new friends. The important thing is to create an open dialog so your kids feel like they can talk about any fears, anxiety, and/or excitement they might be experiencing.

  7. Miss you message - Ensure your loved one knows they will be missed during this special day, and that you really wish they could be there. You can do this by making a video or by sending an email note or even a special card. Sometimes we think all a deployed loved one wants to hear is a play-by-play of the day’s events, when what they really want to hear is how much you miss them, how much they mean to you and that no matter what, you are in this together. 


These are just seven ideas to keep your spouse connected to your kids as the excitement and preparation begins for back to school and ultimately the start of the school year. Do you have an idea to share? 


How have you kept your spouse involved in preparing your child(ren) for the first day of school? Will your kids be back in the traditional classroom setting or learning virtually or a combination of both? 


Related Post: 

Back to School in a New Town 


 Originally published in 2021 updated in 2022