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Happy birthday, USO!
We're celebrating 76 years of the USO providing amazing benefits to our military and their families. This group is responsible for the USO tours that Bob Hope made famous, hospitality areas at airports, care packages for deployed troops, and a whole host of other services to help support the military and their families from the time they enter to service through their transition back to civilian life.
Our favorite services the USO offers is technology that helps our military communicate with their families back home. The organization helps deployed military make phone and video calls home and even provides long-distance bedtime stories so kids can have the comfort of hearing their mom or dad read them their favorite bedtime story.
While it feels good knowing you and your kids can enjoy some digital face time with your deployed loved one, time differences and the schedule demands on a deployed service member mean you're still going to be spending a lot of time not connected with your husband or wife. Here's how to set your home up to make the transition easier on the little ones.
Step up the bedtime story routine by dedicating an area in the house as the official "story-reading area." Stock it with comfortable pillows, soft blankets, and a DVD player to play the bedtime story your partner recording for the kids. That way the kids can still incorporate their mom or dad into their bedtime routine, even if they're half a world apart.
Picture walls are popular in any house, but we suggest a twist on an old classic. Use a layer of magnetic paint and a layer of chalkboard paint to give your child their own space where they can hang pictures, write messages, and draw pictures for their deployed parent. The chalkboard will give your child a space to work out her feelings and write messages to her mom or dad and the magnetic paint will give her the freedom to put up her favorite pictures and letters. The best part is, if the wall ever gets too full you can snap a picture and start again. And once the deployment is over, you can use the space as a regular arts and crafts area.
If you have plenty of time before the deployment, try decorating your child's room together. It will help give your child a sense of control and provide some quality bonding time before you or your spouse deploys. Now every time your child looks at his walls he'll be reminded of painting them with daddy or putting together his new bookshelf with mommy.
Helping your kids deal with a long-distance relationship with one of their parents is never easy--and it's made even harder when that parent is away doing a dangerous job. But with some planning and help from the USO you can help make that deployment a little easier on your little ones.