Deployments are kinda like divorce – even if your family hasn’t experienced it directly, you surely know a friend’s family that is going through it. As a teen in a military family, chances are you’ve encountered separation and deployments and you have some pretty strong feelings about it. Keep diggin’ in here to discover if that’s normal and what you can do about it.
Did you know that the main characters in the first story of The Chronicles of Narnia are military brats? Seriously! The first book (or movie), “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” primarily chronicles the four Pevensie children; Lucy, Edmund, Susan and Peter. Perhaps you’ve seen the 2005 movie where Lucy climbs into the huge wardrobe at the end of the otherwise empty room trying to find a place to hide from her oldest brother in a game of hide and seek. As she backs up into the fur coats hanging in the wardrobe, she stumbles into a snowy land, which is later identified as a land called Narnia. From this point, she involves her reluctant brothers and sister until all of them are caught up into the magical land with a war between good and evil. Eventually, they grow up, live productive lives, and are crowned the Kings and Queens of Narnia, ruling well from their castle, Cair Paravel; that is until they fall out of Narnia back into their real lives in England where they are the same age as when they left…and in the same place!
But wait! What was this place that housed the wardrobe? And how did they get there? In fact, as you think back to the beginning of the story, these four, Lucy, Edmund, Susan and Peter, were military brats!! That’s right, their dad was off at war with the Germans in WWII. They were living in the city in England, and as the German bombing raids threatened, the British devised a plan to move children away from the cities and to the countryside. These four Pevensie children were being ‘deployed’ from the city to the country to live with an older professor who had a large manor where they could live for the duration of the war. Being separated, they miss their mother and father and become quickly bored when the rains come at their new home. All four of them approach this new reality differently, much like you and your family members may have diverse attitudes about deployments and separation.
Watch this video of the opening of the Narnia Chronicles and see if you don’t think that this is a story about military brats who are experiencing separation and a forced deployment.
It’s probably pretty clear that the four kids responded differently to the circumstances. Bored, sad, calm, anxious, courageous, cautious, fearful, adventurous, confident, exhilarated, defeated, and other attitudes pulse through their veins with the variety of experiences. Lucy, Edmund, Susan and Peter represent a pretty normal family of reactions to their separation and placement into a new home. Perhaps you and your family (or a friend’s family) are experiencing a separation or deployment. There will naturally be a flood of differing emotions attached to the experience that you may have. Deployments aren’t all negative, because, like in the movie, their move to the country opened up all kinds of new experiences. They even became Kings and Queens of Narnia! Most important, though, is they had each other to lean on when things got tough. Maybe you have family members that will do the same for you, but if not, find a few people to walk with you during your parent’s deployment. It really does make a difference!
Sometimes a parent’s deployment can be a dramatic event like the apostle Paul’s farewell speech to the people in Ephesus. After living with them for 3 years, it’s time for him to ‘deploy’ to other areas and take the word of Christ around the Mediterranean world. You can imagine the sorrow they felt as well as the new responsibilities and opportunities that this meant for many of those left behind who were called to lead. Maybe you’ll identify with this emotional event from Scripture.
How blessed are we who call you our Rock and Redeemer, our Source of Strength and Savior, our Protector....no matter WHERE I am, YOU are already there in all your power. There is nowhere I can go where you are not already there. I praise you for that fact. I ask that you walk with me in all of my emotions and attitudes. Make your presence real and keep me strong in trusting you. Let me be an encouragement to others, especially my mom/dad. In the name of Jesus Christ,
Be an encouragement: Make a small care package of things around your home that will remind the deployed parent of things and people in your family. Be as creative as you can be. Include things like a lock of hair, a lipstick kiss on a piece of paper, a leaf from their favorite tree, a game piece from a board game or a piece of a puzzle that can’t be finished until they return, or a thousand other great ideas that you have that are meaningful to them! If you really want to make this even more fun, get together with friends and pack these, or make it a group event at Club Beyond or the youth center!
Take this inventory of your spiritual wellness and see how you score. Spiritual well-being is super important to dealing with stresses like deployments introduce to the family. Consider talking about this with someone like a chaplain or youth leader.
Identify your level of Spiritual Wellness
Answer the questions below and check your score.
- I am willing to forgive myself and others
- I have a sense of belonging, meaning, and purpose in my life
- I have a belief system (e.g. spiritual, atheist, religious)
- I participate in regular spiritual activities with people who share my beliefs, and I am open to hearing about other's beliefs
- I accept my limitations without embarrassment or apology
- I keep the purpose of my life clearly in mind and let it guide my decision-making
- I freely give to others
- I am comfortable about knowing things without knowing precisely how I know them (intuition)
- I allow others the freedom to believe what they want without pressuring them to accept my beliefs
- I look for and work toward balance
- I continually explore personal beliefs, values, and priorities
- Principles, ethics, and morals provide guides for my life
9 or more Excellent Your habits are enhancing your health
6-8 Average You are obviously trying but there is room to improve
5 or less Below Average There is room for improvement in your daily habits
10 Tips for teens in a time of war
- Talk About It. Talk with your friends and, yes, even with your parents. Understand that your parents may have more experience with war than you do, and they may be afraid as well. In fact, it may be harder for them to talk about it than it is for you! Don't be afraid to express your opinion, even if your parent or friend takes the opposite view. Ask questions and listen to the answers. And, understand that some people may express hatred for people from a certain country or religion--it doesn't mean that you have to. Get connected to your community, whether it's as part of a church group or of a high school group.
- Turn It Off. You want to stay informed -- you may even have homework that requires you to watch the news. But try to limit the amount of news you take in, whether it's from television, newspapers or magazines, or the Internet. Watching a news report once informs you; watching it over and over again just adds to the stress and contributes no new knowledge.
- Cut Yourself Some Slack. The stresses of war may heighten daily stresses. Your emotions might already be all over the map because of hormones and physical changes; the uncertainty during a time of war can make these shifts seem more extreme. Be prepared for this and go a little easy on yourself, and on your friends.
- Create a No-War Zone. Make your room or apartment a "no war zone"--home should be a haven, free from the stress and anxieties associated with war. Understand that your parents and siblings are under wartime stresses as well and may want to spend a little more time than usual with you.
- Stick to the Program. Spending time in high school or on a college campus means more choices; so let home be your constant. During a time of war, map out a routine and stick to it. You'll be doing all kinds of new things, but don't forget the routines that give you comfort, whether they are the things you do before class, going out to lunch, or having a nightly phone call with a friend.
- Take Care of Yourself. Be sure to take care of yourself--physically, mentally, and spiritually. And get sleep. If you don't, you may be more grouchy and nervous at a time when you have to stay sharp. There's a lot going on, and it's going to be tough to face if you're falling asleep on your feet.
- Take Control. Make sure you are included in any emergency planning at home, school, or work. Go over what each person will do in different scenarios, such as in a military emergency while you're at school versus at home. If you've got a family member or friend in the military, get as much information as you can about where that person will be, how long they'll be gone, and how often they'll be able to contact you.
- Express Yourself. War can bring up a bunch of conflicting emotions, but sometimes, it's just too hard to talk to someone about what you're feeling. If talking isn't working, do something else to capture your emotions, such as starting a journal or creating art.
- Help Somebody. Nothing gets your mind off your own problems like solving someone else's. Try volunteering in your community or at your school, cleaning up around the house or apartment, or helping a friend with his or her homework.
- Put Things Into a Positive Perspective. War may be all anyone is talking about now. But, eventually, wars end. If you're worried about whether you've got what it takes to get through this, think back on a time when you faced up to your fears, whether it was asking someone on a date or applying for a job. Learn some relaxation techniques, whether that is thinking of a particular song in times of stress or just taking a deep breath to calm down. Think about the important things that have stayed the same, even while
“I AM A MILITARY TEEN” is a cool video that discusses many aspects of being a military brat, including deployments and life in general. These kids’ collection of feelings and experiences supply a composite story that you will probably identify with a lot!
1 Corinthians 1:4-9
Gladiator Remix: Here are three videos remixes with songs from the movie Gladiator. All throughout the first part of the movie, Maximus is counting the days he’s been deployed from his home and family. He longs to return and eventually asks Caesar after the final battle if he can go home. That night, things go horribly wrong, which leaves him longing to reconnect with his wife and son. With his dying breath, the scene shifts to him pushing open the door to the other side where he greets them.
How do you think these video/songs capture the emotions of deployment from both the soldier’s and family’s side? Do you identify with the little boy at all?
(The song is Home by Daughtry)
(The song is Now We Are Free by Enya)
(The song is Now We Are Free by Enya)
When it comes to separations and deployments, consider how to best put things in perspective. This will help you stop catastrophic thinking, reduce anxiety, and improve you resilience. Try these steps:
- List the worst case outcomes and ask, “And then what happens?”
- List the best case outcomes and ask, “And then what happens?”
- List the most likely outcomes.
- Identify a plan for dealing with the most likely outcomes.
Do you think this kind of thinking will help you or someone you know? Why not try this out and see if it helps?