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Good Bye, Again?!?

DEAR DOC: I used to think all deployments are the same. This deployment is actually a lot easier for me compared to the last time my mom left. Why do you think I am doing better this time around? -SURPRISED AND CONFUSED

DEAR SURPRISED AND CONFUSED: It’s great to hear that you are doing better this time around! After you experience a deployment or two, you may discover you’re more comfortable because the process feels familiar. Think about walking into English class at the start of a school year, or going to your first basketball practice. The first day is usually the toughest. After a few days, you catch the rhythm and understand what the teacher or coach wants you to do. You may not always like what you have to do, but knowing what to expect makes life a little easier. You can think about deployments in a similar way. Some kids may worry that if they don’t feel stressed or upset about a new deployment, it means that they don’t care. If that sounds like you, remind yourself that feeling OK about your parent’s absence is not the same as not caring -- it most likely means you feel confident and prepared. Try to stay flexible and expect a surprise or two, because every deployment is different. If things change and you notice you are struggling with this new deployment, remember you are not alone. Try one of the things that helped you last time, focus on positive actions, and don’t forget to reach out to a trusted adult if you need help. -DD

I Didn't Say I Love You

DEAR DOC:  I love my family a lot. My mom and dad are always there for me, even when I’m not behaving like the best daughter. I’ve done some crazy stuff, like coming home way late or flunking my test. My mom and I argue, but if I have a problem, she’s the first person I go to for help. When my dad is away, I really miss him. Everyone in my family misses him. When we talk to my dad, we never have enough time to say all we want. How can I make sure he knows that I love and miss him?  -MISSING MY DAD

DEAR MISSING DAD: I am sure it feels like there is a big hole in your family when your dad is gone. You and your family members have something in common – you all miss your dad, which brings your family closer. When you video chat with your dad, end the time with saying “I love you.” It’s a great way to say good-bye. It’s something you and your dad can hold onto until you talk again. You can’t say “I love you” too much. However, saying those three words isn’t the only way to convey your love and support. Doing something special for your family is another way to show your love. Take goofy pictures or videos of everyone to show him during your next call – you can all enjoy them and laugh together. Get creative – there are many ways to show your love for your dad, and your family. - DD

Home, Not So Sweet Home

DEAR DOC: Any place but home, that’s my motto. It’s been amazingly bad around here since dad got home from his deployment – and I thought everything would be perfect. He never wants to do things with me. He and my stepmom are always fighting, and then he starts yelling at me. I can’t do anything right. I’m actually glad when he leaves to go hang out with his buddies. We can have some peace and quiet for a while. I’m so out of here! I hate going to mom’s apartment, so that’s out. Grandpa’s OK, but there’s nothing to do there. I’ve been staying after school — all my friends think that’s totally weird. I wish it was track season. This is crazy — what am I saying? I’d rather be at SCHOOL?!? -FRUSTRATED AT HOME

DEAR FRUSTRATED AT HOME: I can see why you would want to be in school rather than at home. It is not unreasonable to want to feel comfortable in your own home. Find somebody you trust to talk to even if they haven’t “been there” – trusting them is what matters. If an adult, such as a friend’s mom or a teacher at school, asks you how things are going at home, consider telling them about what’s going on. You can also try writing stuff down – in a journal, on your computer, or even in a song – it may help you think. If you are tired of spending so much time at school, there are other safe places where you could take a break. Consider a close friend’s house, the library, a park, the gym or recreation center, or a church group. -DD

Spring Break FAIL

DEAR DOC: My dad’s in the Army, and when he’s gone I can get away with all kinds of stuff. My mom SAYS that everything will stay the same, but it never does. The last time my stepdad deployed, things around here got a little out of hand. To make a long story short, my mom finally let me go to the beach for spring break after I kept begging her to let me go. I even used the “dad would let me go” line. My friend’s parents ended up not going, so it was five teenagers. There was this party on the beach, some people were drinking, and the cops showed up. It was a total D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R! Basically, I almost got arrested. My mom had to come all the way down and pick me up. I am wondering what I should do to keep myself from getting into more trouble while my dad is deployed. -GUILTY FOR TAKING ADVANTAGE

DEAR GUILTY FOR TAKING ADVANTAGE: I think it’s brave to acknowledge your part in your disastrous beach party experience, and to ask for help. It sounds like when your dad deploys, the rules at home get slack. It’s not a surprise that you feel guilty, and maybe ashamed, for taking advantage of your mom while your dad is gone. Just because you CAN manipulate your mom, does that mean you SHOULD? For each “no” from your mom, YOU have to decide if it’s really best for you, and your family, to pressure her into changing her mind. Maybe during one of your video chat sessions, you and your parents can discuss house rules, rewards, and consequences for bad choices. For example, if you have run-ins with the police, then you lose privileges for a while, or if you clean up the kitchen for a week, you get to go to a friend’s to play video games. Good luck! -DD

I'm Not A Baby

DEAR DOC: My mom deployed to Afghanistan for eight months. While she was gone, I lived with my Aunt Bella. I had to do more chores and take on more responsibilities. I really didn’t like it, BUT I also got to do more things because my aunt really trusted me. Now my mom never lets me drive the car, stay up late, or decide for myself if I need to do homework. I’m just getting more and more upset. I even ended up yelling at my mom. How can I get her to stop treating me like a little kid? - I’M NOT A BABY

DEAR I’M NOT A BABY: I want to applaud you for taking a step toward asking for what you need rather than staying in a miserable situation. It sounds like you and your mom need to help each other adjust to your new life together. She naturally went back to the old way of doing things, and obviously, that isn’t working for you. I imagine it isn’t easy to approach your mom given that she is feeling stressed – and nobody wants to get into a big fight with their parent. You can keep it all inside, you can gripe and argue, OR you can try a new way to tackle the problem. Stay calm and find some creative ways to tell your mom what you’re thinking. Ask a trusted adult (like your Aunt Bella) to help you if you don’t think you can do it alone. Ask your mom to have one of those “no one gets in trouble” kind of family meetings and you can invite Aunt Bella (your trusted adult) to act as a referee, or moderator. Your Aunt Bella can also help explain to your mom how things were different while she was gone. For instance, you can talk to your mom about your grades. If she sees that your grades are staying up, she may feel more comfortable about letting you manage your school responsibilities on your own. She may even compromise and let you drive short distances, with the possibility of driving more later. You may not agree upon a perfect solution for you, but I’m guessing that it can get better. -DD

A Different Sister Every Day

DEAR DOC: My older sister has been acting weird since my dad deployed. I never know what to expect. Sometimes she seems normal, but other time she yells at me or ignores me. She acts the same way around my mom too. I think this craziness started right after my dad deployed. Before he left, she spent lots of time with him, and she seemed OK when she said goodbye. I stay away from her when she’s in one of her moods. Mom told me she’s having a hard time because dad’s gone. I guess I can understand, but he’s my dad too and I’m not acting crazy. What do you think is going on with her? -WORRIED ABOUT MY SISTER

DEAR WORRIED ABOUT MY SISTER: There are different reasons that your sister could be acting this way. She may really miss him and doesn’t really know how she feels. Sometimes she may think she’s OK with him being gone, and other times she may discover she’s not OK. Change can be hard. Change that is out of our control is even harder. Having your dad leave because that’s part of his job is definitely a change – and one you can’t control. Anger or yelling are common reactions to stress or uncertainty. She may also worry that something will happen to your dad – another thing neither of you can control. That doesn’t mean it’s OK for her to act mean. Talking to someone who has more experience with moods and behavior, may help your sister understand her feelings. Consider saying something to your mom, she can make an appointment with your family doctor or school counselor. And try to support your sister the best you can – your kindness may help her notice how unkindly she’s treated you. –DD

Revised: Wed, 11/27/2019 - 08:12