What's a tip for celebrating a holiday or milestone with your kids when your partner isn't able to be there?

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23  Answers

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Even though a spouse may not be able to be there for a special holiday, I think that using Skype or some other video chat feature to have him/her be "there" is one of the best ideas! We planned our Christmas around when Daddy could Skype with us so that he could still be a part of it too and watch my son open his presents.

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Most families probably feel that it’s important for the parent who is away to feel as included as possible on these occasions, despite the distance. There are so many ways to share a big day with a deployed parent.

- If your partner has access to the Internet, set up a video call during the celebration.
- Be sure to capture the big and little moments in photos and video to share by email or in a care package.
- Pre-record a video message from the parent who is away, or send ahead a gift, to share with the kids on the big day.

Above all, I believe it’s important to have these celebrations so that our children understand that our lives aren’t put on hold because their father is away for work. Perhaps I feel this way because of the nature of my husband’s job, which has him deploying and traveling frequently now and for years to come. Of course, there is nothing wrong with delaying a celebration for a parent to return, if that is what works for your family. We military spouses know that flexibility is an essential trait to our lifestyle.

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There is no doubt that celebrating a holiday, birthday, or other milestone while your spouse is deployed is incredibly hard for everyone. When it is possible, and the internet cooperates, I try to make sure that my husband can join in the celebration via the webcam. It helps him to see what is going on and allows our children to share their excitement with daddy too. I also make sure to pick up an extra gift that is especially from daddy. Nothing fancy, just a little something from daddy. Example: For my daughter's dance recital that my husband could not be at, I had a special doll dressed like a ballerina that was just from daddy. That little extra was just what she needed. We also try to have cards ready for birthdays and such before my husband deploys so that I can give those to the kids.

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Go above and beyond! No birthday or holiday is too small to celebrate. It doesn't have to be gifts; it can be certain things you do, like going to the park and spending time together or having a "drive-in" in your living room; do your best to make it special.

I always sent my husband themed care packages and this is a great way to involve the children as well. Make cards, banners, etc and turn it from a negative to a positive!

And of course, pictures and movies are a must! Take a ton of pictures, not only to show your partner every single detail, but it will give the kids a chance to explain what was happening in each picture.

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Since our only child has passed away, it's hard to apply this question to our lives. However, since my husband and I have been apart for nearly five months now, I've had to go through a lot of the 'first' milestones since Finley died - his first birthday, the anniversary of his death, anniversary of his funeral, etc.

My best advice for anyone having to spend extended periods of time without their spouse is to try and surround yourself by loved ones as much as possible. Don't try and carry the burden alone - ask for help if you need it.

I've found that a lot of the military communities are very friendly and welcoming to new families. Take yourself (and your kids) out of your comfort zone. Go to a coffee morning or play group. You'll be meeting new friends in no time.

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Fortunately, we've only had to do one Christmas apart from one another. We made sure to have a special gift under the tree from Daddy, along with a phone call. Now we are able to access Skype (which wasn't always possible). It's great because the kids can get their one-on-one with Dad.

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Our family has had to celebrate a lot of holidays without my husband at home. We work hard to still celebrate and enjoy the day but there are some tips that I have found helpful over the years...
1. Acknowledge the accomplishments, anniversaries, birthdays, etc.
2. Prioritize what is important to do on the day or at the event. You cannot be all things to all people and do it all but you can work on ensuring the things that matter most are done
3 Acknowledge the absence, don't pretend that all is fabulous. Share your feelings about being sad or angry that they are not there to celebrate then move on with making the most of it
4. Take a ton of photos of the big and small things and include a few notes about why he/she was missed
5. Don't try to do everything the exact same way, accept that things are different and do things that feel right or work for you. Sometimes you can create a new routine or tradition that will be enjoyed for years whether you are together or not

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Since we've always lived far from our extended families, we video tape all major milestones in our life and then share them with grandparents, aunts & uncles and friends by video tape (in the olden days) and now by email or Facebook. Since recording our memorable events is already a tradition in our family, when Dad is TDY or deployed, we just add the feature of talking directly to him as though he were present during the recording. This works well for us since time differences and duty schedules don't usually allow Dad to Skype with us through the event. The kids love watching the recording together as a family when Dad gets home and over and over and over again after that.

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HOOTERS.

No, seriously, I mean it!

I recall Mother’s Day 2007. My Navy husband was in the 5th month of a yearlong deployment to Djibouti, Africa. I met some other “geographically single” military moms at an indoor play center to let the kids run off some steam while we chatted. A couple hours later, the kids, sweaty and sufficiently coated in invisible ball-pit bacteria, told us they were starving to death.

The mothers begrudgingly trudged toward the exit. “Ugh,” one mom groaned, “I really don’t want to cook.” “Me neither,” another chimed in, her lips stretched downward in an exaggerated frown.

After months of parenting alone, I seriously contemplated eating my daughter’s filthy sweat-dampened socks to avoid cooking another meal. “Hey, you guys wanna go out to lunch somewhere?!”

We huddled in the parking lot to plan a lunch outing, but our excitement soon turned to disappointment when we realized that, without a reservation, we’d be lucky to get Slurpies and Slim Jims at 7-11 on Mother’s Day.

We said our good-byes again, and slogged to our respective minivans.

Just then, a 150-watt bulb blinked on in my deployment weary brain with possibly the best idea I’d had in my entire life. “I know where we can go!” I blurted. The other moms and their offspring looked to me with hope in their hungry eyes across the quivering asphalt, and I bellowed with outstretched arms like their pseudo savior, “HOOTERS!”

Much as I had predicted, we had the whole place to ourselves, and lazily munched on wings and fries late into the afternoon. The waitresses seemed more than happy to cater to feminine clientele who don’t giggle nervously and ogle at their ill-fitting shirts, so the service was excellent. While I did have to wipe drool from my 11-year-old son’s chin a time or two, all in all, it was a perfect Mother’s Day.

Funny stories aside, there is no reason whatsoever to mope around and feel sorry for yourself when your military spouse isn't able to be there for holidays and special moments. You are not alone -- there are plenty of other military spouses out there who have done it, are doing it, and will do it countless times in the future.

It's kinda silly to continue family traditions if they just won't be the same without your spouse. Instead, pick yourself up, go find other military spouses, and do something different.

It will distract you and the kids, and you might end up with a good story to tell!

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Keep the kids busy! When my husband is deployed, I do my best to keep the kids as busy as possible. We get together with friends, usually spending holidays with them, and do as many activities as possible. The busier they are, the less likely they are to be sad about missing a parent. If possible, we skype or wait for a phone call, but I don't get their hopes up and keep it a surprise, just in case it falls through.

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We utilize technology as much as possible. We have an infant girl and while she's too little to realize what she's missing, my husband is the one who had a hard time missing things while he was away. Buying a smartphone was the best decision we ever had; I can instantly send him photos and videos, and we can even video chat through the device. It's important that he feels included in our life even if he isn't physically available to be here.

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Holidays can be rough without our spouses to share in that joy. We do our best to bring him in wherever we can, sending Christmas trees/ornaments/gifts ahead of time, and sending up a little prayer that we'll get to skype the day of so he can be apart of our celebration. If we can't skype, then I'm always on the camera and video recorder, snagging every minute I can to upload to Jason.

We also tend to carry around a tiny sign that says, "We miss you Daddy!" so when something big happens, we throw the sign in the picture and he knows we're thinking about him.

But, these events are also tough on the kids when he's away. I do my best to validate their feelings, and give them an outlet like letters or email to keep that communication open with their dad. And they love packing up care packages in anticipation!

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When my husband is away and whether it be a birthday, Christmas, Halloween or such, I always take pictures! I am a picture junky!!! Especially during birthday's he is really good at sending e-cards to our children to my email and then we open them up together.

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Unfortunately, missing holidays and milestones is one of the major downfalls of military life...for most of us, it will inevitably happen at least once during your military life. The biggest advice I would share for the kids is to keep the traditions going as much as possible...if you go to a particular restaurant for birthdays, go to the same place, even if the family isn't all together... and of course try not to draw attention to the fact that Daddy isn't there! This is especially important for families like ours who have a child with Autism who thrives on routine!

You can also consider celebrating on a different day...during my husband's last deployment, we got lucky that he returned just a few weeks after my son's fourth birthday. I took him out shopping on his big day and let him buy one toy, eat his favorite foods and of course had cake and ice cream, but we opted to save the big celebration for a few weeks until Daddy could be there too. Of course, this may not always work out, but for us it was a great solution.

A big thing for us during holidays was still keeping Daddy involved...just because he can't be there physically doesn't mean he's not part of the festivities...we shared everything with him via Skype/e-mail/phone...whatever communication was available. We also made a huge deal out of holiday care packages. Make it fun to send Daddy a fun holiday themed package no matter where he is! (To be entirely honest, Daddy gets spoiled more on his birthday, Father's Day, etc when he's NOT home...it's hard for him to be away too, so we go out of our way to make it super special.)

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Focus on traditions and including your spouse in whichever ways you can- whether it's through photos, Skype sessions, or phone calls. Also, keeping busy during the holidays can help to ease the pain of missing your loved one; an Advent calendar or summer bucket list can keep your focus on living life to the fullest while your family member is gone. Don't forget to share the day-to-day monotony as well! During this past deployment, I took many pictures on my phone throughout the day, and before bed, would send my husband all the photos I had taken of the kids, with witty (or so I like to think) captions to make him smile. I've also been known to send a picture of two of a poop-splosion, just to keep things real.

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Heaven knows we have had MANY of these. My husband has been in the military since my boys were babies -- I guess you could say we just got used to it. I think my best tip, is to just not make a huge deal out of the fact that Dad can't be here. Kid's take their cues from parents, and if I am cool with my husband being gone (or at least put on a good show that I am), they usually are too. We make the best out of it as much as we can, we aren't afraid to have fun without him, and we take a million pictures to send to dad later! Holidays and milestones are great and all that, but our best times are when Dad is home no matter what the calendar says!

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I'm so thankful that my girls are still young enough to not really have to put an emphasis on celebrating holidays. My husband was gone just after Christmas 2011 and didn't return until New Year's Day 2013. Literally an entire year full of holidays. I did my best to keep celebrations as low-key as possible. I had a Flat Daddy made that accompanied us to special events, just so that daddy could "be there".
For Veronica's second birthday, I did my party supply shopping early to be able to send one of everything to my husband so that he could celebrate with us from Afghanistan. He got a party hat, a set of all of the paper/plastic wear, and even his own goody bag.
Since I thought he might be home for Christmas, I went crazy and started decorating long before Thanksgiving to give myself time to make sure everything was PERFECT. Well, it turns out he wasn't home in time so I got together with several other families from the unit and we had our own little anti-Christmas party with hot chocolate and holiday movies. We made sure to not let the kids realize that it was actually Christmas though. V started getting curious about when Santa would be coming, so I told her that he was on the same plane with Daddy, coming from far away.
Hubs finally made it back on New Year's Day. We greeted him at the homecoming field in our Christmas dresses and opened the gifts that I had put out just before leaving for the homecoming ceremony.

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We are currently experiencing our first deployment as a family and there is a learning curve to it all. But what I have learned is to not dwell on it but make the situation into a positive. Although your partner is not there to witness the little things, document EVERYTHING. I always have my camera handy so I can capture the moments for my husband. With the power of internet & Facebook these days, my husband never misses anything. And I always try to make each holiday & milestone special for my son, so he doesn't miss out either. I just tell my husband, we'll make up for next year and go all out when he gets back.

My husband also gave our son bear dressed in ABUs before he left. I make it a habit to take him everywhere we go and snap pictures of the bear participating in our activities. We call the bear Daddy Bear and our collection of pictures is named "Adventures of Daddy Bear." This way daddy always participates in a fun way too.

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A couple of years ago The Hubbs was deployed for the holiday season through our daughter’s birthday. He actually came home his birthday weekend, which was special. It is a balancing act to celebrate but not make the deployed spouse feel completely left out. Over the holidays we spent at home and didn’t travel and celebrated Christmas when my husband came home on leave, which was luckily right after Christmas. For our daughter’s birthday it was another story, he had only been able to make it to 2/5 of her birthdays, so we kinda just break up her birthday, when she was a baby we gave her a cupcake on her birthday and a special breakfast on her day and did a fun activity. The when he got home we would do presents and a cake with a family dinner of her choice. This last year she wanted a party so we did a party when he was gone and then an family party with presents and a special dinner when he came home. I think over all it is important to make the day fun and busy and then include the spouse in something when they are home.

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My kiddos are still pretty young but for major holidays Daddy's going to miss we usually celebrate ahead of time. One year when he missed Christmas we declared a day in November "Early Christmas" and made it super special for the kids. That way Daddy got to see them open presents and share in some of the holiday joy.

For milestones we really rely on Skype as much as possible. He got to Skype with us on my son's first birthday, for ultrasounds that I had, and for other holidays and family events. I also tell my children that although Daddy may not be here, he wishes more than anything he could be and even though he's not physically here they can talk to him on the computer like he is! Having others to celebrate holidays with also helps with the pangs of loneliness. Whether that be your family or your military family, just being around others during holidays really helps both you and your children!

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Celebrate the way you would if your spouse was there. Make sure you include your child's favorite picture, stuffed animal, daddy doll, etc that reminds them of there absent parent. Always mention how much they miss them and love them.

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A couple of years ago, my husband was gone for Christmas, which is the single most important holiday in our house. We decorate every single room of the house, inside, outside, everything you can think of! I didn't have a baby at the time (we haven't had a holiday yet), but I would do the same thing I did then, regardless. I made dinner for anyone in the squadron who didn't have their spouse home, anyone who wasn't going home for Christmas, the single guys, etc. It was so busy that I didn't have time to miss Ryan, and honestly, it was probably my favorite Christmas to date, simply because I was taking care of other people. I think this would be not only a great way to show Matthew what Christmas is really supposed to be about, but also a way to keep them busy and entertained with their Air Force aunts, uncles, and cousins!

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Holiday time can be very stressful for a military family with a deployed parent.
The deployed parent often feels empty and alone and wants to be home. He (or she) wishes he could be home to share in the celebrations, but also to help with the preparations and work involved.
The at-home spouse struggles with the absence of a partner to share in the burden of making the house festive, shopping for gifts and preparing a meal. Plus, she probably feels less than merry and may not even want to go through the trouble of decorating, baking and shopping.
It can be hard to get into the holiday spirit when you see everyone around you is joyful and in family mode, preparing for fun holiday plans and you feel completely alone in the crowd.
Getting the decorations out and setting them up is a lot of work, especially while thinking of the fact that your spouse won’t be with you to celebrate, nor will he be there after the holidays, to help put it all away, which is not a fun task under the best of circumstances.
You have to pull yourself together and do it all anyway. Despite the lack of enthusiasm, the military wife has to put a smile on her face and make the effort to make the home joyful and festive, no-matter-what.
It’s all about the kids. Sure, the kids are feeling some of the same emotions as their parents. They know it won’t be the same without mom/dad, but they still look forward to the holidays. They get excited seeing the lights and Santa/menorahs, shopping bags, decorated cookies… all the hoopla that is Thanksgiving to New Years Day.
Without a parent to lead the way to the celebration, children will feel lost and even more alone. I know this because, I’m a more than a little embarrassed to say, I let it happen the first holiday season of my husband's most recent deployment.
I never let it happen again after I saw how I ruined the holidays for the kids. The next year, I was as tired as ever, but it was different. I decorated the house the day after Thanksgiving. The boys helped and were thrilled with the anticipation the decorations ignited.
And you know what? I felt better, too. Once I got over the stress and effort of getting the decorations out of the attic and putting everything in its place, I calmed down and looked forward to the holidays as much as the boys did.
Well, not quite as much, but I didn’t dread them like I had the first year he was gone.
Sometimes acting the part is more than half the battle.
An act can transition to reality and even if it doesn’t, making the effort for the kids will probably save a bundle in therapy bills for the kids in the future.

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