Your little ones can go through tricky times if they move home, are separated from their serving parent or even when they’re reunited after long periods apart. Books, activity packs and crafts are a great way of providing a welcome distraction or to help the whole family bond. We took a look at some of the fantastic resources that you can tap into…

A force for good

Reading Force is a reading initiative where forces families share a book and fill out a scrapbook together. We caught up with army spouse Daniela Makin to find out how she used it…

“WE ARE a book-loving family with two small children, Raphael (4) and Corin (3). My husband Seth went to Belize on exercise in January – the first time he’d been deployed since Corin’s birth.

“When Mr Magnolia by Quentin Blake arrived, I hesitantly embarked on reading it to our children, doubting that they would be able to sustain their concentration to compile an entire scrapbook. I was proved wrong.

“They adored drawing their versions of Mr Magnolia and I photographed their activities and kept the doodles of their ideas.

“We made a Skype call to daddy in Belize and read our story to him. Seth messaged to say that it had been the highlight of his day – a screenshot of this went into the scrapbook too.

“We’ve continued with Reading Force even with daddy home, making scrapbooks with friends and family scattered around the country. My mother treasures our activities because they make her feel close to her grandchildren.”

Bringing families together

CHARITY Little Troopers has initiatives to help families through separation:

Storybook series
Written in the form of letters from a military child to a parent talking about the challenges they face.

Little Troopers Treasures
A free app where you choose and record yourself reading a book. The app captures your face and voice so your child can see and hear you while following along.

Recommended reading list
A list of books for all ages.

A single serving parent said of the Little Troopers Treasures app: “One of the biggest things my three-year-old misses is our bedtime story. This app allows him to hear my voice and gives him the reassurance that mummy is thinking of him when we’re apart.”

A catalyst for conversation

WHEN Chris MacGregor headed out for an operational tour, he penned My Daddy’s Going Away for his two young children. It was bought by publisher Penguin Random House, which asked him to write a similar book for mums.

“They’re based on the US navy’s emotional cycle of deployment, and although it isn’t obvious, they act as a catalyst for conversation between parents, carers, teachers and children,” explained Chris.

The books have sold around the world to forces families, airline pilots, professional sports people and more – even astronaut Tim Peake and his family have a well-thumbed copy!

Aiding with absences

CLARE Shaw is the author of Sometimes: My Daddy’s/Mummy’s Gone Away with Work

“My husband was deployed when our children were nine and six and we underestimated the impact it would have,” she said. “Our youngest went from being outgoing to not wanting to be left at school each morning.

“We wrote Sometimes; My Daddy’s Gone Away with Work as a family, which helped to address what was happening. It’s written from the child’s perspective; there are areas where they can write and draw their own feelings, a calendar to count down days and even a packet of tissues for when they’re feeling sad.

“It contains all the tips given to me when my little one was struggling and it comes from first-hand experience.”

Get to know the Grumpit

THE Grumpit is an endearing self-help storybook created by author and army spouse Polly Bateman, written initially to help her young son in situations where he felt anxious or fearful.

“It’s a tool we’ve used a lot since I made the character up for my son when he was four (he’s now 11). The Grumpit helps develop a child’s understanding of their own emotions and the way they play out,” said Polly.

“The Grumpit is someone who gets worried for you, and your child just has to explain to him or her that they don’t need to feel that way. By putting your child in the supportive role, they learn self-soothing, self-compassion and courage to help them through situations.”

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