Families approach AFF regularly to ask for support for their child when the serving parent goes away. The absence of a parent can cause many different feelings and emotions for children, with many parents telling us of increased anxiety and behaviour changes in their child.

Regardless of whether this is for a short-term exercise or longer-term deployment, AFF provides guidance for families and often signposts to organisations which can help during these periods of absence.

Among these is Reading Force, which encourages forces families to connect through their shared experience of reading together, which can help nurture relationships during times of deployment or training.

Reading Force is free to all families with a military connection (including serving, reservist, veterans and those separated by bereavement, divorce or relationship breakdown). It offers a range of reading scrapbooks (including a new one for teenagers) and the chance to join book clubs. Find out more at readingforce.org.uk


Additionally, families can reach out to Little Troopers, which recognises the challenges faced by children brought about by military life, especially when they are separated from their serving parent.

Little Troopers provides useful resources to help support children during these periods of absence, including a programme launched last October providing face-to- face therapy for children who are struggling with some of the challenges of military life.

The charity has just launched a new, on-demand video series for parents as part of this, featuring therapists talking about what children and parents might be going through during times of deployment and suggesting activities that parents and children can do together at home. See littletroopers.net


Alongside these avenues of support, it’s always a good idea to tell your child’s school about any future deployments or time away.

The Service Children In State Schools National Education Advisory Committee (SCISS NEAC) acts as the voice of schools which have service pupils on roll in England. As many of its members are teachers themselves, they are experienced at supporting children during these difficult periods.

Chair of the SCISS NEAC, Steph Fawdry, explains why it is so important to inform the school when a parent will be away or there’s a change to usual working routines.

“It’s fundamental for your child’s wellbeing to let schools know that the serving parent is going away. That way schools can ensure that any needed support is put in place so that any emotional need does not become a barrier to learning and that the child feels well supported by their school.”


Steph’s school, RAF Benson Community Primary School, uses its Service Pupil Premium to provide a pastoral support officer who can help pupils while their parent is away, but she emphasises that without good communication from parents, they wouldn’t know who they need to help as children don’t always know to share this information with their teachers.

Ian Mottram, headteacher at Le Cateau Primary School at Catterick Garrison, says that when armed with the knowledge that a parent is going away, schools can keep a closer eye on your child. He says: “It’s about being aware and knowing that the child may need some extra support. We can keep a close eye and check in with them more frequently for the duration of the time apart. Sharing information is so important so that the child knows that the school cares and is available to help them where they can.”

Regardless of where you are in the world or where your child goes to school, the message is always the same from headteachers. Ben Turner, headteacher at Akrotiri School in Cyprus, stresses the importance of knowing about forthcoming time apart that a child may be about to experience.

He says: “This gives the school an understanding of why your child’s mood may fluctuate or why their approach to learning might be different than it usually is.

“For example, at our school we can put in some additional support mechanisms to ensure the child’s experience of learning is as well supported as it would be if the serving parent was at home.”


If your child’s school is unsure of how they can help, then they can find information on sciss.org.uk under the ‘support’ section.

Here you’ll find a handy resource created with the three families federations about aspects of deployment and signposts to agencies across the UK who can offer information, support and help at times when absences bring additional challenges to forces life.

Main photo: Reading Force founder and director Alison with a family at Talavera Junior School in Aldershot

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