Books to Help Children Cope When a Parent is Deployed

Military kids can read books that reflect their experiences

Raising children in the military isn't easy, but books can help such youth and their families cope when a parent is deployed. Military parents must deal with the same issues other parents face, but they also have to grapple with challenges that directly relate to military life.

Help your child understand military life and deployments by sharing the books that follow. All children experience a range of emotions when a parent is deployed, but gifted children tend to be very emotionally sensitive. These books can be a wonderful way to start a conversation and help children deal with some of the feelings they may be having.


I Miss You!: A Military Kid's Book About Deployment

military parent reading book with child

Roberto Westbrook / Blend Images / Getty Images

This book is good for both the children and parents of a military family. It provides information to help children understand their parent's deployment but also offers advice to parents on helping their child cope.

It helps children understand that it's okay to feel a wide range of feelings, from sadness to anger, and gives them the words to express those feelings. 

The author switches the gender of the service member since both mothers and fathers get deployed. It also switches pictures so that the different branches of the military are depicted. For ages 5 to 10 (depending on your child's level of maturity).


The Invisible String

The invisible string is the string of love that links us to those we love and who love us. Nothing can destroy that string, nothing at all.

It's a wonderful way to help children feel connected to a missing parent, no matter what the reason is for the separation.

It is definitely helpful when a child misses a deployed parent. They can just give the string a little tug and feel a little tug back. For ages 3 and up.


My Dad's Deployment: A Deployment and Reunion Activity Book for Young Children

Kids enjoy the kinds of activities found in this book: mazes, dot-to-dot, and matching, to name a few. Like other activity books, this one reinforces children's skills and learning, but here the context is different. The focus is on military deployment and reunions.

The activities allow kids to learn about deployment issues and express their feelings while engaging in the many activities the book has to offer.

There is also a mom's version. For ages 4 and up.


Heroes! Activities for Kids Dealing with Deployment

This book provides activities to help children cope with their feelings resulting from the deployment of a parent.

It encourages them to express their feelings in a variety of ways: through writing, drawing, and songs. These activities can open the door to conversations with your child about those feelings.

The book includes an address where children can send their stories, poems, drawings, and songs. The material will be placed on the Rainbow Reach website. The book even has ideas on how children can stay positive and eliminate some of the stress that they experience. For ages 4 to 14.


Night Catch

If you have a child who loves the stars, this book is perfect. A military dad getting ready to deploy comes up with a way for him and his son to play catch while he's away.

Each night the child should find Polaris, the North Star, then take a deep breath and blow the star across the world to his father. When it arrives, the father will blow it back to his son and that night, the son will blow it back again.

The book includes a picture of the constellations that make it easier to find Polaris. There is also a spot at the beginning of the book for a picture of the parent being deployed. For ages 4 to 8, although some younger children might enjoy it.


H Is for Honor: A Military Family Alphabet

This book is perfect for verbally gifted children in military families (or families who just love the military!).

Like other alphabet books, this one includes illustrations for each letter of the alphabet, but the focus is always on the military.

It also has military-focused rhymes for each letter. 


The Soldiers' Night Before Christmas

If a military parent is deployed and away during Christmas, this is a wonderful book to have. It takes Clement Moore's poem and changes it to fit a military situation. Here's how it begins:

Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the base
Only sentries were stirring—they guarded the place.
The soldiers were sleeping and snoring away
As they dreamed of 'back home' on good Christmas Day...

If your military member is away at Christmas and you are able to Skype, this would be a great book for him to read out loud to your child.

You'd need two books, of course, one for your child and one for your military member to read. Ages 2 and up.


Love Spots

Adults know the reason for the "spots" on a service member's uniform.

Camouflage makes our military members hard to see. Children often don't know what those spots are for, though, and this book gives them another way to think about them. 

Each one represents a thought or memory the service member has about the child: pretending to fly, swinging on a swing and even being grumpy! Ages 3 to 9.


My Mommy Wears Combat Boots

A number of books are available to help children deal with a father's deployment, but only a very few focus on a mother's deployment. This is one of those few books. Sharon G. McBride, the author, wrote the book to help children cope with the many feelings they have when their mother deploys. McBride knows what she's talking about, too. She served three tours of duty and had to leave her child behind. McBride was a single mom, so her child wasn't home with dad. That can make a separation from mom even harder.

The book helps children understand that their feelings are okay, although they shouldn't be used as an excuse for bad behavior.


Daddy's Boots

This beautifully illustrated book helps children understand why a military parent has to go away for long periods of time. Little Bean knows that Daddy wears his military boots when he goes away so if the boots aren't there, maybe Daddy will stay home.

While many parents are deployed to war zones, others are deployed for humanitarian reasons as well. This book helps explain to children the reason a parent is deployed and helps relieve some of the fears they may have.


Deployment Journal for Kids

This journal is not one for writing in every day: it's not a diary.

This journal does encourage children to express their feelings about their parent's deployment and learn about where their parent is in the world. Writing is one of the best ways to explore feelings.

The journal can be shared with the parent when he or she returns home or kept private. It can also be saved forever to remind the child of what he or she was thinking and feeling during the parent's deployment.

By Carol Bainbridge
Carol Bainbridge has provided advice to parents of gifted children for decades, and was a member of the Indiana Association for the Gifted.