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If child (children) are old enough to write, suggest they keep a journal (buy them a book to write in). Then when parent comes home they can share journal with parent. That gets parent caught up on events and thoughts kids had while they were gone. Another thing you could do is tear out page and send it to parent each week.
You might have a cookout and invite other friends whose mom or dad is also deployed. You could also invite a new family that just moved into neighborhood.
If you have a major holiday, i.e., Thanksgiving, while parent is gone, turn on tape recorder during dinner so mom or dad can hear conversations. Have kids make a list of all food that you had to eat. Take lots of pictures to send. Have everyone say a special message to parent.
Have kids write a poem and send it. Have kids make a secret code, write a message in code and send both to parent. Another neat letter to send would be made of words cut from newspaper or magazines.
Take pictures of important events: new haircuts, birthdays, parties, etc. Let kids take pictures. Have them take pictures of family pets and tell a story to go along with pictures.
Always remind child that whether it is mom or dad that is at home or away....they are always a family.
About the Author: Ann Scaling Tucker is a retired grandmother of 5. She retired after 35 1/2 years with the Department of Defense. In her retirement years, she is a grandchild sitter and an assistant webmaster for family websites. You can see one of the websites at http://www.theclassicbabystore.com.