What can you do to best handle the military family holidays?
- Invite people to come to you. While civilians don’t always have the flexibility of military leave, if they can come to you, it’s nice to share your current duty station’s attractions with your family. There are always new ‘favorite’ restaurants and interesting places to go.
- Alternate the travel years so no one is always hosting and no one is always traveling. It is hard to build your own traditions when you’re never at home. But building family traditions that can travel with you is good for a family that moves every couple of years. Try to find things that don’t depend on a location.
- If you travel, plan ahead with your spouse who you will see, how you will handle potential conflicts. Be a team to combat the possible challenges of your mean sister or crazy grandpa or his family that doesn’t get along.
- Share your feelings without judging – I feel judged by your mom or I feel your uncle says inappropriate comments in front of the kids. How should we handle that? Give your spouse a chance to offer suggestions or opt out of the trip. Sometimes, if the conflict is not something avoidable, it’s ok to stay home. *Bonus, if they live over your mileage limit you can just say, we couldn’t get a pass.
- Buy cheap plane tickets when Southwest or Expedia have sales. Sign up for the email list of all the travel, airline sites and watch for great deals from your closest airport to family. Some sites even allow you to save searches and get notifications when prices drop.
What can you do when military life means you don’t always get to plan ahead?
Don’t take it out on your spouse!
Find ways to celebrate in unique ways that don’t have to be tied to the date.
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If you’re active duty and your spouse deploys . . .
Try not to let yourself get too sad about his missing a day on a calendar together. Remind him that you miss him, but that you can’t wait to celebrate with him when he gets home. Find fun ways to incorporate his travels into your celebration this year. As a family, study the area where he is and their Christmas or holiday traditions.
Write him letters. Email just can’t replace a real old-fashioned, hand-written card from home.
Mail him stuffed toys to take pictures with where he is and send back to the kids for Christmas. If daddy can’t be home, at least these toys will remind them that daddy is okay and loves them. Print each child a picture with their stuffed toy and daddy from around the world and make a keepsake ornament with them.
If you can, try to speak or video chat during the holiday meal or opening presents. Let everyone have a turn to talk and share their favorite parts of the holiday. If you can send him gifts ahead of time, then he can open them on the phone as well.
Save a gift until he comes home. Leave a beautifully wrapped box somewhere to remind all of you that he’s coming home, and Christmas won’t officially be over until he does.
Find your tribe!
If you’re facing the holidays alone due to the military, and you can’t travel to your family, find a tribe: your FRG, church, PWOC, neighbors, co-workers. The women in my tribes have made the unbearable holidays during deployments bearable and even special. Military wives stick together! And whether active duty or a veteran’s spouse, we military wives make friends quickly. These ladies are a lifeline. Invite them to your home for a big potluck meal, plan a cookie swap, host a Bad Santa gift exchange.
Military family holidays might not be celebrated on the same day or in the same way, but the sense of love and family and connection will span the globe if necessary.