children corner military

Tips to Bond, Not Stress, Over Care Packages

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by Rebecca Alwine

Deployments and lengthy separations are challenging for parents. Sometimes having little kids is easier because they don’t understand everything, but they are more dependent on you. Having older kids can be easier because they are self-sufficient, but they know what’s going on. Just like in parenting, there are challenges with each age, there also often are unique challenges with each separation. Kids want to feel involved and they want to help. Giving them some extra responsibility with care packages will help fill both of those needs.

Suggestions to make things easier

Some of the best suggestions for assembling care packages are the easiest ones. We all want our loved one to know we think about them constantly, but it’s hard to have that come across in a box. Try some of these ideas to keep things real, and simple.

Keep a flat rate box on the kitchen counter and fill it up daily until it’s full. Throw in those good spelling tests, the art projects, funny pictures the kids draw. Encourage your kids to add things to it that they would share if that parent were home. For special holidays coming up, add cards or gifts right to the box. When it’s full, mail it, and replace it with a new box.

Do one box a month, to help count down. On the first of each month, set up a box and start filing it! Keep in mind the weather (so no chocolate in the warm months). Don’t discourage the kids from adding things. If they want to share their current favorite book or stuffed animal, let them. It can always be sent back or strategically removed later on. On the last day of the month, make a family trip to the post office and send it off with kisses.

Themes are absolutely acceptable

Coming up with ideas for care packages can be incredibly stressful, especially because the conversation about the next one inevitably will occur after bedtime, with a tired child 15 who desperately misses their mom or dad. So here are some ideas to help you when everyone is tired and you just need an idea so the kids can say goodnight:

Star Wars With kids everywhere learning about Star Wars, they’ll enjoy sending candy, light sabers made of pool noodles, and stickers in this care package. Just be aware of sending too much bulky stuff that will be diffiucult to bring home.

Coffee Kids know just how much we love coffee, so they will love finding coffee-related items to put in this care package.

Movie Night Send some DVDs, popcorn, and candy for a movie night box. Make sure to include enough to share with friends. Or, If you can, download digital copies to your computer and put a few movies and/or albums on a USB drive— they’re small, and you can send a lot of data — and Mom or Dad won’t have to worry about a disc getting scratched.

Spa Day Hand lotion, lip balm, nail polish, a clay mask, and a relaxing book can round out any care package. (Yes, even dads love getting hand lotion or lip balm on deployment!)

Just be sure that if you include lotion or other liquid-y items, place them in a sealed plastic baggie to keep the liquid from possibly ruining your other items.

Other Ideas

Pictures of you at your soccer game or dance recital, or just of you and your family eating dinner or making silly faces. You can send a few printed photos, but collect a bunch from your phone and camera and send a bunch on a USB drive. That way, Mom or Dad can take their time just going through them all, and there is less for them to bring home with them.

Local or Homemade Treats will remind your Mom or Dad of home. If you make cookies or brownies, put them in an empty chips canister to help keep them from crumbling.

Baby Wipes are a top desired item on many military care package wishlists, so include a container of those. And go ahead and throw in some lens cleaning cloths for glasses or goggles. All will be appreciated!

No matter what you put in the care package, your mom or dad will love it. It’ll bring smiles to everyone when it is delivered, and when treasured pictures and letters from kids are unpacked, everyone will be thinking back to their last box. Don’t let the pressures of deployment stop you from sending things. Remember, just because they can buy their own treats on deployment, doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate the ones you send. You can do this!