Copying this over from the last thread:
I have a question for you all. What do you do to "prep" your kids for when your SO deploys? Anything special?
Our first deployment with DD, she was just shy of turning 2. The most "prep" we could do for her was getting her used to talking on the phone, keeping a stockpile of "daddy shirts" on hand (his brown t-shirts, with his deoderant/cologne on them), and putting pictures of him around the house at her level. It's hard to explain to a child that young what's going on-- although, I did learn the hard way that it's a very BAD idea to let your child sleep through the final drop-off. We let DD stay awake and have daddy cuddles instead of her traditional lunchtime nap, thinking she'd be able to take one after we dropped him off at HQ at 2:00......wrong. She fell asleep in the car on the way there, and she sleeps like the dead. So when she finally did wake up (45 minutes after Daddy hugged her and her carseat goodbye, and after we went home!) he was gone....and we spent the next month and a half with her forcing herself to stay awake until she absolutely passed out from sheer exhaustion, and never letting me, my parents, or my grandmother out of her sight!
His latest deployments/schoolings, she's been old enough to understand that he has to go away for work, but he's going to be located here on the map, and he'll call/come home when he can. He spent a year in Korea between her 1st and 2nd grade years, and we set up Yahoo messenger and mail for her-- she could squeeze a quick chat online with him in the mornings or just before bed, and she could always email him from there. This actually seemed to help out her spelling/grammar, and she's getting much better at typing, too! Now that she sees DH daily, but not my parents, she gets online after school and she'll chat with my dad about what she's learned in the school day.
But I'm getting side tracked. We haven't tried this one, but I've heard a paper chain is a good idea-- usually adding a link for every day your soldier's gone, since Lord only knows when they're actually going to come back! Maybe a scrapbook/journal of pictures, thoughts, notes from your child during the deployment? Something that they can sit down after homecoming with, and share what has gone on.