Family Communication During Deployment

Section Two: How to Communicate

It’s important to consider the pros and cons of each method of communication.

Military families can exchange old-fashioned letters and care packages, and now have the phone, e-mail, and sometimes even chat or video chat to stay connected. Think about the letters or care packages you have sent or will send to your deployed Service Member. What have you included in the past? What might you include in the future? Some pros of sending and receiving letters and care packages include giving people time to reflect on what they want to say and being able to send photos, videos, or other mementos back and forth. Some possible cons might include that these methods of communication are not instantaneous, and can be bad for communicating time-sensitive information. Also, people may not always be sure where to send packages or that what they are sending is appropriate and will be accepted.

Depending on what you want to communicate, you may want to choose a “real time” option.

Using the phone or video chat is often a good choice for “real time” conversations. It can be reassuring to hear the Service Member’s voice, as well as be able to see each other. One of the cons of phone or video chat is that phone access in deployed regions can often be very restricted and Service Members may not be able to talk on the phone often, or may have a time limit on calls. Some families find that there may be a lack of privacy or that a scheduled time for calls is inconvenient. Last, family members may hear or see things that make them worry for their Service Member, or video chats are cut off suddenly.

Online communication must be carefully reviewed to prevent misunderstanding.

Many military families find that email is a useful method of communication for keeping in touch because it is faster and easier than letter writing and can be retrieved from almost anywhere. Often they also feel that it is a good alternative to phone calls in situations where phone time is limited or conversations must occur at specific times. It is important to remember that hasty, poorly considered messages may express thoughts, feelings or ideas that the sender may later regret. Emails can sometimes be unclear or difficult to understand and can lead to misinterpretation of the message, increasing family members’ stress and worry.

Instant messaging can be useful for light-hearted, two-way communication, but can lack privacy.

For some military families, instant messaging can provide “real time” conversations and two-way communication, where each person is responding and interacting to the other person’s comments. That being said, there are many cons to instant messaging, including the fact that access in deployed regions can be restricted and sometimes these services are cut off suddenly causing additional worry for families. There can also be a lack of privacy, and without a visual, there is a chance you may not be communicating with whom you think you are, presenting a risk to the mission and family. With so many options available, you and your family will have to choose communication methods that will work best for you. Keep in mind that each person has a different communication style and may prefer one method over another.