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  • Writer's pictureLeila Gillette

Navigating the Holidays as a Military Family


Holidays can be tough for military families. Whether it's because you're living far away from family. Or you just recently moved and don't have friends nearby. Or because your partner is away on deployment. But holidays as a military family can also be so so special. They can be special because you traveled to be with family & get to reunite after a long time apart. Or because you get to focus on the quieter parts of this time of year & make your own traditions. Or because you get to spend the holidays with friends who have become like family. Navigating the holidays as a military family can have its ups & downs, but I have always found hearing from others and having ideas of what to expect or what options there might be, can help a lot.


With the holiday season around the corner it has me thinking about the different ways we have spent our holidays as a military family. And how each holiday has been unique. I think that's part of what I love about being a military family, things like how we spend Christmas or Thanksgiving tend to change year to year and I have found that can make this time of year more exciting. Don't get me wrong, we've also had our share of sadder holidays. Christmases without my husband/the girls dad due to deployments. Thanksgivings spent in a hotel cooking our entire meal from cans & boxes. But even those harder holidays have had special moments. And I really hope each and every military family can find the beauty in the holidays no matter the circumstance.


If you're going through the upcoming holidays without your partner, first off, I'm so sorry. I know that can really, really suck. My biggest advice would be to approach the holidays giving yourself so much grace & letting yourself say no to things. If flying home to be with family sounds like too much right now, don't do it. Ask your family to come to you instead or make plans with friends or your spouses military coworkers/other deployed spouses instead. Don't feel like you need to do all of your usual traditions if it just feels like too much to tackle on your own. Pick 1 or 2 things that you don't want to miss out on or that you want to share with your kids, and let everything else be a maybe/maybe not. Make sure you love on yourself, get yourself a nice gift, or spa day, or ask family or friends to watch kids for a bit so you can have a breather.


If you're a military family that just recently PCS'ed don't forget to also give yourself lots & lots of grace. You might not be able to have all of your decorations up, or participate in all of your usual traditions and that's okay. Maybe instead drive around your new town and look at other peoples Christmas lights & decor. Set up a Skype session with family back home if you're not able to travel due to the recent move. If you're finances are hurting a bit from the move, ask family or friends that you would normally gift to about doing a secret Santa instead. Or find small souvenirs & treats in your new local town that you can make a gift basket with and send as a big gift to several people. Ask your spouse about squadron/unit get togethers or meals you can attend if you will be in a hotel for the holidays. Try to focus on creating your own traditions & cherishing the quieter holidays with your little family.

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