So, my husband has been deployed for 7 months of a 9-11 month deployment, and we still aren't sure when it is going to be over. This is the first deployment with my 2 boys (my girls have been through it before). So far, I can tell you what didn't work.... and maybe a little of what does.
We hit our low point a couple months ago when one son was absolutely breaking every rule, disrespectful, defiant, and angry. I knew the behaviour stemmed from grief and missing dad. I was really trying to love him through it, give lots of second chances and kindness, since it isn't normal for this child. Finally, my neighbor told me to get a backbone and give him some consequences that really hurt. I'm not great at being the tough parent, but I told him that what we'd been doing hadn't worked, and that we needed a change. It has helped to crack down, even though things aren't perfect yet. I was really surprised that meeting bad behaviour from grief with consequence worked, but it did. This child was not adopted.... that might be a different story.
Lots of people have suggested that his behaviour stemmed from adjusting to his brother, but in the 4 months between adoption and deployment, we didn't have the same issues going on, so I don't think that's it.
So, I fight the battles on getting school done and Godly behaviour. I don't fight as hard about chores, and timing. We can do schoolwork after dinner if we played with friends all afternoon. Dinner never involves meat (yay!). I gave up two of my favorite "me time" activities: watching grown up TV while folding laundry alone, and Farmville. Now we watch family movies and fold laundry. I don't need Farmville anymore, because it was just a way to turn my brain off during the adoption process, when I just couldn't stand my baby being somewhere without me, and I wanted to escape a little.
Here's what I didn't give up:
Praying. Adoption taught me that prayer really, actually changes real things. Especially me.
Taking individual kids on dates. This feels like a stop-gap measure, but it helps some. Each kid desperately wants their date, but they are clamoring for another one as soon as theirs is over.
Teaching at our homeschool co-op. I had to leave being a teacher behind when I became a military wife, because we never lived in one place for a whole school year. Then I became a mom, and don't want to give up the chance to stay home with the kids. For three hours a week, teaching my wonderful students lets me be myself again, not "MOM!!!!"
Bible Study. Our church changed the format of meeting and groups recently, so there is a nursery for Sunday night small groups. This is such a huge blessing. Kids and youth have studies and activities, and grownups have a whole 2 hour group. We are going through Uprooting Anger by Robert Jones, and I cannot recommend this book enough! I really want to be a patient, Godly, kind mom who still has a backbone, but I fall so short. When my kids do something that would barely make me blink if it were someone else, sometimes I feel so angry. God and I need to work on this.
Tae-kwon-do: What a blessing. An active activity that all the kids can go to at the same time, with instructors who are male role models and love the Lord, and are fun and great with kids. Yes, please.
Reading good books and talking about how characters deal with hard things, change, loss, and negative emotions. Sometimes it helps everyone to be an objective witness to how someone else does things, and then later to realize that it isn't too different from how they do things. Stories can make the hard topics feel a little safer.
We had "The Summer of Yes" which worked really well, too. If I didn't have a good reason to say no, I made myself say yes. "May we have all our friends over" (even though house isn't clean)..... "Yes".
"May we go to the zoo (park, museum, etc)?" "Yes!"
"May we bake a big dessert together" (and wreck the kitchen) "Yes."
"Let's play a board game" (my least favorite activity) "Yes."
The Summer of Yes continued into birthday season just enough to make me have a real party for each kid. I really don't like birthday parties, and Matt is so good at planning and ideas. It was sad for me to do it without him, and I would have preferred to avoid it, but it was good.
I've also noticed that some triggers for bad behaviour are going places and doing things that my husband would usually be there for. Church. Oh, my. Church has been embarrassing for me. Boy Scout ceremonies, soccer games, going on the military base for anything.... I've trained myself now to sit in the car and review the game plan and the ground rules before we get out and do things that usually involve daddy. This helps, but I still have to be pretty vigilant.
Skype helps too. This is our first deployment with Skype, and it really is a blessing. Seeing daddy makes a big difference. I remember when the girls were little, they would want to show Matt something when he was gone, and they'd run up to it and hold up the phone to it. So cute. Now you really can "see" though the phone.
It might be a little bit of an adjustment when Matt comes home. We'll have to clean more diligently, cook meat again, and stop doing school in the evenings. :) Having him back will be priceless.