The vote in favour of air strikes against Syria had an immediate impact on one group of people: those charged with doing the striking. And while our first thoughts may be of aircrews required to carry out what has been voted for, and the wide range of people who support them such as ground crews, we know that the families of all military personnel involved in the campaign to defeat IS are immediately impacted too.
Of course all potentially involved will have been on a high state of alert for weeks now, and that’s part of their role. In the run up to the beginning of any operation, Forces families prepare for a variety of outcomes.
While everyone capable of understanding what is going on can be prepared (although the decision on when and what to tell the children can be difficult) it can be really hard to talk about what’s really going on: it’s common for the issues that are dominating everyone’s thoughts to remain largely undiscussed. Will we be going to war or not? And if so, how soon will the deployment take place? Once the deployment does take place, family members at home do their very best to keep everything going as normally as possible and adjust to a loved one and parent being deployed.
That’s where Reading Force comes in. Reading Force is a way of creating common ground between Forces family members, encouraging them to share books at times when it can be hard to talk about the realities and when children and partners are missing their loved one who is deployed.
Families are encouraged to share a book, talk about it, and pool their thoughts about the book in a special scrapbook that we provide. Reading Force is for all members of the family, even when separated by deployment, so the person away from home can also take part. They can take a copy of the book with them, or be read to over Skype or FaceTime by their children.
Reading Force has been found to be particularly useful during times of stress as a way of staying connected. Some families start doing Reading Force and begin to fill their scrapbook before the deployment begins, and then carry on once their parent is away on deployment.
Reading Force is for all British service families in all circumstances. We are particularly keen to support Service families affected by the Syrian air strikes. Please email us and request a free Reading Force scrapbook and we will send you two copies of a free book. Tell us the ages of your children and we will seek to send an age-appropriate title that all will enjoy. One book can be taken by the Service person about to deploy, and a second kept at home with the family. Then you can all read the book and talk, text, email or Skype about what you think of it – families have told us this is really useful when it can be hard to know how to start a conversation.
‘The memories of doing this scrapbook together will always be with us and when we were having a bad day or not a lot of time we would have five minutes doing this scrapbook and we all felt better.’ The Warren Family