They have started to pack up their gear, the Army is all over your living room, and the date your spouse leaves for annual training is getting closer and closer. This time, they are leaving in the middle of summer, when the kids are out of school and you have plenty of hours in the day to fill. While you wish they didn’t have to go, now is the time to game plan some ways to keep your family busy. This is a key way to get through any military separation.
Here are some ideas for filling your days while your soldier is at annual training:
Take a trip.
This is an ideal time of year to check something off your travel bucket list. Whether you go visit family or check out a new location, a short vacation is a great distraction. Day trips are a budget-friendly too, such as checking out a national park or Blue Star Museum location—both are free for the military.
Pick up a new hobby.
Experts say it takes roughly 21 days to start a new habit so if there’s been something you’ve wanted to incorporate into your life, try it now. Start a new hobby, take a class or try a new fitness routine. This will allow you to pick up a new skill and even connect with new friends. Check out noncredit classes at your community college or check out Facebook groups for specialized areas, like running clubs or local crafters.
Plan a playdate.
If you have kids, make fill the month with playdates. If you don’t have a lot of friends to connect with, going to the park with your kids is still a smart idea. You get them out of the house, they can burn some energy, and there is always the chance you will meet someone new who is there at the park with their own kids.
TIP: MOPS is an international support group for moms, with locations all over the world. Here’s a list of locations and events: Find a group.
Connect with other families.
If you’re going through AT, so are others in your unit. Take the initiative and plan a get together. Or, if everyone is spread out consider a neutral meetup location. This will give you the chance to meet people who completely understand what you are going through. Why not plan different types of activities throughout the time your soldier is gone. That gives you a chance to hang out, vent about what you are going through, and if you have kids, another way to keep them busy too. You can take turns hosting, make it a potluck and enjoy the time with new friends.
Check some books off your reading list.
Picture it: toes in the sand, sun on your face and a book in your hand. Summer reading challenges are the great distractor. Crowdsource your network for book suggestions or check out recommendations on websites like Goodreads.
Getting lost in a book not only passes the time but is good for your soul. Got kids? Create a family competition and take some trips to the library to save money on books for all ages in your household.
Check out the DOD summer reading program for Guard, Reserve or active duty military kids who are not near a base.
Netflix and binge.
Have you ever found a show you like? Nothing makes time go faster than the Jedi mind tricks of an addictive show. Check out the list of Netflix’s newest releases and prepare to get sucked in for days.
Often time, nighttime is the hardest part of the day to get through when your spouse is away at AT. Binge watching may be your answer. Put the kids to bed, finish that last load of dishes, and then put on a show that will suck you in. If you find the right show, you will be entertained and your nights will not be as lonely.
However you decide to spend AT, create a plan filled with things to look forward to that will also fill the days. Time will pass, and before you know it, annual training will be over and you will be done with that “two weeks a year” part of National Guard life.