Deployments & Weekending
Families often talk to us about their experiences of separations, whether through deployment, weekending, or other causes. In response to their feedback, we have put together the below information to help support families, carers, and schools:
1. NFF Research
‘The effect of non-operational family separations on family functioning and well-being among Royal Navy and Royal Marines families’
In February 2019 we launched significant new research that offers a major insight into the lives of families who are separated from their serving person through ‘weekending’. This study was conducted by King’s Centre for Military Health Research and funded by Greenwich Hospital. Since its publication, it has helped to inform future research, such as ‘Living in Our Shoes’.
One immediate result of the project is the production by the NFF of a resource for parents and carers.
The publication was created by the NFF to offer strategies and encouragement for families affected by all forms of separation and those who support them; one finding of the research was that there is a general lack of appreciation that shorter separations still have a significant impact, and the booklet is in part designed to help address that – see ‘’NFF Resource’’ below for further information.
7th February 2019
Pioneering Research Tackles Challenges Of Family Separation
Pioneering research into the effects of ‘weekending’ – non-operational separations – on Naval Service families has been unveiled by the Naval Families Federation at Admiralty House in London.
At a gathering of influential military and civilian supporters of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, drawn from the Services, charities and industry, NFF Chief Executive Anna Wright said the new research indicated that the effects of weekending on spouses and children matched those of longer deployments, affecting relationships, spousal employment and general wellbeing.
With the Naval Service keen to recruit and retain the best talent to its ranks, this research will improve understanding of the families’ perceptions of the challenges and opportunities they face, which can affect serving personnel, particularly as their place of work is often far from the family home.
Anna said that “of the three Services, the Naval Service has the most separation in terms of military deployments. That is an issue in its own right.
“What is less well-known is that, of the three Services, the Naval Service also has the most non-operational separation.”
Drawing on their own family experiences, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Jones both acknowledged the importance of families in the operational effectiveness of the Naval Service, and the challenges caused by such separations.
Mr Williamson noted that ‘family’ is an important concept in the Service, and thanked the NFF for undertaking the project.
He also told the audience, representing Naval Service families and their support network, that “we always recognise that you being stronger, our Armed Forces are stronger.”
Speaking of the research, Admiral Jones said: “Many aspects of Service life, including time spent away from home as a result of working for the Royal Navy, are not easily compatible with family life and I am acutely aware that we ask a lot of our people and their families too.
“We are constantly looking to improve the wellbeing of our Naval Service families and there is much work in progress with Royal Navy Royal Marine Welfare, NFF and the Service charities.
“However, we can only change things for the better if we have a clear understanding of what really matters to all who serve and the families upon whose unswerving support we all rely.
“So I really welcome this report by the NFF which provides really valuable insights on which we can act, and in so doing ensure that life in the Naval Service is as good as it can be for our people and their families.”
The third guest speaker was NFF Homeport magazine columnist, blogger and Naval wife ‘Olive Oyl’, who gave her own take on separation from husband ‘Popeye’ in a sparkling speech that prompted laughter and knowing looks from many in the audience.
Summing up the findings, Anna said the challenges faced by families included difficulties in balancing careers with childcare while the partner is away, the placing of more responsibility on older children and a feeling of being under pressure to cram weekends with ‘quality time’ as a family.
Many spouses, said Anna, spoke of the sense of ‘just coping’ with the additional responsibilities, resulting in stress, anxiety and tiredness – though she reminded those gathered that Naval families are a resilient group, and there was no question of whingeing.
“So there we have it – we have an in-tray to tackle,” she concluded.
“The NFF are up for it, and we hope that you are too – our ‘just-coping’ families deserve no less.”
The findings of the research – commissioned by the NFF and carried out by the King’s Centre for Military Health Research (KCMHR), funded by Greenwich Hospital – will be used by the MOD, senior military personnel and military charities to help improve support for Naval Service families.
One immediate result of the project is the production by the NFF of a resource for parents and carers.
Titled ‘A Guide for Parents and Adults Supporting Children and Young People’, the publication – described by Anna as ‘light-hearted and empowering’ – was created by Bridget Nicholson of the NFF to offer strategies and encouragement for families affected by all forms of separation and those who support them; one finding of the research was that there is a general lack of appreciation that shorter separations still have a significant impact, and the booklet is in part designed to help address that.
2. NFF Resource
‘A Guide for Parents and Adults Supporting Children and Young People’
Being a parent and raising children is exciting and rewarding, but it can be tough at times for any family. The amount, patterns and types of parental absence faced by Royal Navy and Royal Marines families present additional challenges that are not routinely experienced by most civilian families.
In response to feedback from families, the Naval Families Federation has produced a new resource about the experience of parental absence. The purpose of the resource is to draw together some useful information about parental absence, deployment and separation, and provide some strategies to help families thrive. If you are a parent, it may also be helpful to give a copy to your child’s school, or to other people in your network, to help them to understand your circumstances.
3. Useful links
Other sources of support for parents and children during deployment:
Aggie’s Storybook Waves
Aggie’s Storybook Waves helps members of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines maintain the link with their children by recording a bedtime story for them to listen to when a parent is serving away from home.
Family Lives (formerly Parentline Plus)
Little Troopers is a registered charity supporting all children with parents serving in the British Armed Forces (Regular/Reserves). Resources, initiatives and events to ease and aid repeated separation periods aiming to keep parent and child connected and bonded even when miles apart.
Military Kids’ Club Heroes (formerly HMS Heroes)
Military Kids’ Club Heroes (formerly HMS Heroes) is a national support group for the children of Service men and women and their relatives. A tri-Service network of after-school clubs, MKC Heroes brings together members of Service families aged between 3 and 18 years old from all over the country.
Pompey Military Kids (PMK)
PMK is a support network set up by the NFF and Portsmouth City Council. It is free to join and open to schools across Portsmouth with at least one Service child enrolled. Led by Aggie Weston’s, it allows schools to share good ideas and best practice through collaborative working. Their events also enable young people to meet new friends and support each other! If your child’s school is not already part of the cluster, please encourage them to get in touch with Aggie’s.
If you are due to deploy and are organising childcare arrangements with a relative or close friend, please check the regulations regarding private fostering. If an individual is looking after someone else’s child for more than 28 days they must notify their local council – failure to do so is a criminal offence.
Naval Children’s Charity (NCC)
The NCC is the only charity dedicated to supporting the children, up to the age of 25, of serving and veteran personnel from all branches of the Royal Navy including the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, QARNNS, WRNS, Reserves and RFA. Any need is considered and their dedicated caseworkers are always available to discuss any issues your family and children are facing. They provide grants directly to the families where there is need and have free books to support younger children understand and cope with separation. They work closely with other Charities and RN FPS to ensure you get the help you need.
NSPCC is a charity championing child protection. Useful resources and guidance for keeping children safe, to give the primary caregiver during deployment confidence in their choices.
Their ‘Home Alone’ guide gives sound advice and useful tips to help parents decide in which situations they may leave their children home alone, and what they need to do to ensure their safety and wellbeing.
Royal Navy Family & People Support (RN FPS)
If you are in crisis or need professional support, the RN FPS Portal can provide specialist advice and guidance on personal or family matters.
Tel: 0800 145 6088 or 02392 728777
Opening hours: Mon – Fri 0800 – 2000; Sat & Sun (& Public Holidays) 0900 – 1600
For emergencies outside of these hours, the Duty Worker can be contact via the Officer of the Watch.
YoungMinds is the UK’s leading charity committed to improving the emotional wellbeing and mental health of children and young people. Helpline and information for parents concerned about a child or young person.
- Parents’ helpline 0808 802 5544
4. Memory boxes from RN FPS
You can request deployment support, including memory boxes for your children, from RNFPS – apply through the RN Forum Login | Royal Navy (mod.uk) Once registered, go to Topics/Deployment/Resources.