Blending two families together can be a joyful experience and, at the same time, a great challenge. When two families come together as one, family members often have to form new roles, adapt to new schedules, learn new ways of doing things and develop ways to compromise. The challenge may be easier for some members and more difficult for others. Creating good blended family relationships takes lots of effort as everyone in the family adjusts to the new situation. This adjustment period can be even more challenging when one side of the blended family is military and the other is not.
Blended military families not only experiences new roles, new schedules, new ways of doing things and compromise, they also face issues unique to the military - deployment, frequent relocations, changing schools for children and changing careers for spouses. Civilian families may not have experienced such challenges before and may need more time to work through questions or concerns around these issues. For the blended military family, creating new, solid family relationships while dealing with challenges related to the mobile military life may be easier if you know about the resources that are available to help families through these challenges.
Deployment can be difficult and stressful for the family under the best of circumstances. Preparing for separations and learning strategies to manage your household during your spouse's time away from home can ease some of the stress of the deployment.
As your family prepares for deployment, it is important for you to learn as much as you can about the process. Military OneSource provides numerous articles about deployment ranging from the phases of the process to family support resources. The resource These Boots: A Spouse's Guide to Stepping Up and Standing Tall during Deployment is a recording that offers suggestions and strategies to help with the before, during and after of deployment. Preparing You and Your Family for the Road Ahead Deployment Guide is another useful resource, which gives information about managing personal, medical, emergency and financial issues that may come up during your service member's deployment.
Children, especially those who have never experienced a family member's deployment, may need extra reassurance and support. If you have younger children, you might help them understand what's happening by using I'm Here for You Now, a board book designed to support them when dealing with a deployment or during other stressful times. You can customize the book by inserting photos of your family on every page. Sesame Street's Talk, Listen, and Connect: Deployments, Homecomings, Changes is a multimedia program for children ages two to five to help them cope with feelings and concerns they may have during the phases of deployment. The interaction between children and adults as they read and work through these helpful resources may help strengthen the relationships within your newly blended family.
To help youth and teens understand and cope with deployment, Military OneSource offers articles, resources and Web links for both parents and teens. You can find strategies to help prepare a teenager for what to expect during the phases of the deployment process by reading Teenagers and Deployment. Your teenager can connect with other teens going through the same experience on Military Youth on the Move or Military Kids Connect. For your school-aged children, be sure to let their teachers, guidance counselors and school administrators know that your family is experiencing a military deployment, and ask them to let you know if they see any changes in the child's behavior or academic progress.
Military families move every two to three years and for blended families, relocation may be a completely new, and perhaps, unnerving experience. Moving means a new home, new friends, new schools and a new community. Again, for any new experience, the more you prepare for it the better it tends to be. Military OneSource is the place you want to start your research about moving with the military. Your Relocation Assistance Program and Services is a great article detailing the basic services available as you learn about military moving and plan your move. Two other useful resources for managing and planning your move include MilitaryINSTALLATIONS and Plan My Move, which are web-based relocation tools with information on more than 250 installations worldwide. You can estimate expenses, keep a calendar of events, find forms for housing and household goods and take other actions to make sure you have a successful move. Installations also have a relocation program through the military and family support center that may also be able to provide local information and assistance with other issues that come up during a move.
For children and teenagers, moving can be an upsetting experience, especially if moving has not been part of their lives. Preparing them to leave friends and schools behind takes time and a gentle approach. Healthy Parenting during a Move provides tips for making a move more pleasant and less stressful for you and your children. Moving with a Teen offers tips for before, during and after the move to help your teen cope with saying goodbye to friends and giving them a positive start at your new location.
Because of frequent moving, careers may be placed on hold or require changing careers completely as the family relocates to a new area. If your career requires a license or certification, you may also run into difficulty transferring your credentials from state to state. The Spouse Education and Career Opportunity Program is a resource that provides expert education and career guidance to military spouses worldwide and offers comprehensive information, tools and resources to support four phases of the SECO lifecycle: career exploration, education and training, employment readiness and career connections. USA4 Military Families is working with the Department of Defense and state legislators to modify the requirements for transferring and applying for licensure and certifications for military spouses. Additionally, the Military Spouse Employment Partnership, a targeted recruitment and employment solution, connects spouses with more than 160 military-friendly employers who have pledged to recruit, hire, promote and retain military spouses in portable careers.
Blending two families into one strong military family has its challenges, but you have access to a wealth of resources and tools on your installation and through Military OneSource to make that challenge less stressful.
If you would like to speak with someone for more information and support as your new family adjusts to changes in roles and relationships, you can reach out to a non-medical counselor by phone, online chat or in person through Military OneSource by calling 800-342-9647 or by visiting the website.