Whether it's saying goodbye to a loved one for a deployment or starting over in a new location, military families understand the challenges associated with military life and have discovered tools and resources to get through these challenges. But what if your deployment comes immediately after a relocation? What if your family hasn't had a chance to get settled in your new community? Although this situation may present a new challenge for military families, proper preparation can help minimize stress and make the situation smoother for your entire family.
Build a new support network
Typically, when your service member deploys, you may have a support network already in place-neighbors, extended family and friends. But if you have recently relocated, you may not have a local support network in place yet. No worries! Your new location is filled with resources to help your entire family.
- Attend pre-deployment briefings, meetings and chats. These forums provide information on the deployment and the agencies and resources that will be beneficial to both you and your service member. You may also meet some other military families here who may become a part of your larger support network.
- Gather important contact information for your service member's unit such as the Family Readiness Officer or Ombudsman, the installation chaplain, the Rear Detachment Commander and anyone else that can help you stay connected and answer any questions you have. Make sure to get the unit's website information as well.
- Take advantage of available programs and services. This might mean reaching out to military support groups such as family readiness groups, but it may also mean getting involved in the civilian community through a church group or another social outlet of your choice.
Don't wait for your service member to return: Get involved!
You may be used to exploring a new location with your service member after a relocation, but if your service member deploys, don't wait to discover what's out there. Explore your new location so that when your service member returns, you can become his or her tour guide. There's no better way to stop feeling like a stranger than to get familiar with the sights and sounds of your new home.
- Take a tour of the installation and learn where the important places are such as the commissary, the fitness center, the library, the family center and any other place you may want to visit.
- Spend time getting to know the new area. Find a good coffee shop, a book store, a park or another place you know you and your service member will enjoy when he or she returns.
- Utilize the facilities on the installation. Morale, Welfare and Recreation isn't just about fitness centers and sports (although that is a part of it). Whether you are looking for a night of family fun or developing a new hobby, MWR is the place to start! The MWR Program offers a huge range of activities such as fitness centers, sports teams, classes, crafts, performing arts and fun outings with people who share your interests. In addition, Information, Ticket and Tours offers discounts to local and regional attractions. Experience something unique to your new area, take in a concert or take the kids to a theme park.
Communicate with your service member
With any deployment, it's important to stay in touch with your service member, but with your family in a new place, your service member will want to be reassured that you are handling the transition well.
- Keep a journal or a list of interesting places and activities for when your service member returns home. Think about what your service member may want to do or see and send pictures and stories about what you have planned for your reunion.
- Get your entire family involved. Make it a family affair to learn as much as you can about the area-maybe explore something new each weekend-in order to become tour guides for your service member when he or she arrives home.
- Be creative. Use video clips, pictures and letters to show your new location to your service member. Your kids can videotape their school activities or performances. You can take pictures of a new park you've discovered, the way you've arranged the living room furniture or the new class you decided to join. Involving your service member will make he or she feel a part of your new home and get you out and about!
Before your service member deploys
Before the deployment, you and your family will want to make sure a few key items are in place-especially because you are in an unfamiliar place.
- Ensure that everyone knows where important documents are stored. When you're unpacking, decide together where you will store documents such as school records, powers of attorney, financial information and more.
- Establish an emergency plan. If you had an emergency plan in your old location, it's time to update it. Make sure you have new emergency contact information, that everyone knows where to meet in an emergency, that you are aware of what types of weather-related emergencies occur in your new location and anything else that you can think of that will make your family feel safe.
- Visit your children's school. Getting the kids enrolled in school and meeting their teachers before the deployment is always a good idea. It allows the school personnel to get a heads up on your family's situation and enables your service member to feel connected to your children's daily routines.
- If you have time, visit key places on the installation and in town together. Practice driving to certain locations and write out any directions you feel might be helpful after your service member deploys.
The biggest thing to remember is that you and your family are not alone. There are resources and services in place to help you through your service member's deployment and your relocation.
- MilitaryINSTALLATIONS: Find contact information for your installation's MWR Program, youth programs, family center and more.
- Plan My Deployment: Use this application to take some of the stress out of deployment through access to planning tools, checklists and helpful tips.