Returning From Deployment: Helping Your Family Transition

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Armed with the right information and understanding, reuniting with your family after a deployment can go more smoothly for everyone. Educate yourself on what to expect upon reintegration, and be patient with yourself, your spouse and your kids. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Follow these eight tips to ease your adjustment.

Tips for preparing your children

Children can often have mixed emotions about a deployed parent’s return. You can make the transition smoother for them if you follow these tips:

  • Talk it out. Your children will probably have many questions, especially if this is your family’s first reunion. Try to be patient and listen carefully to their concerns. As you explain the situation, make sure you are respectful of your children’s feelings and give them space to express their emotions.
  • Watch for signs of stress. Children tend to show stress differently than adults. If you start to notice more misbehavior, nightmares, or changes in eating and sleeping habits, your child may be trying to tell you something. Offer as much support as you can and consider talking to your pediatrician if the problem persists. Military and Family Support Centers are found on most military installations and Military Kids Connect is an online site that helps children and teens communicate and cope with deployment issues.
  • Discuss the “new normal.” If your household routine or rules have changed considerably while the deployed parent was away, take steps to prepare your child for how the day-to-day schedule may shift now that mom or dad is home. Providing a heads-up for what to expect can help make the transition a bit smoother as your child adapts.
  • Plan for reconnection. Prepare both your spouse and child for a potential adjustment period by planning reconnection activities ahead of time. Talk to your child about what schoolwork or new skills to show the returning parent, and suggest a special activity or outing to your spouse for the entire family. You and your child may also benefit from Military OneSource’s Building Healthy Relationships free specialty consultation to help renew and strengthen your bond during your transition period.

Tips for preparing your spouse

Chances are, you and your spouse both grown and changed during your time apart, and it’s normal to have some growing pains. Here’s how you can help your spouse with the transition:

  • Encourage your spouse to accept mixed emotions. It’s OK if excitement isn’t her or his only emotion. Your spouse may also be nervous, worried or even concerned about what it will be like to have you home. Accept and acknowledge that the way she or he feels is perfectly ok.
  • Be realistic. Building your reunion up in your head may just be a recipe for disappointment. While it’s certainly OK to daydream, don’t let unrealistic expectations get in the way of reality.
  • Recognize the changes. Regardless of your situation, the basic passing of time means that things aren’t likely to be exactly the same as they were pre-deployment. Focus on creating that new normal for your family rather than striving to return to your old way of life. Keep in mind that it may take a few weeks to work out your new balance of household roles and responsibilities with your spouse. Do your best to be flexible and open to change as you both adapt.
  • Don’t bottle up your feelings. Even though it’s important to be patient during the adjustment period, it’s important for your spouse to avoid suppressing her or his feelings. Encourage your spouse to find a trusted confidante — whether it’s a friend, close family member or counselor.
  • MilSpouse Toolkit. From education on military culture to navigating resources, this track is beneficial for new spouses who may be experiencing a disconnect from their family and need to identify a support system in their new community. This track focuses resources to assist new and current military spouses with adjustment to the military lifestyle, developing coping skills and resources for resiliency.

With patience, time, and a little effort, you will become a tight couple and family again. Be accepting of yourself and your family members as all of you navigate the reunion transition. Reach out for confidential information and support through Military OneSource if you need it.

Life After Deployment: Seven Tips for Reconnecting

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Deployment’s done. Homecoming’s over. Now comes the reality of being back. Establishing the new normal isn’t always easy, but a lot of military families have used these proven techniques to help “post-deployment reintegration” run a little smoother.

  1. First thing, relax.  Be patient. Nobody has to live up to perfect. Returning spouses often feel out of sync with the family, unsure about how days are supposed to go and are easily overwhelmed. This feeling can take days, even months after homecoming to work itself out.
  2. Keep calm and communicate on. Someone returning from deployment can be tired and disoriented. Expecting them to step back into things immediately can lead to a short fuse for everyone in the family. If the deployed spouse needs time alone, grant it. Everybody needs to respect and communicate with each other.
  3. Got kids? Get prepared. Your family may have to get to know each other all over again. If you have children, you could experience anything from toddler tantrums to teen attitude. Kids are forever testing parents and challenging authority. So be patient. This is normal. Try to spend one-on-one time with each child—and talk, talk and talk some more.
  4. Stay positive. You can’t go wrong with focusing on the positive. No one can understand what happened on deployment—and no one can know how hard it was to keep things together at home. But everyone wants to be appreciated. Look at what your spouse is doing right and try not to criticize. Tell your loved one you’re proud of what they accomplished and how well they managed.
  5. Make a little time for everyone. If you’re the spouse of the deployed person, be prepared. Everybody will want some of your spouse’s time—kids, parents, family members, friends, neighbors. Remember, they’ve missed your spouse, just like you have. Understand that this is going to happen and make room for it. (But make sure you get your time together too.)
  6. Watch the money. It’s easy to go off the rails during celebrations because everybody’s been waiting so long for this moment. Try to stay on track with your budget. Once the family’s settled in, think about re-examining your finances now that you don’t have that extra deployment pay. Military OneSource has financial counselors available.
  7. Know when to ask for help. Coming home can bring major emotional stresses. Remember, someone is always available who knows the ups and downs of deployment. If you or a member of your family is struggling to adjust, get free confidential support anytime from Military OneSource.

You can also contact your installation’s Military and Family Support Center, Defense Centers of Excellence at 866-966-1020, or the Department of Veterans Affairs at 800-905-4675 EST (866-496-8838 PST). The Real Warriors website also offers additional support.

Deployment

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Deployment Survival – Murphy’s Law has a deployment-related brother, and he’s even tougher than his everyday counterpart. In our Deployment Survival webinar, you’ll learn how to prepare for deployment, ways to manage separation and planning strategies that will help you cope when the water pipes burst at 3 a.m.

Issues Families Face When the Military Deploys – This webinar will enable participants to recognize symptoms of deployment stress and develop personal strategies to cope.

Maintaining a Healthy Marriage During Deployment – This webinar will discuss challenges a marriage may face during deployment or remote assignment. Additionally, the webinar will discuss ways to strengthen and protect a marriage while promoting personal growth during deployment or remote assignment.

Pre-Deployment and the Single Service Member – Think your pre-deployment checklist is simple because you’re a single service member? Think again. This webinar will cover all the items that should be addressed -even if you’re unattached – prior to your deployment date. Let us guide you through the must-dos so you can keep your mind on the mission.

When a Sibling Deploys – This webinar will discuss the complex emotions surrounding the deployment of a sibling – particularly when the non-deploying sibling is a young child – and the resources available to assist and support the non-deploying sibling.