Even if your family has experienced deployment before, this time things may be different. Things may have changed, and it’s okay if you’re not able to go back to how things used to be, before the deployment. Focus on how you can make things comfortable and normal for the family.
Supporting Your Service Member
Helping your service member to reintegrate to the family following a deployment may take a while so be patient with yourself and your service member.
Consider the following as you adjust to having your service member home again:
- Remember that adjusting to being home is a process: Depending on where your service member was deployed, they may need time to adjust both mentally and emotionally – it may not be a quick or simple process.. Keep in mind that they may have been in situations that required aggression and confrontation — so be forgiving as it will likely take time to adjust.
- Be willing to give your service member space: They may not be ready to discuss their deployment, and may need personal space following a deployment – be patient and don’t take this personally. Slowly build up to spending more time together, and hold off on talking about difficult topics until everyone feels comfortable. Use this time to take care of yourself, too.
- Take time to get reacquainted: You may feel like you need to get to know each other again. It may seem like you’ve both changed, and that’s completely normal.
- Stay positive, and be patient: Reintegration may have its ups and downs, and some days might be harder than others. The most important thing you can do is keep a positive attitude and be patient as everyone works this reintegration phase. Trust that reintegration will become easier.
Reevaluating Routines and Expectations
The way your family completes chores, deals with finances and spends time together might have changed during deployment, or they might need to change now with reintegration.
Try the following:
- Communicate honestly and openly: Share any changes with your service member and find out what they’re comfortable with. You might be able to resume the same division of chores and the same routines you used to have, or you might want to start fresh.
- Be flexible: Reassess the habits and hobbies your family used to have, and change some or all of them if they aren’t the right fit for your family anymore. Try new activities and approaches, and see what sticks.
- Don’t compare: What worked for you in a previous reintegration, or for a friend’s family, might not work for you this time. Don’t worry about what other people are doing or at what pace. Focus on what makes sense for your family.
Children may have a hard time with reintegration as well, whether it’s adjusting to different routines or experiencing a change in parenting styles.
Children’s needs may change by individual or by age group, but the following is a good place to start:
- Encourage children to talk about their feelings: Children may feel differently from one day to another and may not be sure why they’re feeling a certain way. Let them know that whatever emotion they feel, it is okay. Give them a safe space to talk and process.
- Include children in discussions: As much as possible, let children be a part of the conversation – of course this depends on the age and developmental stage as well as the topic. If you’re trying out new family activities, let them have a voice. Ask what’s most important to them to determine what should or shouldn’t change. This may help children feel a sense of stability and control over their situation.
- Ease into different parenting styles: Children may need time to adjust to the parenting style from a parent who has just returned home – be patient as everyone adjusts. Parents should be on the same page about rules and punishments – present a united front.
For more guidance, check out the Five Tips to Support Children During Reintegration article.
Knowing When to Get Help
Asking for help is a sign of strength. If reintegration is difficult for you or your family and loved ones, reach out to friends and support networks. You can also take advantage of the many resources available to you.
Free, confidential counseling is available through Military OneSource at any time. Consider contacting chaplains, medical professionals and family resources at an installation near you. You can find local resources through MilitaryINSTALLATIONS.