Even if your family has experienced deployment before, this time may be different. Things like routines and roles may have changed while your service member was away, and it’s okay if you’re not able to go back to how things were before the deployment. Try to focus on how you can make things comfortable right now, and give everyone time to adjust.
Supporting your service member
Helping your service member reintegrate into 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: Your service member may need time to adjust both mentally and emotionally – and it may not be a quick or simple process. Keep in mind that they may have been in situations that required aggression and confrontation and they may need time to adapt to being home again. Try to be patient and understanding with the reintegration process.
- Be willing to give your service member space: They may not be ready to discuss their deployment, and may need extra personal space and alone time following a deployment. Try to be patient and don’t take this personally. Slowly build up to spending more time together, and wait to talk about difficult topics until everyone feels comfortable. Use this time and space 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. Try these tips for how to communicate successfully as a couple, and check out the Love Every Day texting program.
- 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 weathers this reintegration phase. Trust that things will become easier. With time and patience, everyone will find their new normal.
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 of the parent who has just returned home. Try to be patient as everyone adjusts. Parents should be on the same page about rules and punishments. Make sure to discuss parenting decisions with each other so you can present a united front to the children.
For more guidance, read the article Five Tips to Support Children During Reintegration, and check out the parent resources on the Military Kids Connect website.
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. Military OneSource offers free, confidential non-medical counseling to help with issues like parenting, communication, stress management, decision-making and deployment adjustments. Learn more about non-medical counseling services.
You might also consider contacting chaplains, medical professionals and family resources at an installation near you. For more information about available programs and services, contact your local Military and Family Support Center.
If your service member or family members are struggling with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, combat or post-traumatic stress, reach out for professional help. Learn more about mental health after deployment – what to know and where to get help. For emergencies, the Military Crisis Line is available 24/7/365. Call 988 and press 1. You can also start an online chat by texting 838255.
Need help but aren’t sure where to go? Military OneSource consultants are always available to help connect you with the resources you need. Call 800-342-9647, use OCONUS dialing options, or schedule a live chat.