Returning home after deployment is exciting, but it can also be an adjustment for you and your loved ones. For children in particular, it may be emotional or confusing. To help your children with the transition, it’s important to develop a plan that’s personalized for their age, level of understanding and development stage.
Get started with these five tips:
1. Plan Special Reunion Activities With Children
Before your return, plan a special activity to spend time with your children. This could be as simple as visiting a zoo, going out for ice cream or playing a favorite sport together. It may also be helpful to develop new routines, activities or rituals dedicated to quality time with one another — like family pizza nights or evening bedtime stories. Be creative — time with children doesn’t have create an extra expense – just have fun.
2. Make Time to Let Children Talk
Your children will likely have questions about your deployment and return home. Foster open communication by listening to their thoughts, being respectful of their feelings and addressing their concerns. It’s also important to be supportive and allow them to express their emotions.
3. Recognize and Adapt to How They’ve Changed
Routines may have shifted while you were deployed. Learn about changes to your children’s schedules, and be open and flexible to new approaches or responsibilities. You may notice changes in your children’s interests or personalities as well. In fact, they might even seem more mature than you expected. Take some time to get to know them again and their newfound responsibilities and interests.
4. Monitor Changes in Behavior
Children often respond differently to stress than adults. Pay attention to their behavior, and consider talking to a pediatrician or other medical professional if you see an increase in misbehavior or changes in sleeping and eating habits. It is important to work with their teachers or counselors to evaluate changes in academic performance. If you notice anything concerning and you don’t know exactly where to turn, contact Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 for help and other resources.
5. Let Children Adjust at Their Own Pace
Above all, be patient. Each child responds to reintegration differently, and it may take time to adjust.