Welcoming a loved one home from deployment is one of the most eagerly-awaited moments for members of a military family. While reunions can be exciting and emotional, sometimes they are fraught with difficulty. Transitioning back to civilian life can be hard for some servicemembers and stepping into family life that has been operating without them for months may pose a challenge as well. However, there are ways soldiers and their families can help ease the process in the weeks and months after reuniting.
Have realistic expectations
Family members may expect their loved one to jump back into civilian life without skipping a beat, but they should be aware of the challenges most returning troops face. Of course, each servicemember's experience is different, but their loved ones should recognize the impact moving from a combat zone to family life can have. Whether they suffered psychological or physical injury, feeling comfortable back home may take more time than soldiers anticipate, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP).
Stress often accompanies significant changes, even if they are something someone has been looking forward to. According to the National Military Family Association (NMFA), there are a number of stress-reduction techniques that may help make the reunion a bit easier for family members. Specifically, activities such as eating a healthy diet, getting rest and exercising can help reduce stress.
Additionally, the NMFA suggests military spouses set goals for areas of the reunion that may be stressing them out. For instance, spouses concerned about reconnecting with their loved one may want to set a goal of spending time together or working on communication skills.
Mind the children
With all the excitement surrounding a reunion for the spouses, sometimes the youngest members of the military family can get lost in the fray. Parents should make sure to include their children in the reunion while also understanding how they might be feeling. Depending on their age, kids can experience a number of different emotions ranging from joy and excitement to anxiety and resentment.
To make things easier for children, the NMFA recommends keeping the family routine the same for at least a short period of time after a loved one returns to smooth the transition. Additionally, the returning family member should be sure to spend one-on-one time with their child, whether it be taking an older son or daughter to the movies or going to an amusement park with younger kids.