Easing the transition when a loved one comes home from war
Tuesday, June 19, 2012, 3:26:36 PM
No matter how long a loved one is deployed, family members look forward to their return with much anticipation and excitement. However, returning from a deployment, whether it was in a war-torn region or not, can also require a large adjustment for the service member and members of his or her family as they work their way back into family life. There are several tips family members and troops can use to make the reunion smooth and enjoyable for all parties involved.Keep expectations in check with a plan
Homecomings are exciting for the troops and family members, but it is important for all members of the family to keep their expectations and anticipation of the event in check. The National Military Family Association (NMFA) recommends spouses come up with a simple plan for reunion and homecoming activities.
The association recommends keeping celebrations simple and realistic, as well as flexible. The returning loved one may be more tired than expected, especially if they are traveling through a number of time zones with possible delays. Many troops may also experience some culture shock when they arrive home, so they may appreciate the simplest of homecoming celebrations - like a home-cooked meal.Managing stress levels
As exciting as a homecoming is, it can also be extremely stressful for families, especially children, according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP). In addition to being excited to see their loved one, children may feel anxious and uncertain. Their reaction to the homecoming might also depend on their developmental level, the organization reports. For instance, toddlers may not remember their parent or may act shy around them. School-age children might not understand the parent's need for space or time alone with their spouse, and teens may seem distant. Any reaction should not be taken personally - many children need time to warm up to the returning loved one.Seeing the homecoming through the service member's eyes
As excited as a service member may be to return to his or her family and friends, it is important that loved ones understand the stress they have been under. The individual may return with psychological or physical injuries that make returning to his or her normal life difficult, and may be preoccupied with what happened while away. Many troops are eager to return to their routine and family life, but it is important that families understand that their loved one may need space and time to adapt back to this lifestyle, according to the NMFA.Understanding changes in everyone
While the service member underwent a number of changes during the deployment, it is important to understand that all members of the family have changed in some way - children have been born or have grown, adults may have become more independent. The association recommends returning family members take the time to get to new each member of the family again. Arranging times for the service member to spend one-on-one time with each member of the family might be a good place to start.Preparing for spousal stress
When a spouse first returns from a deployment, couples should be prepared for a type of honeymoon phase that involves excitement, pride in each other, intimacy and courtship, even if the couple has been married for many years, according to the Army National Guard.
However, it is important to prepare for problems that may arise as the service member adjusts back into family life. Spouses should consider aspects of the relationship such as expectations from each other, power, routines and responsibilities, and how they may want to renegotiate these areas when their loved one returns home and adjusts back into family life.
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