Deployments are notoriously challenging for service members and their families. Deployment struggles can complicate family relationships and create permanent and lasting changes. However, learning about the stages of deployment can help you make sense of complicated experiences and emotions.
Viral videos of service members rejoining their families frequently garner admiration from observers. Behind the scenes, military families are often left wondering how to navigate what comes after the homecoming fanfare. The “what comes after” is called reintegration, and it can be perplexing for all varieties of military personnel and their families. Consequently, your service member’s reintegration into everyday home life may require more consideration than is advertised in the typical all-American homecoming “happily ever after.”
Reintegration difficulties can be further complicated by the effects of returning from combat zones. Service members and their families can take advantage of Military OneSource stress management resources throughout the deployment process. Fortunately, the experiences of previous generations of military families have helped to demystify the deployment lifecycle, revealing three main stages: pre-deployment, deployment and reunion/reintegration.
Read on to learn 4 tips for supporting your service member during the reintegration stage:
- Think Ahead. Helping your service member reintegrate starts before they return. Ask them what homecoming festivities would make them feel the most comfortable. For some, a party and a large greeting group waiting at the airport might be fine. For others, a small, quiet homecoming is more enjoyable. Be open to accommodating your service member’s needs to ensure things start off pleasantly for everyone.
- Prepare for Change. Homecomings are highly anticipated for months or even years in some cases. While no two situations are alike, it’s safe to say that things will be different when your service member returns from a deployment. However, during moments of difficulty or disagreement, it can be tough to remember that post-deployment reintegration struggles are to blame. Prepare by talking to your service member openly about how you’ll communicate with each other as you work through upcoming changes. Need help navigating deployment lifecycle changes? Military OneSource offers free resources to help your military family thrive. Access tools to help you navigate pre-deployment, deployment and reintegration. Check out the Preparing for Deployment resources here.
- Be Patient. Change can precipitate growing pains. When my spouse returned from a 15-month deployment, everything was different. I had already completed our PCS across the country, and my sailor came “home” to a place that was brand new to him. Barring phone, text and video chat conversations, we had lived completely separate lives for 15 months. We had to learn to live together again. With time comes change, and with change comes a need to be flexible. Daisaku Ikeda said, “With love and patience, nothing is impossible.” Patience offers you room to show your service member love and compassion as they navigate through the deployment lifecycle.
- Embrace the New. Socrates said, “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” As you give your service member room to become re-familiarized with home life, embrace the change as it makes way for new beginnings. Newness fosters opportunity. Allow your service member time to adjust as you start a new routine together. Pretty soon, the “brand new” that you create will be your new normal.
When facing reintegration, remember to think ahead, prepare for change, be patient and embrace the new. Obtaining the insight and tools that you need to promote your family’s successful reintegration is easier than ever.
Numerous resources exist to aid in the deployment lifecycle and help military families make sense of the deployment process. Check out Military OneSource’s Plan My Deployment tool to learn more.