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Group 401

Preparing for Your Service Member’s Return

iStock_000005672772SmallIt’s the day you’ve been waiting for. Your husband, wife, son or daughter is coming home after fighting in a war. You’re excited and relieved, but have you thought about what kind of adjustments you might have to make? Life has gone on while your service member has been away, so there will be changes on the home front. And everyone involved will have changed, both physically and emotionally. Here’s how you can prepare.

If the returning service member is your spouse or significant other, you’ll probably experience a “honeymoon phase” for a time after demobilization. Then reality will have to kick in. If you have children, they’ve grown and changed and developed new habits and behaviors. And whether you have children or are child-free, you and your spouse or partner will have to figure out how to balance responsibilities and expectations again. If your service member has been through traumatic experiences, they will affect your everyday lives for some time.

Children may take some time to warm up to this person who has suddenly re-entered their lives. They’ll react differently depending on age and temperament, but in general:

  • Infants (younger than 12 months) may react to changes in their schedule, physical environment, or caretaker by showing apathy or refusing to eat
  • Toddlers may be clingy, throw temper tantrums, or not sleep well
  • Preschoolers may backslide with potty training or thumb sucking, or experience sleep problems, clinginess, and separation anxiety.
  • School age children may be irritable, aggressive, or whiny, or complain of stomachaches or headaches.
  • Adolescents may rebel against new family roles and responsibilities after the deployed parent returns home.

Prepare children to be with your returning service member by giving them extra attention, care, and physical closeness when possible, encouraging them to talk about their feelings and maintaining routines as best as you can.

If your returning service member’s parents live nearby, they will have to make many of the same readjustments as spouses or partners. They will also have to recognize that everybody has grown and changed, and adjust their boundaries as they get reacquainted with their loved one. If they, or the service member’s siblings, have been helping you and your family while your partner was away, those roles will have to be renegotiated also.

One of the best things you can do to prepare yourself and your family for a service member’s return is talk to someone who has experienced it. If you don’t know of anyone, the team at Horizon Health Services can help. We’ve recently opened our Freedom Village facility for veterans and employ staff who have been trained to deal with their needs. Call us, and we can point you in the right direction.