Adjusting to Life After Your Soldier Returns from Deployment

July 25, 2011 · Filed Under Deployment, Health 

Happy Couple

You’ve waited months, perhaps more than a year, to welcome your soldier home. You’ve shopped for food to make his favorite meal, arranged for his parents to visit upon his return, and helped the kids make signs welcoming him home. But are you really ready for the return?

Sometimes even after all of those sleeplessness nights, counting days until the return, the homecoming doesn’t always lead to sunshine and rainbows. There is often a honeymoon period when you won’t be able to stop looking at each other, and the kids will be stuck like honey to his side. However, some military families are caught off guard by the feelings of resentment that might emerge, the adjustment to new routines, and the fact that somehow life went on during deployment and not everything is just how it used to be.

Possible Threats to the Honeymoon after Homecoming

Even thinking about the idea that there might be negative emotions upon return from deployment might be more than you want to do. However, preparing for the possibilities will help to diminish the likelihood that these situations will occur, and the effects of them won’t have to be so severe. There are bound to be adjustments that need to be made – start thinking early about how things have changed for you during deployment and what those changes might mean to your soldier.

  • The children have an earlier bedtime, necessitated by the fact that you needed an extra 30 minutes alone each night.
  • The kids have had one authority figure in their life and aren’t used to the ramifications of two in the house.
  • You have developed a new weekend routine. On Saturday the kids do their activities, you spend the afternoon working on projects, and in the evening you hang out with other kids and their moms.
  • Your mom spends at least 2 afternoons each week at your house, helping with the kids and household chores.
  • The financial planning has been on your plate and you have developed a method to the madness.
  • You’ve met new friends and enjoy one evening a month going somewhere special with them as a treat for you.

While all of these scenarios are not necessarily negative ones, the effects they might have on your relationship with your soldier upon his return could become negative if you’re not prepared. Make a realistic assessment of how your relationship looked and worked before deployment and make sure that you don’t just assume that it will continue in the new routines without compromise. Your soldier will be facing his own readjustments so it is imperative that you work together as a team to make the homecoming a long lasting positive experience.

Make sure you communicate regularly about daily life. You might be used to independent living and decision making, but you need to remember to include your soldier in the daily routines.

Be watchful for signs of PTSD in your soldier or other stress related issues. Don’t hesitate to encourage him to seek help or talk with someone yourself. Also keep in mind that you might benefit from sharing with a third party how you are adjusting to life after homecoming.

Be aware of changes in the kids’ behaviors, either increased anxiety over your soldier being gone for even a few minutes, or rebellious behavior that tests the waters. Nip this in the bud and work together with your soldier to form a parenting unit. Don’t let the kids create a great divide between you now that you have just gotten him home.

Soon after homecoming sit down and revisit the responsibility list. Maybe you will continue to mow the lawn now, and he wants to take over weekend cooking for the family. Go over the family calendar and get your soldier up to speed on the activities of everyone and how he can participate and help. Just don’t direct the show – form a team. Whatever your decisions are, work on making them together.

Photo credit: Rachel

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