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How to Help the Family Adjust to a Military Spouse's Return

Learn how to help the family adjust to the return of a military spouse in this Howcast video about child anxiety issues.


I'm going to talk to you today about how to adjust to the return of the military spouse as a family. Now I think we're all so used to seeing those wonderful reunion pictures and videos on TV and in papers. And we love them. They're just everything we want in terms of a family to be together, to come home and to embrace that person that's been away serving our country. I think what we don't always see is that that can sometimes be the most difficult time for a family. There's all this joy, and the anticipation, and thankfulness that that person is back, and relief, but then there's the day to day integration and re-integration of that person into the family. It sometimes has been called going from the fox hole to the front porch. And those are two very different environments for both the person who is returning and the family members.

So the first thing to understand is that initial time may be a very mixed time in terms of there's a mixture of emotions. There's of course the elation and the gratitude. But what happens is that person is returning to a family that has been functioning maybe for many, many, many months without someone there. So there's a period of re-adjustment and re-integration. So roles may have changed. Children have gotten older. They've had all sorts of milestones that maybe somebody has missed. Maybe in a traditional family maybe, the dad is the one that's been deployed and now mom had to take over all sorts of new responsibilities. So when the dad comes back, those roles and responsibilities have to change again. Maybe grandparents were more involved to help out, and now where are they going to be in terms of that family system?

So I think there's a lot to think about in terms of being patient and understanding some of the feelings that everyone is having. So children, although it may seem as if they're going to be so excited and happy, young ones may need time to get to know that parent again. There may be some anxiety or just unfamiliar feelings about that person. Other kids, older kids at times may be scared that the person is going to go away again, and so they need to develop that sense of safety and security again and figure out who they go to for what now that everyone is back as a family.

And then of course the last thing is I think families always want to think about sometimes the difficult part of a return home, and that is how that person from the military is doing, doing everything you can to help in their adjustment. They come back and they are often very happy and excited, but their role has changed and they may have to figure out how to fit in. And there's other times we know that they come home with emotional difficulties whether it's from things that have happened while they've been away and deployed or things that are just difficult to get back into in terms of a family and a different kind of life.

So the more the family can communicate with each other, can talk about how they're feeling, and of course always get help if things seem like they're not the way they should be or that they could be better because there's tons of help out there for all family members in the military.

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