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Return and Reunion Tips

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military familySometimes the most challenging part of a deployment can be the return. Reunion is a special time, but it can be a source of emotional strain for all members of your family. However, it can be a good time to work together to strengthen relationships. A great deal of time is spent preparing for deployment, but sometimes returning from deployment can be even more stressful. Maybe you are the one returning home, or the one managing the home front single-handedly, or the parent anxiously awaiting their child’s return. Just as you had to make adjustments before deployment, so you will have to make them after. One simple piece of advice is to go slow.  You didn’t get ready for deployment overnight, and you won’t get back into your old life overnight.

Homecoming Considerations

  • Because of anticipation, few get decent sleep the night before homecoming. This may result in exhaustion once the family is finally reunited.
  • The service member may need time to adjust to the local time zone, home cooking, noises of home, etc. It is normal to have some difficulty sleeping through the night.
  • It is not uncommon to experience a homecoming letdown. Reality rarely equals our fantasy of how life will be after reunion. Stay flexible and keep expectations reasonable.
  • The service member may want to rest at home while the spouse may be eager to go out and socialize as a couple or get accumulated tasks done. Skillful compromise is useful to avoid hurt feelings.
  • It is unwise for the service member to criticize decisions the spouse made on their own during deployment. The service member should express appreciation for the spouse’s efforts.
  • Children in the home may act out more than usual. Their reactions at homecoming may not be exactly what the parents expected. Older children can be resentful of the service member’s time spent away. Very young children might not remember the service member and may be shy. Take it slow and be understanding.
  • The deployed person may feel surprised or threatened if the partner did very well on their own during the deployment. They may also feel a little jealous at how closely the children bonded with the parent at home. These feelings are normal, but it is wiser to show the other person love and appreciation for all their efforts during the deployment.
  • The returning service member should remember that he or she has probably not driven a personal automobile in the US for some time, and may need to refresh their skills slowly.
  • Families are discouraged from making any major personal or household changes during the deployment. The deployed person will have already experienced great change during their time away.
  • Remember that stress can increase the likelihood of substance abuse. This type of abuse may manifest itself in the form of illicit or prescription drug or alcohol use. There are alternatives to problems that may lead you to substance abuse. If you recognize unhealthy behaviors in yourself or your loved one, please seek assistance.
  • Returning service members may have accumulated a significant amount of money because of tax exempt pay, additional pay, and entitlements, combined with a limited ability to spend money while deployed. Upon return, the initial urge is to spend the money with abandon. Be careful and consider formulating a plan to use the money wisely.