Remember, even a few months is a long period in a child’s development. A lot will have happened in the time between deployment and deployment homecoming. Relationships have changed; family members have grown emotionally and, in the case of children, physically, as well. Identify how to reconnect after separation with the points below.
Talk with your child beforehand about what to expect
- Over the last few months, your child may have grown an inch, moved up a grade in school, or learned to say his ABCs or ride a bike without training wheels. Remind him that, just as he’s changed, so has his returning parent who is returning home from deployment. The parent who’s coming back may have been to a new place, experienced stressful situations, and also learned new things.
- Take it slow; be patient. If your child is shy at the initial reunion, you can set the example. Let him see Mom and Dad hug. Let him establish a comfortable timetable for reconnecting.
- Routines will need to be readjusted. Introduce changes slowly. Little by little, you’ll have to learn how to be a team again. Help younger children adapt to changing routines with the Things We Do Together and Picture This printables.
Reassure your children
Next: Multiple Homecomings
- Just because the deployed parent is back with the family doesn’t mean that your child won’t continue to experience feelings of sadness, anger, anxiety, or confusion. She may also find it difficult to reconnect if she knows the parent may be leaving again. Comfort your child–softly, loudly, daily. Hugs help, too!
- Use the Pocket Full of Hearts printable to encourage communication and expressions of love. If your child is older, think about leaving him positive messages on sticky notes.