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 children beforehand about what to expect
- Over the last few months, children may have grown an inch, moved up a grade in school, or learned to say the ABCs or ride a bike without training wheels. Remind your kids that, just as they’ve changed, so has the parent who is returning home from temporary duty or being deployed again. The parent who’s coming back may have been to a new place, experienced stressful situations, and also learned new things.
- Take it slowly; be patient. If one of your children is shy at the initial reunion, you can set the example. Let children see Mom and Dad hugging. Let them each establish their own 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. The amount of time it takes to adjust may depend on how long the parent was away for. But the awkward phase and the feeling of newness will pass; the family will adjust to the new normal. 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 there won’t still be feelings of sadness, anger, anxiety, or confusion. Your children may also find it difficult to reconnect if they know the parent may be leaving again. Comfort your children as often as they need–softly, loudly, daily. Hugs help, too!
- Use the Pocket Full of Hearts printable to encourage communication and expressions of love. For older children, think about leaving them positive messages on sticky notes.