Proactive Coping: Strategies for Post-deployment Happiness

WAVY/Lex Gray
WAVY/Lex Gray

The USS Harry S. Truman is making it’s return home this week and that means that many families will be reunited for the first time in 9 months. Fathers will be meeting their  babies born while they were serving their country, children will be getting used to a co-parenting household again, and spouses will be reconnecting.

{MORE: USS Harry S. Truman Carrier Air Wing 3 Returns}

So, how does one do that successfully? By being proactive in your approach as you navigate these first weeks and months as a family unit again. If you assume that all will be just as it was prior to deployment, then you are setting yourself up for potential pitfalls in the reintegration process.

According to Redcross.org Proactive Coping is all about preparing yourself for what is to come through the course of your transition. We took a look at their  guide as well as advice from Military.com  and they offer the following tips:

For the Service Member:

    1. Be aware that you may have mixed emotions about being home, which is completely normal, so be easy on yourself and allow the necessary time and patience to adjust.
    2. It takes time to move ahead from your very important mission to the next phase of your life back with your family, friends and job at your home port. Patience is key as well as the willingness to ask for help as needed.
    3. Communicate and lean on family, or those friends who were deployed with you as you find yourself feeling stress.
    4. Be prepared that your children may not want to interact with you right away. It is natural for children to be a bit distant, sometimes even angry or disrespectful in the first days post-deployment. They are getting used to the idea of having a second parent in their life, it will take time and understanding. Find time to spend with each child alone to get to know them again and show they are individually important to you and were missed.
    5. Show your spouse that you understand the enormity of their commitment to running your household while you were away. It was no small feat.
Truman Homecoming - 6
Carrier Air Wing 3 homecoming on April 17, 2014. (WAVY/Lex Gray)

For the Family Members:

    1. You have been running your household solo for quite some time and you may be ready for your spouse to jump right back into the routine, but allowing them to adjust at their own pace is going to be a key contributor to a smooth transition.
    2. Jot down a list of simple activities you can do together as a family or couple that will lend themselves to reconnecting. Taking evening walks, sitting outside on the porch for a glass of wine, picnic in the park with your children or have your spouse read the bed time story while you watch. All of these things will lend themselves to a slow re-integration of family and couple time.
    3. It is possible your spouse will feel a little disheartened that you didn’t ‘really need them’ while you were gone after they realize how well you managed on your own. Ensure you make extra efforts to include them in upcoming decisions and they are aware that you want to share the household and family responsibilities now that they have returned.
    4. Intimacy can feel a bit awkward at the start of a reunion, go slow. Military.com recommends mirroring back to dating days as you get used to one another again.
    5. Maintain the activities that you began as a part of your de-stressing and coping during deployment. If you now exercise or have a monthly card game with friends, keep that up – they’re still important.

For more information – check out the Red Cross’ guide HERE

WAVY/Lex Gray
Carrier Air Wing 3 homecoming on April 17, 2014. (WAVY/Lex Gray)

For the Whole Family:

  1. Be prepared that the reunion may not go exactly as you envisioned. Each person in the family has expectations and while most reunions are wonderful, there are moments of stress as well. Cut yourselves a break and allow for those moments to run their course without too much anxiety while you figure out your ‘new normal’
  2. Look for the positive changes in one another. Each person in the family has gone through change, it’s important to focus on the good rather than igniting issue with the negative.
  3. Don’t over-schedule your family time out the gate. Allow for time to just sit and talk with one another and allow the pace to be set naturally for activity.
  4. Keep your budget in check. Families can experience hardship due to overspending on welcome home festivities or simply due to the fact that there’s another person in the home again using funds for food, gas expense and otherwise.
  5. Ask for help as a family if you get to a point of needing mediation or professional perspective. Depending on how you individually have coped with the separation, the circumstances of the deployment and/or the stress of the reunion, you may need additional help, and that’s OK.

Having your loved one home is an exhilarating time in a family’s life after a lengthy and sometimes stress-filled separation, by being proactive and arming yourself with information ahead of time to assist with the transition, you will ensure a happy, healthy homecoming.

For more information, check out Military.com’s piece on Returning to Homelife After Deployment

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