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After the Welcome Home: Tips for Military Families When Warriors Return

Homemade signs on the front of a home reading 'We're proud of you!' and 'Welcome Home Daddy!'

Photo courtesy of Sheri Hall.

Although homecomings are a time of great joy, they are also a time of adjustment for military families. Reunions may be particularly confusing for children, who may be unsure of what to do or how to react.

Fortunately, military families don't have to face this transition alone. The Real Warriors Campaign offers support for military families throughout the deployment cycle.

Campaign volunteer Sheri Hall, an Army wife who has supported her husband through a 20-year career and multiple deployments while raising two daughters, shares her experiences and offers advice for helping families through transitions.

"The whole family is feeling relief and excitement," Hall said. "Sometimes it can be hard to admit that there's a level of stress there too. Really, it all comes down to communication – create opportunities to talk, let your kids know that you are there for them, and find out what they want or need from you. Above all, be willing to listen to what they have to say."

Children may react differently, depending on their age, to a parent's homecoming and the feelings they experience. The tips below can help parents navigate homecomings and help their children cope with complex emotions.

For tools on how to communicate and respond to younger children during reintegration, visit the Sesame Workshop's Talk, Listen, Connect: Deployment, Homecomings, Changes. To help ease the transition for older children, visit Military OneSource, Helping School-Age Children Deal with Your Deployment.

Visit the Real Warriors Campaign online at www.realwarriors.net for more tools, tips and resources to help military families cope with transitions, or contact the Psychological Health Resource Center by calling 866-966-1020 to talk with trained health resource consultants for assistance 24/7.

DOS AND DON'TS FOR RECONNECTING WITH CHILDREN AFTER DEPLOYMENT

Younger Children (ages 1 to 5)

DO
  • Give them time to warm up
  • Sit or kneel at their level
  • Listen to what they tell you
  • Find out their new interests
  • Play together when the time is right
DON'T
  • Force hugs or playtime
  • Rush them into trusting you

School-Age Children (ages 5 to 12)

DO
  • Allow them to brag about you
  • Spend time reviewing school work, pictures, scrapbooks, etc.
  • Praise them for their accomplishments during your deployment
DON'T
  • Criticize past negative behaviors

Teenagers (ages 12 to 18)

DO
  • Listen with undivided attention
  • Have respect for their privacy and friends
  • Encourage them to share what has happened while you were deployed
DON'T
  • Force them into spending time with you
  • Encourage their disinterested and disrespectful behavior
  • Criticize new interests or friends

 

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