Family

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Do you want to know what to expect returning to your family after combat trauma?

First of all – a helpful approach to the family is one WITHOUT EXPECTATIONS on every family member’s part. The military person cannot or may not be able to bring the family members into his/her combat world AND the family members who stayed at home may not be able to welcome the military person back into the family in the same role/place of responsibility occupied before he/she deployed. In both cases the roles, focus and experiences have changed everyone in the family, and each life has naturally moved on. 

So, taking quality time to reconnect with each family member is vital. It may take time for the “newness” of the family interaction to become comfortable so pushing to make it happen is NOT recommended. When the time is right it is important to say: “Hi, this is who I am now and this is really important to me. What is important to you? What have you been saving to tell me? To ask me? What do you want from me now?”  There are many sites for Operation Military Family support one you may check out is: www.operationmilitaryfamily.com

Do you want to know about issues with your parents?

The central role of parents is to protect their children. Parents may carry a heavy burden during deployment coming to the realization that their children do mature and become responsible for themselves and, bottom line, there is nothing they can do to protect them.  Many parents respond to the homecoming veteran with the expectation that the child veteran is the same person who entered combat. No person who experiences combat is ever the same person. The innocence of the young is lost in combat, and even in non-combat military situations. Reconciling this is very difficult for some parents to accept.  Including the veteran in family gatherings is important even if he/she is no longer playing out the family script. However, after combat, small quiet gatherings probably are more appealing than loud parties. It is up to you to communicate with your parents what you need and want and how you are different and what you have learned about life.  Face it, they are the last people you can expect to engage in accurate mind-reading when they remember you in diapers . . . and with acne . . . and in teenage rebellion.

Do you want to know about issues with your children?

Children who have not had their parent with them for an extended period have probably gone through the grieving process and have accepted that the parent is not there.  So, children need time for the reentry. Keeping in touch with your children while deployed is important to make homecoming easier. Allowing the children to come to acceptance of the parent at their pace is important. However, let the children know that when they want time with Dad/Mom after deployment, time will be made to allow them to tell or ask the parent all the things saved up for this reconnecting time. Keeping an appointment and listening deeply to the children's spoken and unspoken feelings and needs are two key elements for reestablishing trust.  For more information about the impact of deployment of a parent on a child please see https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/In-Their-Own-Words-Military-Deployment-Effects-on-Children.aspx
Other sites for support of children: www.childcrisis.org
Children of Fallen Soldiers Relief Fund: www.cfsrf.org

Do you want to know about issues with your brothers/sisters?

Sometimes siblings feel left out when a brother/sister goes away, and even more so when the sibling is deployed. Keeping in touch when deployed is key. Emailing personal notes is  recommended for immediacy of sharing life events and feelings. Requesting/receiving items from home helps to keep the absent one feeling a part of the family and in the loop of family interaction. Decisions/commitments about looking in on parents or family members need to be made before deployment with follow up throughout deployment. However, each military person and family member needs to decide and agree on how much/little a deployed family member can/should be involved with stateside events/decisions/actions. Note:  If the family didn’t have a chance to do this before deployment know that sharing stateside activities is helpful to the returning military person.

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