A Navy wife with four deployments under her belt, Danya Devine has come to know what works and what doesn't when it comes to reintegration. She has some words of wisdom for other military families, especially those with children, who are reuniting after a deployment.
Give it time
It's so tempting for the service member who has missed his or her family so much over the course of the deployment to try to run into the family's open arms and get right down to some hands-on parenting. After all, he or she is making up for lost time! However, that can be a mistake as the service member needs time to adjust to the changes at home that occurred during the deployment.
"My husband wanted to jump in 100% head first and you just can't do that," says Devine. "Mama has set up a schedule and that schedule is very important." She further explains that once a spouse's deployment starts, in about four to six weeks, the at-home spouse has gotten into a pretty good groove and is running things. Although the spouse's return is surely a joyous occasion, it's also a disruption of the normal routine and that can be a challenge no matter how happy everyone is.
Devine tells the story of her husband coming home during her 2 ½-year-old son's picky eating stage. Of course, dad wanted to make things better and get the son to eat well. "I had kept Jerry in the loop as to the challenges that I was going through with our son's refusal to eat," she says. She had decided not to make eating an issue during her husband's deployment and a sudden change to the policy did not help.
Keep up the communication
One great way to make reintegration smooth is to keep in good contact during the deployment. That way, there are no (well, at least minimal) surprises when the deployed spouse comes home. Devine keeps her husband up on all the small details of life with the children. That way, not only does her husband feel connected, but there are fewer surprises upon his return. Her husband's last deployment was in the pre-Skype times, but she said that daily emails kept her husband up to date on all the little details of family life. It's important for the deployed spouse to know before his or her return the family's schedule.
Prepare the children
Another important step toward making reintegration easier is to make sure that the children are prepared for the parent's return. "I tell the kids that Daddy is going to jump right in," Devine says. She adds, however, that it's important to be sure the kids know that just because daddy is coming home doesn't mean that he is going to be around all the time. He'll probably be right back at work."
Danya Devine is also the director of the blog community at Military One Click.
Christine Leccese is the communications and marketing manager at Military Pathways.