The holidays are over and this year was special for my family. After an 18 month deployment, my husband returned from Iraq a few days before Thanksgiving. He immediately reacquainted himself with our kids and indoor plumbing.
In the first few days after he returned, our excitement overshadowed any negative emotions left over from the deployment. I thought that since he was safe, life would return to normal. I now realize how naive I was.
Reuniting families after long separations is more complicated that a kiss on the cheek and “here’s your dinner, honey.” Once intimate marriages now feel awkward in spite of phone calls, letters, and emails exchanged. Children may appear to be bored, detached, or angry depending upon their ages.
As you can imagine, my family is going through this adjustment phase. My husband and I found communication difficult at first. Neither of us wished to burst the bubble of joy by admitting we were annoyed. Our son began throwing temper tantrums and telling his dad to go back to Iraq. Kianna, our daughter, cried in her bedroom scared that her dad would leave.
According to the experts to which we spoke, these problems were all normal. They say it takes approximately six to eight weeks for things to return to normal. Here are a few of the recommendations our family support network recommended to help transition your family:
1. Talk. Communication between spouses after long separations is the most important ingredient to a successful transition to normal life. Children may need to talk about their feelings as well.
2. Expect an adjustment period. It is impossible to live apart for long periods without adapting. Spouses left behind learn to cope on their own. After several deployments, the adjustments become easier. Children naturally turn to the custodial parent for support and advice because they were home. Formerly deployed soldiers may feel left out or unwanted.
3. Get help. If your family is unable to work through the adjustment period, get help. Where? Talk to anyone you trust such as a minister, friend, doctor, a counselor, or your family support group leader.
My family is working through the adjustment phase and things are getting easier. Eventually, deployment will not be the main subject of thought—until the next deployment.