I think a lot about my friends who are away on deployment around this time of the year. While many of us are slowing down to spend more time with family folks in the military don't get that option at times. I tip my hat to my many friends in the armed services. I've seen some of my closest buddies spend months away from family and it's not easy at all. Their life of deployments is something I don't know if I could ever get used to. Military families have to make lots of sacrifices and adjustments in order for brave soldiers to do their jobs. Yet most of the soldiers I know along with their families make their lifestyle look easy. Deployment after deployment means these families have to adjust and re-adjust constantly. In speaking with some of my friends they've consistently mentioned parenting as being one of the struggles they face as they return home. Not only has their child matured since the last time they saw them but the parenting technique that their spouse has been using might have changed as well. That brave father or mother can return thinking one way about parenting that might have evolved while they were out to sea for the past 17 months. This dynamic can cause a fair amount of conflict. The spouse serving on the home front can easily have some discomfort as the returning deployed spouse comes back home seemingly messing up their program. The truth of the matter is that when a dad (or mom) is holding it down on the home front, they kind of operate like a single parent playing the part of mother and father. The opposite is true for the deployed soldier who is finding themselves in a pseudo-single person's way of life with only themselves to keep up with. Being able to turn off that switch is not that easy for either spouse once they return home. Making that adjustment isn't always easy. How can the happy homecoming be a bit smoother? That answer isn't a simple one, but here are a few suggestions that might help:
1. Establish Rules of Engagement-Parenting isn’t exactly warfare…well maybe if you have a teenager….but having a good plan can help make things smoother for all involved. Using tips from a book or working TOGETHER to create your parenting rules of engagement can help create accountability for the deployed spouse and the spouse at home. Hopefully, this could lead to less confusion and less disagreements.
2. Be a Unified Front-It’s no surprise that kids sometimes try to play parents against one another. Keeping this in mind is vital when returning home from a deployment. The parent that’s been away will likely be viewed as the hero which means the child might try to exploit that unassuming parent to get his or her way. The recently returning spouse might also not want to see their child that they’ve missed for so many months get into trouble. You might hear them say, “oh cut him some slack,” or “she’s just being a kid.” If this is the 5th time that little Johnny has pushed his sister over the past couple of months, punishment might be in order. This is where the deployed spouse needs to make sure they’re on the same page with their partner. Supporting the at-home spouse’s decision to discipline the child in a situation like this works to keep the unity between both parents.
3. Resist Radio Silence Being away for months can naturally challenge the communication skills of any couple. Sporadic emails, video chats, or phone can help maintain a relationship during deployments. Once the deployment is over the day to day communication can seem extremely intense compared to when one spouse
4. Call for Back-Up There’s no shame in calling for back-up when a solider is on the battlefield. The same is true when it comes to parenting and family relations. Sometimes we just need someone to help us get out of a tough spot. There are resources out there for those families that might have a hard time with reintegration after a deployment. Several branches of the armed services have programs to help soldiers and their families. If you or someone you know is in the military and needs some support, get in contact with a unit in your area.