Deployment - Emotional Signs and Coping Strategies
0-3 3-5 5-8 8-12 13-18 Adults
Unexplained crying, tearfulness
Increased marital discord
Emotional distancing from loved ones
More irritability or crabbiness
Harried; too much to do in too little time
Suggestions for Coping:
Allow yourself to feel and express all emotional responses
Encourage all family members to share their feelings
Involve the whole family in preparing for the separation
Complete the Pre-deployment Checklist with your spouse
Participate in pre-deployment briefings and activities
Create opportunities for warm lasting memories, take pictures
Set realistic goals for yourself for the deployment period
Concern that your partner is coping so well that you are no longer needed
Feelings of increased confidence, independence, competence, freedom, pride, isolation, anxiety, depression
Suggestions for Coping:
Enjoy new skills, freedom, independence
Celebrate signs of positive growth in self and other family members
Offer empathy and support to others
Maintain regular contact through phone calls, letters, email
Confide in trusted peers
Seek professional counseling if feelings of depression/anxiety are threatening to overwhelm
BEING A LONG DISTANCE PARENT
Parenting while away from home is not easy. Some separated parents find it so emotionally difficult they withdraw and become significantly less involved in the lives of their children while they are apart. This, of course, is not good either for the parent or the children, not to mention the difficulty it causes the parent/caregiver who is at home alone. The most important aspect of parenting from a distance is making those small efforts to stay in touch. Doing something to say the parent is thinking about and missing the child is what is most important.
Practical suggestions to help keep the absentee involved with their children
-Letters and cards from mom or dad are important. The length and contents are not nearly as important as the presence of something in the mail from the absent parent. When sending picture post cards, make little notes about the place or write that you stood right here "x" in the picture. Any small thing which makes the card personal will have tremendous meaning to children at home.
-Cut out and send things from the local paper or magazines. This is a tangible way to help them feel connected and give them an idea of what life is like there. For older children, a subscription to a favorite magazine is a gift that keeps on giving.
-When using a tape recorder, remember to be creative: sing "Happy Birthday," tell a story, read scripture, take it with you on your job or when visiting with other members of your unit. Don't try to fill a tape completely in one sitting. Make sure you describe the surroundings, the time of day, and what you are doing, etc.
-Try not to forget birthdays and special holidays which would be important to a child, particularly Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Halloween, or Valentine's Day.
-Try to schedule phone calls when children are likely to be at home. Keep a mental list of things you want to talk about with each child, such as their friends, school, ball games, etc. Ask each child to send you something from the activities they are involved in at school, home or outside activities like dance lessons, youth groups or scouts.
-If your child has a pet, make sure to ask about it.
-Send an age appropriate gift for each child. It should be something special just for them. Some interesting and creative gifts include a special notebook for school, a book for coloring or reading, or something unique from where you are stationed.
Reunion / Homecoming
Difficulty re-establishing emotional and sexual intimacy
Feelings of excitement, disorganization, resentment, frustration
Grieving loss of freedom and independence
Suggestions for Coping:
Communicate as openly and honestly as possible; accept your feelings as normal and not a threat to your relationship
Try to be patient with yourself, partner and children
Renegotiate household roles and responsibilities to share the workload
Celebrate together the personal growth each has achieved
Seek professional counseling, contact your doctor, chaplain or social worker for assistance in copying with stress
Continue to participate in a support group/network
Be aware of the signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and seek professional help
Suggestions for Parents of Single Returning Personnel
-Remember that young people may experience significant changes (physical, emotional, spiritual, social) during the deployment, particularly if this was the first prolonged absence from family and/or the USA
-Be patient; let your son/daughter know you are interested in hearing about the deployment experience whenever he/she is ready to talk about it
-Show acceptance and support of signs of increasing independence and maturity
-Maintain contact with families of other deployed personnel; share your concerns and frustrations