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Welcome to the National Guard Family Program e-learning lesson on Reintegration for Children. During a deployment, the entire family is affected. For children, even just a few months of separation from a parent can seem like a lifetime. Children will have a range of behavioral and emotional responses during the reunion and reintegration process. Service members may have wonderful fantasies about their reunion. Yet they may be surprised or disappointed by how their children actually react to them. It’s helpful when parents can anticipate children’s possible responses and use age-appropriate strategies to help them through the joys and challenges of this transition period. At the end of this lesson, you will be able to identify child behavioral and emotional responses to reintegration, specify effective strategies to enhance a positive family reintegration experience for the child.

This lesson will help you understand children’s reintegration responses and how to help them through the process.

Children—based on their stage of development, their individual temperament, the responsiveness of parents, and the level of stress at home—may have a variety of responses to the return of a parent who was deployed. This lesson will identify the wide array of responses children of different ages can have during reintegration. When parents understand and plan for children’s various needs during reintegration, there can be more satisfying outcomes for the family.

Children need time to adjust.

When a service member is deployed, children go through a significant adjustment period. When that parent returns, children also need time to adapt to his or her reentry into the family. It can be a confusing time for children of all ages, and it’s natural for them to have the same feelings of apprehension and fear that they did before the deployment.

A long separation may be a source of emotional strain for children and parents alike. However, children are generally not as skilled at coping with stress because they have less experience doing so. As a result, they may temporarily regress to a less mature stage of behavior during the deployment, as well as during reintegration. With patience and loving care, service members and their children can rebuild closeness and special relationships in the weeks and months after homecoming.