Renegotiating a New Normal after Deployment

Section Three: Returning to Daily Life

Anticipating changes can help make reintegration a smoother process.

Just as it’s important to consider the big changes that occur during reintegration, you will also need to renegotiate things in your day-to-day life. One way to set yourself up for success during this time is to expect changes. Service Members have been in a different world – stretching comfort zones, learning new skills, making new friends, and living and working in environments that may be very different from anything previously experienced. This can make coming home a culture shock. Family and friends have also changed. Children have grown physically and developmentally. Spouses have probably become more independent and confident in his/her ability to cope and make decisions. Everyone has taken on new responsibilities, schedules, and routines. It is important to remember that some things have changed, and everyone will have to learn to cope and adapt to those changes. These adjustments will not happen overnight. As you adjust during reintegration, it is normal to feel like you need your space, and carving out this alone time is an important part of reintegration.

Set aside time to reconnect and open the door to communication.

It is important to schedule one-on-one time with each close friend and family member. This time can be used to relax, have fun, or talk. Be aware that some people may want to know all about your deployment experience while others won’t want to talk about it at all. Family members and friends should avoid pushing the Service Member to talk about deployment but rather be open to the conversation when the time comes. Take time to assess how roles and responsibilities have changed, determine what each family member’s new role and responsibilities will be, and make a plan to gradually transition to the new normal. Remember, you may not be ready to take on all your former responsibilities right away, and likewise, others may have grown accustomed to their deployment responsibility and may not be eager to give it up.

Renegotiate parenting through positive communication and listening skills.

A deployment may seem like a lifetime to a child. Children have adjusted to not having their Service Member around and now need time to readjust to having this parent home again. Don’t expect children to immediately respond to you in the same way he/she responds to the person who has been the primary caregiver during deployment. It is normal for young children to be hesitant to accept changes, and this can hurt your feelings. It is also normal to feel jealous of the close relationship between a child and the caregiver, even if it is your spouse or parents. As you begin to reintegrate with your children, be patient and don’t try to force interaction. Talking to your children is an important way for you to tell them how much you missed them, how proud you are, and to share your feelings. Encourage your child to share his/her feelings and changes he/she experienced while you were gone. Then stop talking and listen! Remember that feelings are not good or bad. Try to avoid criticizing or making suggestions on how to do or make something better. Listen and be receptive.