Reintegration: Are your expectations realistic?
Three Key Steps to Help You and Your Family
We have all seen the heart tugging videos of veterans surprising family members with their return. Children’s faces revealing the love they have for their Mom or Dad in uniform, squealing with glee, and embracing them with what would appear as everlasting hugs. These videos will warm the soul of any viewer and suggest that everything will be perfect from this point forward.
With these pictures in mind, the script has now been written for veterans and their families, with the expectation of reintegration set, but is it realistic for the long term or even the short term? It seems that much attention has been given to preparing for veterans and their families for deployment, but limited advice for conducting a successful return. So what can you expect and what steps can you take to help your reintegration.
It’s easy to conjure in our minds the perfect utopian reunion with our spouse and family members. Realistic? Probably not. Let’s face it, humans adjust to circumstances and from those, change in different ways. That includes you and your family. Your spouse has been running the show in your absence, maybe to your liking and maybe not, but they were doing the best they could. Acknowledge and praise their efforts in holding the family unit together. There may have been bad decisions in areas of finances, child rearing, or even fidelity.
Until each of us is put in these situations, we will never be certain how we would respond. Can you guarantee 100% that you would have handled things in perfect order? None of us can, so don’t expect anyone else to. There may be problems when you come home, but patience can be your greatest ally to your transition back into the family unit. Don‚Äôt expect to immediately take on the responsibility of tasks that you handled before. Ease into this slowly. Communication is vital and yet communication, many times, is the first casualty of the reintegration process. You need to talk through your issues, but even better, start the discussion, prior to your arrival. Assure your spouse or partner, that whatever the issue, that pulling together it can be worked through. Be willing to give things time. Also, realize that your arrival may not be a picture perfect reunion. Your flight may arrive late, kids may be tired and cranky, or may even be scared of you, if it has been some time. Allow yourself and your family to expect a flawed reunion and anything better than that will be great.
Children face some of the most significant changes during the time that you were away. Your daughter has now entered puberty, her hormones have kicked in, and she is not the same person, as when you left. She may indicate that she doesn’t need you in her life, but this isn’t probably true, and she is going to need you to be available and take the time to talk. Easy? Absolutely not!! It’s called parenting. Spend one on one time with sons, daughters, and your spouse or partner, to begin establishing the relationships again, but realize that the relationship may never be the same, and that it will take time. Do fun things together, this allows both you and them to laugh and enjoy each other. Remember, they are getting to know you too.
Be Honest with Yourself
It’s okay to admit that you have changed. We all change, based upon the experiences of our lives. Change doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but it does require an adjustment on your part and the part of those around you. Communicating with family members will help them adjust to your changes and the changes that have taken place within their lives too. This may be very difficult for you and it may take time, maybe even lots of time. But, it is worth it, not only for your family, but for yourself too. You may even feel that you can’t communicate what’s different with your family right away. This is perfectly normal. Chaplains and counselors are a wonderful resource to help you and your family reestablish the lines of communication and help through this adjustment period.
Remember, life changes every day and with each change comes a new challenge. Working through these changes with your spouse and family can be some of the most difficult, but also the most rewarding experiences you will ever have. Just remember to start with realistic expectations of yourself and those around you and your reintegration will be much easier.
This guest was written by author, Russ Hovendick, the founder of Directional Motivation and President of Client Staffing Solutions, Inc, which provides free career resources to veterans and their families. He has authored three books including ‚ÄúDeployment to Employment: A guide for military veterans transitioning to civilian employment;‚Äù ‚ÄúHow to interview: What employers want to hear in today‚Äôs competitive job market;‚Äù and ‚ÄúHow to get a raise: The correct way to ask for an increase in salary and wages.‚Äù