In this country, we have a tradition of welcoming our veterans home with jubilation. Images like “V-J Day in Times Square” have become part of our national consciousness. So have small-town parades and videos of military members surprising their spouses, children, and parents.
But the days, months, and years after the parades often get less attention. And those are the times when veterans and family members need support most. To help make the transition easier, here are our reintegration tips for military families.
Adjust Your Expectations
When you’ve spent months or even years away from your loved one, it’s natural to want them to come home. You may have struggled in their absence and are looking forward to a return to life as it was. But normal may look different than you expect, especially as your loved one adjusts to life away from the intensity of the military. Make sure to keep an open mind.
Take Time To Get Reacquainted
Months and years can change a person, especially after the trauma of war. This may be intimidating at first, and you may struggle with the idea that they aren’t the same person. But love is indomitable, even in the face of change. Things don’t have to be exactly the way they were before. Use the weeks after their return to get to know each other again.
Be Honest and Open
Be honest about your feelings and invite others to be honest about theirs. Even if you’re glad to be together, you may find that you feel a complex mess of odd emotions as well. Instead of suppressing or hiding these emotions, find ways to address them honestly.
Being honest and open doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone will address everything that’s on their mind all the time. There are likely things your loved one won’t want to discuss. It’s important to accept that. Let them know you are willing to hear them out if they want to talk.
As much as you want to support each other as a family, there may be challenges that your family isn’t equipped to meet, such as injuries or emotional turmoil. Fortunately, there are resources out there designed to assist reintegration in military families.
For instance, if your loved one is coming home with an injury that impacts their mobility, look for tools that will help preserve their independence. Find resources that will help you improve the wheelchair accessibility of your home and consider obtaining a handicap accessible car. Look up counseling services and support groups for you and your loved ones. Before you know it, you all will feel that they’ve truly returned home.