Counting down the last few weeks of your spouse’s deployment you may feel excitement, absentminded and becoming unstable at the thought of making everything perfect for homecoming. Even with the excitement that fills our hearts, there can be an overwhelming feeling that is associated with all the other emotions of homecoming. What do we do with the feelings of worry over reintegration and parenting?
Reaching the end of my husband’s eight month TDY (temporary duty), we knew things would have to change again. We would all eventually settle back into our normal routines and roles. For eight months, my children had come to me for everything. Every question, every argument that needed settling and every moment of comfort, I was the go to parent. I was also the one who dealt with punishments and gave permission when needed. They would soon have two parents in the house who could share those duties, but that’s not what happened.
While my husband was away, I had developed a routine and a method of discipline that worked for my “solo parenting”. By the time my husband was home, the kids were used to this system. Unfortunately, he wasn’t and it threw us all off. They still came to me for every need, and when he tried to discipline, it ended in more tears and arguments because it wasn’t the way they were used to. During these tough moments, I would step in and try to correct the situation. Looking back now, it only made things worse. My kids were confused as to whom they would listen to, and it confused my husband in regards to his role as a parent. While I expected to have adjustment difficulties like this, it broke my heart – this homecoming wasn’t as welcoming for us as I had pictured it to be in my mind.
A lot changed in eight months - we were all forced into making changes that worked for us in order to survive eight months without daddy. My husband walked out the door with things a certain way and expected it all to be the same when he returned. Understandable, but the transition cycle is harder than just taking off one hat and putting on another.
So, how do you make this transition of having two parents in the house easier on everyone involved? How do you help the kids understand that both parents are in charge, and how do you let the returning parent know how things were done in their absence without making them feel like an outsider?
Patience and open communication was helpful in making the transition easier, letting everyone know what expectations and rules were in the house now that dad is home. Also, keeping my husband updated on how the kids had changed while he was away. Giving helpful solutions for discipline that had been working for us, helped make the transition back into his parenting role a bit smoother. This also helped ease the tension of him transitioning back home, the last thing a returning parent wants to do is spend the majority of the time feeling lost in their own home. A big lesson learned was realizing it was okay to take a step back from parenting. Both the kids and my husband needed to have time to get acquainted and find what worked for them. I could serve as a guide, but ultimately they had to connect in their own ways.
Reintegration is not a race. We all need the benefit of time, patience and communication to help reconnect as a family unit.
What are some helpful reintegration tips used that have helped you, your children and spouse to reconnect after a deployment?
About the blogger:
Angela Caban is an Army National Guard spouse, freelance writer, published author and branding expert. Her husband was one of the many soldiers impacted by the unprecedented activation of the National Guard in 2008. In 2010, she founded the Homefront United Network, a military spouse and family support blog created to assist spouses who do not live near an installation, but also focusing on bridging the gap between National Guard, Reserve and Active Duty spouses. She is also the co-founder of SpouseTalks. As a branding and digital influencer, she has created content for A&E, Lifetime Network and PBS. She has an extensive background in Human Resources and Communications, with her Bachelor’s in Business Administration and a Master’s in Human Resources. Angela resides in the beautiful Garden State of New Jersey with her husband of 11 years and two children.
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