How to Help War Heroes Adjust to Being Home
Returning From War is Not Always a Joyous Occasion
Dear April Masini,
My father is set to return from his first tour of duty in the Middle East next week. I have a friend who recently had the same experience, and though she was very happy to have her dad home, she said that it was a difficult time and he didn't seem that happy to see his family sometimes.
I know my dad's been through a lot, and I want to make this as easy as possible for him. How should I act around him?
Sincerely, Army Brat"
April Masini's Advice :
Dear Army Brat,
I get a lot of letters and e-mails from readers who are struggling to integrate into society as a family after a family member has returned from military deployment. The integration and reorientation is tough and takes a toll on relationships.
Here are some tips for families welcoming back a loved one from deployment:
*Loosen your expectations. Understand that what you expect may be different from what will happen. Know that your loved one has just been through an experience that you cannot understand first hand. He or she is the only one of you who has been through it, in most cases. Your expectations of the reunion and reintegration and reorientation are colored only by your life. Your family member's reorientation is going to be colored by his or her life -- and that is different than yours. Be as flexible as you can about adjusting your expectations and understand that you cannot possibly know what the reorientation and reintegration will be like. This will make it easier on you and your family member and your family and friends.
*Communicate to your family and friends that you don't know how the reorientation will work out. They will have expectations, and if you feel responsible in any way for their expectations and feelings, you're going to get caught in a bad trap that will impact your behavior and your relationships. Keep your mantra: We love him or her, and we don't know what this reorientation will be like. We're going to try and stay loose and love each other.
*Let your family member who is returning set the pace. Don't schedule the month with all kinds of activities and have to be there at that time dates. Your family member returning may be exhausted, sad, emotional, energetic, ill -- you just don't know. So watch, share your feelings, and let the returning family member take the lead in the family routine. If you have children, this will require some balancing on your part.
*Take care of yourself because you will be the caretaker for your returning family member. Be sure to get sleep, good food, exercise, and eliminate as much stress as possible from your life so that you can be healthy and strong because you just don't know what your loved one's return will bring.