It’s very difficult to be a parent in the military, not only for the one who wears the uniform, but for the spouse and children. Many days are spent away from home, either in training or direct performance of duty. When those days are stretched out into weeks, months, or even a year, routines are changed, workloads increase, especially for the mother (and sometimes the father when the mother is deployed)!
Most often it is the dad who wears the uniform. When he is gone life changes for all! A year in the life of a child is an eternity. At first, it hurts that Dad isn’t there. Then another routine sets in, but he is still sorely missed. After a period of time, the child forgets what it is like to have Dad around, especially for younger children. Mom’s get used to doing things a certain way, and being independent is a way of life. When dad returns, it is absolute euphoria! The family is back together and everyone is happy, for a while.
When the euphoria dies, real life comes into play. There is a mom’s way, and a dad’s way. Both can be effective but they are different. When Dad returns, it can be confusing to the child and frustrating for the mother. Adjustments are necessary! This provides an extra tension that add to the normal tensions that come with a family trying to work together. Hopefully, after a while, things begin to smooth out, and just when they do, another deployment comes up. I know one soldier who has been on assignments away from his family five of the last 14 years!
What military dads need to do is be aware of the pitfalls. Very stressful deployments can change you, at least for a period of time. Failures in communication and frustration among all is normal and can be overcome.
Some things to do and think about for a military father, back from deployment:
- Be involved when you are home but don’t overdo it. Give it time.
- Be patient with the fact your homecoming is full of emotion and confusion.
- Be slow in restating your authority.
- Be fun to be around as much as you can be.
- Thank your wife for her sacrifices!
- Tell your kids that they are special because less than one in a hundred sacrifice their needs to serve the country through their dad.
- Watch habits and language that have become normal without family and children around.
- Ask your family questions about any struggles that may have happened while you were gone.
- When you have to blow off steam, go somewhere where it won’t affect loved ones.
- Remember that what you do is difficult and mistakes can and will happen. Don’t punish yourself!
- Give a copy of my book to returning vets - "The Power of Dadhood". I’m trying to get it to Family Readiness Centers so it is available for free.
- Get outside help if you need it. Listen to your wife and kids if they think you need it.
- A wonderful charitable organization that will help the children of military families is “Little Patriots Embraced". Please click on their name and learn what they can do for you if you are a military family in need.
God Bless military families!