Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dealing with Deployment of Family Member

Dealing with family separation as a parent deploys is tough on the family. The first stage in a separation occurs when the family receives notice of the pending departure. Emotions may range from feelings of loss to denial, such as asking “Do you really have to go?”

The person leaving will begin to get their affairs in order for their departure. Everyone affected over the pending separation feels stress. Children may sense the stress and act out, have tantrums or regress to more child-like or infant-like behaviors, such as sucking a bottle or pacifier or toileting accidents. As a family, how do you prepare emotionally? Here are some ideas:

• Have a family meeting to talk about the up-coming separation. Parents should be consistent with each other so children understand that normal expectations still apply.

• Discuss how the family will continue to communicate and be in tough with one another during the separation time.

When the individual actually leaves, there will be mixed emotions ranging from anger to relief that the anticipation is over. Family members may feel a sense of being overwhelmed, numb, sad or alone. It is important to:

• Continue weekend or bedtime routines. Continue family traditions on holidays, birthdays, etc.

• Use visuals like a calendar or a timeline to help children understand when communication will occur or when reunification will happen. However, be careful about making promises that you have no control over.

• Develop a support system of friends, family and others who are experiencing the same transitions.

• Ask for help when you need it. Your family, friends and neighbors will probably be very happy to lend a helping hand when the family needs it.

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