The good news is…my spouse is coming home! The bad news is…my spouse is coming home. It can be a scary time. Whether a family member is returning from overseas deployment, stateside assignment, or other extended time apart, there is always a certain adjustment period that takes place. The longer a person is gone and the more stressful the assignment, the longer the adjustment period.
Keep in mind, the absence of a parent or spouse creates the need for a complete change in the day-to-day routine of a household. Chores are reassigned, driving schedules are rearranged, carpools are adjusted, and every other responsibility from paying the bills to doing the grocery shopping has been transferred. With the help of a great family, life had to go on in your absence.
The return of the absent party is anxiously anticipated. But then what? By the time he or she returns, your family has likely finally attained some level of normalcy and fluidness. To ease the returning process, Elaine Dumler’s new book, I’M ALREADY HOME, offers some key “do’s” and “don’ts” to make the re-acclamation process a whole lot smoother:
- Plan some special dates for you and your special someone to let them know how much you missed them and to say “thank you” for keeping the household running well in your absence.
- There will be a transition period where you’ll become “reacquainted” again as a family. Take time to observe your children in their everyday routines, and slowly allow yourself to become a part of those routines again.
- Sit down with your kids and spouse and share those parts of your deployment that you’re comfortable with sharing. Answer questions that they might have and the one’s they may be afraid to ask.
- Make every effort to get caught up on many of the things you missed, no matter how trivial they might seem.
- To help reacquaint yourself with your spouse, the key is to share your expectations with each other. How do you both view the reintegration process? What chores do you want to keep…give away?
- Offer to do an errand or chore that you know your significant other hates to do (i.e. drive the carpool, make dinner, do the grocery shopping).
- Remember the fact that your family has persevered in your absence and may need time to get used to depending on you again.
- Remember that they missed you as much as you missed them and that unconsciously they may resent the fact that you were gone. Be patient with them. They patiently waited for you.
- Don’t be afraid to discipline your kids. Your absence and the guilt you may feel will not improve because you go lenient on your kids.
- Don’t try and take over all of your previous responsibilities at once. Ask what you can do to help instead of taking over. It is healthy and normal to want to get back into your routine, just be patient with the transition process.
- Don’t overcompensate. It is human nature to grow and learn and improve as a person. But don’t try and become superman overnight. Your family missed you, not a super improved version of you. What they need now is consistency, patience and love.
Finally, know that feelings of anxiety and nervousness are normal…for everyone. You may wonder: “will they still need me and love me?…be proud of me?” Those days surrounding reunion can be stressful. Not everyone will want to be welcomed home with a big party. Some will just need time to collect their thoughts on returning home and will need quiet time for a while. That’s why you should plan out reunion activities together so everyone’s needs can be balanced. Get back into regular routines slowly…and communicate! Depend on your support for each other.