is one of the most difficult times for families and they need a lot of
support during this stage of the deployment cycle. Although there is a lot of pressure for a happy reunion, a
lot has happened in the family since the parent was away. For example, young children may have grown up and developed new skills and resilience, while the at-home parent has grown in coping skills and independence and is used to running the household by themselves.
The absent parent may be emotionally and physically spent and often unable to communicate any traumatic experiences they may have endured. The absent parent has also been in an environment that is highly structured and where people follow rules. Unfortunately, families with young children don’t normally operate that way. People in the military are very good at following rules, but young children are not renowned for this.
It is important to remember that some parents do get leave after they return, but some do not and may have to return to the ship or base, so they may not be around for a while.
Sometimes children can be very excited to see their parent but then withdraw as a self-protective mechanism to avoid further hurt. Understanding that the parent has returned for a long time may not have occurred. They may be worried the parent will go away again and so keeping a distance is easier for them. This is hurtful for the returned parent and the at-home parent to experience. Additionally, parents often report problems with children not wanting one or the other parent to assist them at times. For example, they may only want the more familiar parent to make them breakfast or help with their shoes, or they may be very upset if the returned parent starts to help them do something they have just learned to do. Thus, the household can be quite fragile for a time.
A resurfacing of the reactions above may occur, and parents may need further support in this area.
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