Military life affects entire families, and while on long tours to multiple deployments, one’s family and children continue to grow back home. Reconnecting with children as a veteran is a complex journey. Navigating the changes in familial dynamics and interests of children as they age can be difficult, especially as one grows into their new veteran life. While wanting to pick up a relationship with a child right where it left off is normal, reconnecting with children is a process filled with stress and uncertainty. However, there are always strategies veterans can use to help ease back into a meaningful relationship with their children.
The Stresses of Missing Out
Depending on the length of tours, frequency, and an abundance of other factors, members of the armed forces can be away from their homes and families for extended periods. Unfortunately, this makes it common to miss out on special events. From birthdays to ball games, military families have to overcome a difficult familial dynamic, and missing key moments from a child’s life can be exceptionally difficult to process.
Reconnecting with children and working to “make up” for this time can come with many mixed emotions. From being nervous about how one will be received upon return, the changes therein, and the stress of trying to make up for this time, reconnecting with children takes dedication and effort.
Whether it is the first time returning from deployment or a familiar experience, veterans themselves and their children will be different each time, with new experiences and perspectives at each stage. However, there are always ways to make the most of one’s time after deployment. Whether between tours or settling into civilian life, taking the proper, dedicated steps to reconnect with children can restore these fruitful relationships at any age.
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While wanting to pick up and return to previous dynamics with one’s child can be tempting, it is important to accept that change has happened during deployment, and returning to these dynamics is not always possible. Trying to pick up where things left off can even be actively detrimental depending on the child, as one may be focusing on interests outside a child’s maturation in one’s absence. However, accepting that there will be changing dynamics can empower veterans to adopt new activities to connect with children in the present.
Changes are a part of the healing process, and addressing personal experiences, trauma, and the use of addictive substances is important when determining how to move forward with one’s relationship with their child.
Also, depending on the age of a child, this change can be drastic, as some children may have taken on more responsibilities or freedoms in one’s absence. Talking about these roles and setting new expectations can be a delicate conversation that should be discussed rather than imposed in order to create a healthy home atmosphere.
It can be tempting to make grand gestures to one’s child in an attempt to reconnect, and while these gestures can be effective, it is always important to find regular, consistent ways to get involved with one’s child.
Cooking dinner, watching a movie, providing transportation to an event or club, or other small activities can ingratiate oneself as a regular part of daily life. Exploring a child’s hobbies—even asking about newfound interests and making an effort to understand them—carries significant weight. Talking to one’s child about the changes while one was gone and their present interests acknowledges the time one was on deployment while opening the doors to new understanding and communication.
Other common ways to get involved could be to create new family traditions, make an effort to listen and ask questions, and be available without forcing a child to compromise their own daily life. Getting involved in cooperative activities can also help develop a supportive dynamic depending on one’s unique relationship, and avoiding competitive outlets during the infancy of this transition can avoid any unnecessary stresses during this time.
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Returning home will affect the family, and there will be various personal and familial changes upon one’s return, both in schedule and even atmosphere. While this is necessary, it is important to be clear about the changes being made. Inviting open discussion can ease this transition between a veteran and their child. Establishing compromises and communication strategies is crucial to avoid any misunderstandings as one returns home, making it easier to connect and communicate with those most important in one’s life.
New rules require time and adjustment, and acknowledging this change together is crucial. Making clear boundaries and consequences is important, with these things created appropriately and not necessarily pulled from a military culture that one’s child may not be accustomed to.
Making Familial Change
Reconnecting with one’s child when returning home as a veteran is a complex affair, and working alongside one’s child and any spouse or other guardians is essential. Military parents and parents on the homefront all face unique stresses, and dedicated family programs, veteran support, and more are all necessary for a healthy transition to a new normalcy. Finding professional outlets to safely discuss these changes and working with one’s spouse to support each other is just as vital for one’s relationship with a child as the other strategies used to create a healthy home atmosphere.
Reconnecting with children in your transition from active duty to the veteran is difficult. We at Hawaii Island Recovery understand the complex nature of this transition and are committed to healing both you and your entire family. From dedicated veteran programs to family plans, we are prepared to help you make the changes in your life needed to reach your goals, all while supporting you and your family through the trials of stress, trauma, or addiction that may be present. Your time with us is supported by our accepting and understanding atmosphere and trained professionals tuned to the unique trials that veterans face. You can reinforce your program with proven therapies and unique spiritual and experiential advantages while healing on the beautiful island of Hawaii. For more information on treatment programs in Hawaii and taking the next step in your healing journey, call (866) 390-5070.