LIfe With MIlitary
Effects of Having a Family Member in Military
Since 2001, the military of the United States of America has sent over 2.7 million soldiers on assignment to Afghanistan and Iraq.
Although the conflicts no longer make headlines, veterans and active service members, including their families still grapple with the effects of deployment. The effects go beyond the severe psychological trauma and permanent physical disability that veterans experience.
According to a RAND Corporation study, after veterans reunite with their families, they return to their pre-deployment family levels and general wellbeing.
However, previous studies linked deployment to negative behavior among kids and increased risk of divorce. Military families, even when the nation isn’t at war, deal with all kinds of stresses ranging from the absence of a parent to frequent moves.
Families have to deal with extra problems when a family member is deployed to war.
Military families experience multiple challenges pre, during and post deployment. The cycle of emotions initiates when the family receives deployment news.
The first reaction is a mix of strong short-lived emotions such as anger and fear. As the date for deployment departure nears, the family may experience detachment and withdrawal; it’s a way for the family members to deal with the deployed member’s impending physical absence.
Some feelings and experiences military families face include:
- Sadness and loneliness
- Overwhelming feelings
- Worry, concern or panic
- Financial difficulties
- Increased family responsibilities and duties
- Fear for the safety of the deployed member
- Making new friends and learning new skills
- Concerns over being loved and needed
The manner in which children react when a parent is deployed to war varies from one child to another. Factors that affect how a child reacts and distress level include:
- Mental health problems
- Behavioral problems
- Mental health of the parent who remains home, especially for young children
Parents who deal with the deployment stress successfully usually experience little to no behavioral or mental health problems in their children.
What Happens Post-Deployment Service?
Deployment experiences make military families and service members more responsible. Despite facing several challenges, they experience growth.
Readjusting back to life after deployment usually takes time.
Even service members who’ve been deployed before do experience new challenges with each deployment and family reunion. Known to be both stressful and happy, reunions have a short “honeymoon” period post-demobilization.
The active service member has gone through trauma.
Children have grown.
Family members who stayed behind have changed.
The family has also had new experiences and situations. Therefore, family members may become angry for all the things they dealt with in the absence of the active service member.
New relationships have been formed and accomplishments made in the absence of the service member. The latter lead to pride.
Some families also deal with infidelity, hence the need to discuss each partner’s commitment to the relationship. Common stress reactions after deployment affect family members.
Veterans’ reactions and common symptoms post-deployment that affect family and relationships include:
- Dissociative symptoms – failing to recognize where you are
- Sleep issues
- Sexual problems
- PTSD and other mental health problems, and related issues
Just like active service members post-deployment, family members also need to readjust to life with their partners after they return. Recognize that both the family and the veteran or service member have grown and changed.
Therefore, the relationship will change too.
Get reacquainted and set boundaries. If you’ve cared for a veteran or returnee service member from deployment, you’ll likely fall back into old patterns.
Try and avoid that because the service member may no longer want or need the kind of care they received in the past.