Managing the Homecoming Process
Much of our experience of events is influenced by our expectations about them, and having realistic expectations of one another and of the process during the homecoming transition can contribute to mental health. Here are some common tendencies regarding the homecoming process and some suggestions for managing them:
Normal parts of the process for Veterans:
- You may miss the excitement of the deployment for a while.
- Some things may have changed while you were gone.
- Face-to-face communication may be hard at first.
- Sexual closeness may also be awkward at first.
- Children will have grown and may be different in many ways.
- Roles may have changed to manage basic household chores.
- Spouses may have become more independent and may have learned new coping skills.
- Spouses may have new friends and support systems.
- You may have changed in your outlook and priorities in life.
- You may want to talk about what you saw and did. Others may seem not to want to listen. Or you may not want to talk about it when others keep asking.
Normal parts of the process for Significant Others:
- Veterans may have changed.
- Veterans, used to the stimulation and the open spaces of the deployment, may feel closed in.
- Veterans also may be overwhelmed by the noise and confusion of home life.
- Veterans may be on a different schedule for sleeping and eating.
- Veterans may wonder if they still fit into the family.
- Veterans may want to take back all the responsibilities they had before they left.
- Veterans may feel hurt when young children are slow to hug them.
Normal parts of the process for Family Members:
- Babies less than 1 year old may not know the returning veteran and may cry when held.
- Toddlers (1-3 years) may also show fear and be slow to come to the returning veteran.
- Preschoolers (3-5 years) may feel guilty over the separation and be scared.
- School-age children (6-12 years) may want a lot of time and attention from the returning veteran and also the significant others.
- Teenagers (13-18 years) may be moody and may appear not to care.
- Veterans may require additional time adjusting to the changes that occured within the family while they were deployed.
- Reunion is part of the deployment cycle and is filled with joy and stress. The following tips can help you have the best possible reunion.
Tips for Veterans for managing the homecoming process:
- COMMUNICATE! Try to involve your significant other in the homecoming experience by sharing your emotions (nervous, scared, happy, uncertain), and Listen. The best way to get through the re-acquaintance jitters and to regain closeness with your loved ones is to talk and actively listen
- If you are not comfortable talking or being close to people around you try to help them understand by communicating in a calm and sincere way that you are in need of some private decompression time and ask for their patience.
- Be aware of how the intensity of your surroundings has changed and how your circumstances may require less intensity and confrontation than during your deployment. If you experience quickness to anger try to catch yourself sooner in the reactive process. It is normal to feel keyed up and on edge after deployment.
- Be prepared to make some adjustments, and go slowly in finding a role in the family.
- Be supportive of good things that your family has done.
- Take time to talk with your significant other and children, making time for each.
- Intimacy and closeness may feel distant at first. Again, be patient and communicate with your partner. You may have been in a dangerous environment where you had to put your emotions and feelings safely away to focus on your job. It is normal to need time to reopen these areas of intimacy and closeness. Expect that sex may be awkward at first.
- Take time to listen and to talk with loved ones.
- Avoid excessive drinking or use of other substances during the transition time. Although these may seem harmless and fun and you may have a sense of “deserving” the relaxation, substance struggles are a serious problem among veterans.
Tips for Significant Others for managing the homecoming process:
- Avoid scheduling too many activities.
- Go slowly in making adjustments.
- It is okay if you and your veteran need time individual time at first to reestablish your roles in the family and your relationship to one another.
- Remind the veteran that he or she is still needed in the family.
- Discuss reallocating family responsibilities and chores to involve the veteran.
- Try to begin the process of making decisions together that you have formerly had to make individually during the deployment. This includes decisions about finances and activities and friendship relations.
- Along with time for the family, make individual time to talk just to each other.
- Be patient with yourself and your partner.
Tips to help Children in managing the homecoming process:
- Go slowly, be patient, and try to understand the roles and routines and rules already in place before changing them. Delay making changes in rules and routines for a few weeks.
- Let the child set the pace for getting to know the veteran again.
- As a veteran try to learn from and build on how your spouse or significant other managed the children in your absence. Don’t make sudden disciplinary changes.
- Be available to your child, both with time and with your emotions.
- Expect that the family will not be the same as before you left; everyone has changed.
- Focus on successes with your children; limit your criticisms. Expect changes in both your significant other and in your children. Adapt accordingly, remembering that most of the changes mean growth and maturity. If some of the changes are negative, be patient; you and your family will have plenty of time to bring things back around to a position of comfort.
Much of this information is modified and adapted from this source.
The Veterans Crisis Line connects Veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring Department of Veterans Affairs responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Support for deaf and hard of hearing individuals is available.
Veterans Heart Georgia: This grass roots organization utilizes innovative approaches to helping veterans of all wars with the entire spectrum of the effects of war and military service. The organization is made up of veterans, mental health professionals and citizens.
CareForTheTroops Inc. is a 501c3 Non-Profit formed to develop a network of civilian faith communities, civic organizations, and networks of therapists all trained and able to work with the military members, veterans, and their families as they adjust to the changes experienced during and after returning from deployments and combat.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Our Mission: IAVA’s mission is to improve the lives of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families.
This is the information for Georgia’s largest provider of VA services and the web site address
- Atlanta VA Medical Center
- 1670 Clairmont Road Decatur, GA 30033
- Phone: (404) 321-6111 hrs. 8:00a.m-4:30p.m.
- Website www1.va.gov/Atlanta 2
- 4-hour VA suicide hot line : 1-800-273-TALK
America's Heroes at Work: Welcome to America's Heroes at Work - a U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) project that addresses the employment challenges of returning service members living with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and/or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
U.S. Vets Over 200,000 veterans will sleep on the streets of our nation tonight. Our VISION is that one day there will no longer be homeless veterans in America...U.S. VETS provides housing, counseling, job assistance, and HOPE to thousands of homeless veterans each year. Our programs foster the skills necessary for every veteran to return to the community and remain self-sufficient.