Successfully Co-Parenting After Deployment
Updated: Sep 18, 2017
One of the unique challenges that military families are faced with is the unplanned presence and absence of the other parent. Most military parents have to deploy for short or long periods of time during any given time, this can affect the “flow in the house” and if we are not careful the children can be affected by this change in a negative way. To survive this unstable condition in our family life, these are the things I do to keep my head above the water.
Effective communication is key in any part of our relationships, through communication we can let our partners know how we feel and why we do things a certain way. Never assume that the other person understands; never assume that certain knowledge of a concept is common sense. Always communicate with your partner to make sure that they understand why you make certain decisions relating to your family life.
In our family, my husband and I are on the same page about our house rules, that way even when he comes back from a long deployment, he knows the status quo and can just fit in. Establishing house rules also makes it easy for the children to transition when daddy leaves and when he comes back because everything stays the same except for his presence or absence.
2. Keep Your Routine the Same
Most of us struggle with actively involving our spouses back into the house routine after they have been absent, especially for long periods of time.
I am a strong believer in routines. I believe that routines help keep my children grounded, they might be young, but they are smart and they have expectations and feelings, and I feel that if I keep things the same, whether George is home or not, this makes their lives a little bit easier.
I keep all our routines the same all year round whether my husband is absent or not. After he returns from deployment, I brief him on what plans we have ahead the next day, whether it be dropping off the children at school, taking a trip to the grocery store or the local museum, or whether it be making popsicles at home. I inform him of our plans and I invite him to join us, but I also let him know that we understand that he is tired and if he cannot join us we won’t feel upset. Not only do I communicate this to him, I also communicate the same thing to the “very excited to see daddy” children. I explain to them what plans we have the next day, and if daddy cannot join us, it is ok because we are going to see him when we come back home or when he wakes up.
3. Listen To Your Partner
When our partners deploy, we are left to hold down the fort, if in a position where you cannot speak with your partner during their absence, you are left to make all the decisions. You are also left to be the parent that the children look up to for everything. It is best to remind yourself to accommodate your partner in the decision making process when they come back, because it might be easy to forget that. Be mindful not to make them feel that their opinion does not matter. Keep in mind that they are also trying to find a way to fit back into the family routine and being heard can help a lot.
4. Plan a Special Family Event
Whether it is a trip to the local museum or to the beach, it does not have to be anything fancy or expensive. Some local museums offer military families free entrance, do your research and plan a simple little day trip for the family. It is best to plan a little family trip to change the atmosphere a bit and have family fun. This provides something that the children can be excited about and they will also get a chance to build new memories. This can come in handy because when the other parent is gone, they can have a special memory to hold onto and also they can be excited about them coming back so that they can create more fun memories.
5. Seek Help When Necessary
Every one has a breaking point, the difference is that do you acknowledge it or do you choose to ignore it until it is too late. I prefer the former, if you feel that you “cannot handle it anymore” speak to your partner and make a plan to seek help. If you want to be discreet about it programs such as FOCUS might be a great place to start or follow this link: Military One Source for more resources.
Deployment is a part of many military jobs, yes it can be frustrating but it is our “duty” as parents to try to make our children’s lives as normal as we can. I find it that these principles helps me a lot to provide a stable environment for my children to grow up in.