Living apart from family members is never easy. This is especially true for military personnel, who often leave for months at a time and may be in dangerous situations. One way to combat the common anxieties service members and their families feel prior to deployment is to prepare and plan ahead. Here are some general steps to take leading up to your departure.
Don’t do it alone.
Meet with your branch or unit. It will be a helpful resource for both you and your family. These offices provide departure checklists, emergency resources, and an overview of what to expect from deployment.
Organize your family’s paperwork.
Important documents should be in a safe place inside your home, in case any unexpected matters should arise while you’re away. Birth certificates, insurance policies, mortgage information, social security cards, etc. should all be in a place where your partner can easily access them. All family members are encouraged to have valid passports on hand as well.
Make a plan.
You and your partner should create a personal, logistical plan for your family, including budget. How is the daily living going to work? Do you need extra childcare during this time? Is there an aging parent or relative who needs regular attention? You will need to make a schedule for your family that will address all these commitments. A financial plan must also be in place to allow for things like extra childcare, senior care, transportation costs, etc.
Think about storage.
If you live alone and are ending an apartment lease at the time of your departure, you’ll want to look into storage options for your belongings. Local self-storage can provide you secure units at a reasonable price (most offer discounts for military personnel).
Consider the emotional cycle.
With so much going on, you may feel the need to put aside personal feelings and just “get through it.” However, it may help to familiarize yourself with the general stages of emotion families progress through, and know that it is a common and temporary part of this process.
The cycle typically begins with nervous anticipation of the upcoming deployment. Family members may pull away, attempting to make the separation easier. Once the deployed partner has left, the remaining partner often goes through a period of emotional disorganization, exhaustion, and general burnout from being in charge of all the needs of the family. But after some time, the chaos breaks and stabilization occurs, as the family gains confidence and comfort in its new routine. And, although it is obviously a time of great joy and relief, the return of the service member will require some adjustment on everyone’s part, as well as time for the regular family routine to reemerge.
Nothing can truly prepare you for the reality of life as a deployed service member or as part of the family he or she leaves behind. However, by carefully planning and gaining an understanding of the process, you can lay the foundation for a smooth routine at home and feel a certain amount of control during this uncertain time.