Deployment: The emotional cycle of military children

Learn about the emotional cycle of deployment and how you can support the thousands of military children and youth of Michigan.

One of the unique challenges faced by military families is having service members deploy. Photo credit: Pixabay.
One of the unique challenges faced by military families is having service members deploy. Photo credit: Pixabay.

Did you know that there are more than 20,000 military children and youth in the state of Michigan? All branches of the military both active, guard and reserves are represented among Michigan’s military families. Chances are there is a military child or youth in the community or school where you live. It is up to communities to help support our military families by educating themselves about the unique challenges of being a military family. 

One of these unique challenges includes having service members deploy. According to the “Parent’s Guide to the Military Child during Deployment and Reunion,” deployment can be defined as “the movement of an individual or military unit within the United States or to an overseas location to accomplish a task or mission.” These missions or tasks can be training activities, supporting communities during times of disaster, helping foreign countries or fighting in a war.

Deployment can be a very difficult time for both service members and their families. Understanding the different stages of deployment can help provide a supportive environment for children and youth.

The Emotional Cycle of Deployment has seven stages. Each stage is characterized by a general time frame and specific emotional challenges that may be experienced. Michigan State University Extension says that failure to successfully negotiate these stages and challenges can lead to family and individual stress and can have lasting consequences on our children, youth and families.

The seven stages of the Emotional Cycle of Deployment include:

  • Stage 1: Anticipation of departure
  • Stage 2: Detachment and withdrawal
  • Stage 3: Emotional disorganization
  • Stage 4: Recovery and stabilization
  • Stage 5: Anticipation of return
  • Stage 6: Return adjustment and renegotiation
  • Stage 7: Reintegration and stabilization

Over a series of articles we will explore the emotional cycle of deployment and provide some ideas to support military children and youth experiencing the deployment of a service member.

If your family is getting ready for the deployment of a service member, check out the article “Finding Support for Children and Youth with Deployed Family Members” for a helpful checklist on who might support your child or youth during your service member’s deployment. 

You can also find additional deployment support information on theMilitary One Source website, the Operation: Military Kids website and the 4-H Military Partnerships website. Stay tuned for an in-depth look at each of the stages during the emotional cycle of deployment.

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