Recconecting after deployment: Children ages 13-18

Learn tips to help children ages 13-18 reconnect with their service member after a deployment.

This is the third and final article in an article series by Michigan State University Extension titled Reconnecting after deployment. Deployments are a normal part of life for military families but they can still be hard to navigate. Homecoming can be a confusing time for older youth because of the mixture of emotions and reactions that they may experience with the return of their service member.

It’s important to remember that each family and each child is unique in how they deal with homecoming; not all children will show each reaction or may show different reactions. Here are some common reactions and tips recommended by Operation: Military Kids Ready, Set, Go training to help children ages 13-18 reconnect to their service member.

Children 13-18 years may show some of these common reactions:

  • Excited for service member to be home, esxpecially if they had a positive relationship prior to the deployment
  • Can feel guilty about not living up to service members standards (lower grades, change in friends, etc.)
  • Is concerned about rules and responsibilities changing again now that service member is home
  • Unwilling to change plans to accommodate service member
  • Is challengeing or rebellious

To help reconnect to children 13-18 years, try the following:

  • Share what has happened with you; don’t be afraid to talk to them about your experiences and challenges
  • Listen with undivided attention to show the youth that you are interested in them
  • Don’t be judegmental or tease them about their friends, appearance, interests, music, etc.
  • Respect their privacy and friends; get to know their friends
  • Praise what they have done and tell them why you are praising them
  • Try not to critize them for mistakes or mishaps while you were away, instead focus on what they did to correct those or how they helped the family out while you were gone
  • Don’t force the relationship. Allow time for everyone to adjust to the changes that homecoming brings to the family
  • Enjoy time together as a family, but also spend one-on-one time with each youth doing something they enjoy so that you can reconnect and have fun together

If you are interested in activities that can help your family reconnect, visit the MSU Extension website and take a look at the 4-H Military Family Booksheets. These are helpful activities to help families during deployment all based around children’s books. If you are looking for more articles about deployment support, check out 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.The Emotional cycle of deployment explains each stage of the deployment cycle and gives helpful activities you can do to keep your family connected. You can find tips to support reconnecting after a deployment with 0-5, and 5- to12-year-olds in Reconnecting after deployment: Children ages 0-5 and Reconnecting after deployment: Children ages 5-12. You can also find additional deployment support information as well as a listing of events for military families on the Military OneSource website, the Operation: Military Kids website and the 4-H Military Partnerships website.

Other articles in this series:

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