Reconnecting after deployment: Children ages 5-12

Tips to help children ages 5-12 reconnect with their service member when they return.

This is the second article in a series titled, Reconnecting after deployment by Michigan State University Extension. Deployments are a normal part of life for military families, but they can still be hard to navigate.  When a service member returns home after a long deployment it can be a mixture of emotions for both the family and the service member. Homecoming can be a confusing time for younger children with a mixture of emotions that they may not be able to understand or manage on their own.

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 5-12 reconnect to their service member. 

Children 5-12-years-old may show some of these common reactions:

  • Fearful or fears they didn’t do a good job while the parent was away
  • Unsure of new discipline rules with parent returning, afraid of how things will change
  • Proud of the military and their parent for their service

To help reconnect to children 5-12 years, try the following:

  • Have them share pictures, school work, activities and scrapbooks with you.  Allow them to talk about what happened while you were gone in their own way.
  • 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 child 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 and the Emotional cycle of deployment which 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-years-olds in Reconnecting after deployment: Children ages 0-5. 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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