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Navy families face time of adjustment
While the initial fanfare, emotional embraces and media blitz has died down, the sailors return to a normal life is a journey all its own. Men and women deployed on the USS Camden and USS Abraham Lincoln for the past 10 months have spent weeks preparing for the big day and the day-to-day changes ahead.
The Family Services Center at Naval Station Bremerton offers deployed sailors and their families classes and tools to better cope with separation and subsequent reunions.
It takes anywhere from two to six weeks to adjust to the changes, said Denise Thomson, Life Skills Site Manager at Naval Station Bremerton.
A new fathers workshop is held on the ship to prepare sailors for foreign terrain known as taking care of a baby. Anatomically correct dolls are used to help fathers get the diaper changing, baby holding and bottle feeding skills honed before they meet their hold for the first time.
The return and reunion program is usually started before the ship reaches Hawaii, but this time around the team met them in Hawaii.
Even though this deployment was nearly twice as long, the adjustment time isnt expected to double, Thomson said.
Its not an expectation that this readjustment will be anymore difficult, she said.
The Family Services Center offers these hints for a happy homecoming:
For the partner
l Life at sea is structured and your partner may want to be spontaneous or relax with not many planned activities. Compromise, so both are happy.
l Your partner might tell stories about port calls, but remember these are a small part of deployment.
l Be patient, your partner might be used to issuing orders. Reestablishing communication may take some time.
l Dont get caught in the Who Had It Worse game.
For the returning
l Things might not be the same as you left them. Take time to observe routines at home.
l Your partner might have gotten used to making all of the decisions. Be patient as you re-negotiate responsibilities.
l Although your partner might be more independent, they still need you and want you back home.
As a family
l Include children in homecoming plans. Ask for their ideas.
l Plan time together as a family and plan time for the returning parent to spend one-on-one with the children.
l Realize kids react to change and they may misbehave more to get the once-deployed parents attention. Sometimes misbehaving is the only way the child knows how to react to stress.
l Share your feelings with your kids.
If problems arise, Thomson recommends using the Navys Counseling Advocacy and Prevention Services at 1-866-854-0638.