It is impossible to overestimate the effects of war on military families. War creates stress on families that goes beyond the day-to-day difficulties experienced in family life. When a family member is deployed to a war zone, everyone is affected. Parents, spouses, and children of deployed service members are the most directly affected by war, but members of the extended family are also affected by war. Even service members who have not been deployed to a war zone may find their families affected by the threat of deployment. If more than one member of a nuclear family, for example a mother and father or two brothers, are both deployed, it can have an even more profound effect on the family.
Effects of War on Family Members
Different people in the family are often affected in varying ways.
Parents of Military Personnel
Parents often have misgivings, even in peacetime, about a son or daughter enlisting in the military. Wartime presents real threats than can cause additional anxiety for parents. The possibility of losing a child, even in support of a country or cause in which the parent strongly believes, is unfathomable. Parents who send more than one child to a war zone face even more worry.
Spouses of Military Personnel
When a service person is deployed to a war zone, the spouse who remains behind must take on full responsibility for the household and the family. In addition, the parent who stays at home must fulfill the roles of both father and mother while the other parent is gone. The remaining spouse must also reassure his or her spouse's parents and any children, while dealing with his or her own anxiety. Despite reassuring and caring for other family members, the spouse who remains at home may experience loneliness, isolation, fatigue, and financial issues from loss of income, especially in the case of reservists who leave more lucrative employment for deployment.
Children of Military Personnel
Children of military personnel who are deployed to war zones face long periods of time without a parent. In fact, the deployed parent may miss the birth of a new baby, not meeting the child until the child is many months old. While other children can bring both parents to school events and youth groups, a child in a military family may bring mom or grandpa, an uncle, or a friend as a substitute for dad. Children may act out at home and at school; often the misbehavior is a result of uncertainty or loneliness.
Any situation that takes a parent away for a long period of time disrupts routines, changes the daily relationship with the remaining parent, and may even estrange young children from the absent parent in extreme cases.
Re-Entry into the Family
When a parent returns from a war zone, re-entry into the family unit may be stressful and can present many problems. The parent's role has, by necessity, been adopted by the other parent during the military member's absence. Very young children may be fearful of the perceived stranger who is suddenly part of the family unit. Returning home can be further complicated when the deployed parent has suffered physical or psychological damage. Physical disabilities can interfere with activities and functions the parent traditionally performed in the family. Psychological conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, can cause alienation, depression, and other symptoms that can limit participation in family life.
Mitigating the Effects of War on Military Families
A number of things can mitigate the effects of war on military families. Military spouses often come together to support and help one another when their partners are deployed to a war zone. Extended family can also provide much-needed support. Some spouses come up with unique ways of coping; communication between the two spouses is an important component of the coping process.
For example, both spouses can keep a blog or an active Facebook page on which they regularly post updates. In this way, the two spouses can keep each other informed of what is happening in each of their daily lives, and if the kids read both blogs too, they will be reassured that the deployed parent is doing well. Knowing what the absent parent's daily life is like can help children, and spouses, immensely. The bottom line is that regular communication among military family members can ease the pain of separation and help mitigate the negative effects of deployment to a war zone.
For each family, different coping strategies may turn out to be the ideal ones. Try different ways of staying in touch, and keep communicating with family in order to stay grounded. Seek professional help when necessary, and remember that every deployment will eventually come to an end, allowing your life to return to how it was before wartime.