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Families can overcome stress from separation

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Gregory Ditzler
  • 90th Security Forces Squadron c
The global-reach capability of the Expeditionary Air Force is an exciting change to our Air Force culture. However, with EAF comes separation from home and family.

As a commander, the results of that painful separation are all too clear when my first sergeant and I assist families in coping with separation-related problems.

The Air Force has increased its focus on family support over the years, but separation causes unique problems within the family that only the family members themselves can overcome.

Here are some tips to combat separation problems:

Realize that before the deployment begins, stress and anxiety will build.

Take time as a family to plan how you'll maintain communication during the separation.

Build a reliable family support net consisting of squadron and local community contacts, relatives and friends.

Discuss known future events that will occur in the family during the separation (such as major purchases, birthdays), so some joint decisions can be made face-to-face in advance.

Assure one another of the confidence you share in the relationship and the strength the family possesses to overcome challenges.

Communicate before and during a TDY or remote. Communication is key to maintaining a strong and peaceful relationship during the time apart. My wife doesn't mind me sharing that our first big argument in our marriage occurred when I was half way around the world starting a remote tour. We were married only three months, and I was busy feeling sorry for myself. I got really upset at her over a trivial matter -- what a wasted morale call that was. Looking back, I should have realized my young wife was also going through a difficult period being on her own for the first time.

Keep your phone calls positive at all costs.

You might need to discuss difficult subjects, but remember each of you will review negative words many times after you hang up.

E-mail is a great tool to keep each other updated, so consider investing in a home computer and possibly a laptop for the deploying member. Some deploying members have even purchased video capability for their personal computers.

Videotapes are a great way to share birthday parties and your baby's first steps.

Regular mail, while slow, delivers valued greeting cards and treats from home. I still have my daughters' drawings that decorated my area while far from home.

There is no substitute for the good old love letter.

Communicate after a TDY or remote, too. Homecomings can create lifelong memories. However, remember real-life homecomings don't necessarily look or feel like those in the movies. Realize family and friends change and the member has as well, so build in plenty of time to adjust to one another.

Routines at home may have changed in the military member's absence, so allow time to adjust.

Understand your spouses may have increased their senses of independence during your TDY, but this doesn't mean the returning military member isn't needed or important.

It's important to understand that military family members serve the Air Force as well and make sacrifices to keep our country free. So let's keep the family strong, while keeping the nation strong.