Published July 29, 2008
As a member of an Air National Guard unit with potential for worldwide deployment on short notice, the following information will aid in making a family separation more manageable.
1. Too often, family members deny the possibility of duty separation, and pretend it is not going to happen. This denial can be emotionally harmful. Once separation occurs, they are likely to find themselves unprepared. It is much healthier for families to face issues directly and become better prepared to positively address the life style changes brought about by separation. Adequate preparation for all family members is the key to minimizing the problems that will inevitably arise during a duty separation. Sometimes families avoid talking about things that bother or worry them. They are afraid that talking about things will make matters worse. In reality, open discussion provides family members the opportunity to clarify potential misunderstandings, get a better idea of what is expected, work out solutions to identified problems, and to better prepare themselves for the coming separation.
2. Having a sense of control over events is a
significant moderator of the stress associated with separation. We all desire some sense of control even in the face of uncontrollable situations. Feeling no control over a situation can lead to characteristics of learned helplessness. The perception of even some control can be enough to lessen most negative responses and become a base for building positive coping behaviors. An individual's appraisal of upcoming events as being highly stressful or undesirable but manageable will significantly influence their coping level. That appraisal is related to the degree to which individuals feel that they have adequate knowledge, coping skills, social support, and some control over future events. Preparation for coming events, especially undesirable events, can greatly alter a person's attitude. Therefore, the importance of education and preparation cannot be overstated. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.
3. Single parents and dual career military couples face the same reality. They may experience even greater stress and responsibility during preparation of the separation. No other parent remains at home and, therefore, separation takes on an increasingly stressful dimension.
4. There is a difference between being ready "to go," and ready "to part." Being ready "to go" means having your duffel bag packed, all shots up to date, and other duty essential preparations completed. Being ready "to part" from your spouse and other family members means being aware of the personal and family issues related to separation, and being prepared to deal as constructively as possible with those issues.
5. Plan ahead. This is one of the keys to a successful family separation. There are many things you can do before you leave. This will prevent your spouse from feeling they have to handle it all alone and you from worrying about all the things left undone.
6. The best place to start is at an assignment or predeployment briefing. Topics discussed are informative ranging from an unclassified intelligence briefing to whom to contact if your allotment or paycheck is late. It will also provide you and your spouse invaluable information about services available through your Guard Family Network and other base agencies.
7. Mark or highlight passages you find particularly interesting or helpful. Some parts you may want to re-read or post on the refrigerator just in case an emergency occurs and you don't have time to find the page you need.
8. Spend an evening with your spouse to discuss the assignment or deployment, how both of you feel, what you worry about, how to handle emergencies, or repair problems, and what you think needs to be done around the house to get things together.
9. Have a "show and tell" day Even if it is the dead of winter, learn how to start and operate the lawn mower. Ask your spouse to show you how to check the oil in the car and where to add brake fluid and transmission fluid. Do you know how much air goes into the tires? How to change a flat tire? Learn these things BEFORE your spouse departs on an assignment or deployment.
10. When the departing spouse is the person who usually does the laundry, cooking, etc., be sure you are comfortable with the appliances within your home. Do a load of laundry. Learning how to sort clothes may save the family from having to wear strange colored underwear. If you are not familiar with commissary shopping and cooking, plan a dinner, make your own shopping list, then prepare a meal for your spouse or family.
11. Use the various tools found on this Web Site.
12. Finally, before departing, make sure the remaining spouse is the one with the keys and checkbook.
So much will depend on your advance preparation. The more you can learn and accomplish before the family separation, the more confident both of you will be when the parting time comes.