Do’s & Don’ts

There are many roads to resilience. The number and intensity of stressful experiences notwithstanding, most returning personnel and their families bounce back successfully. Some with more effort than others.

Even those who have learned resilience skills should not expect homecoming to be effortless or free of strong emotion. It is quite normal to experience days or weeks of mild to moderate symptoms of depression, anxiety, and anger, even if the initial homecoming was full of joy.

Children, for example, reassured with the safe return of a parent or sibling, may now feel they can express some of their negative feelings of fear or anger over what they may have experienced as abandonment.

It is very important to seek outside professional help for the family if any family member is unable to function on a daily basis. Effective, caring help is available.

Tips for Resilience During Homecoming
There are no standard or normal stages for homecoming. As each family is unique, every homecoming is different. Normal is what works for your family. Understanding that the homecoming itself is a family stressor is a good first step in a making a successful transition in the family’s life..

There are a number of common do’s and don’ts that many families find helpful during this stressful time.

Do’s

  • Listen carefully.
  • Ask non-specific questions, such as “What was your experience like?”
  • Spend time with the person, but realize they may really need some private time too.
  • Be aware that the veteran may be feeling intense grief, guilt or shame and treat him or her with “respect, dignity and privacy.”
  • Early in the process, identify people who can help–friends, clergy, a mental health professional, a financial advisor — and seek help when it is needed.
  • Resolve to be open about issues and work on resolving them together.
  • Be an active player, not a passive victim.
  • Encourage social involvement through religious organizations, hobby groups, exercise clubs, social groups and social networking

Don’ts

  • Ask him or her how many people he or she killed.
  • Ask for specifics about combat operations.
  • Take your veteran’s anger or other feelings personally.
  • Tell him or her that he or she is “lucky it wasn’t worse” or that they are “lucky they survived;” a traumatized person is not consoled by those statements.
  • Assume every family member will be respectful and supportive; be discrete about what you confide in others.
  • Don’t put off solving problems. Work on any problems as soon as they arise; inaction reinforces the feeling that a problem is beyond your control. Action is ever the antidote to anxiety.

Above all, try to keep things in perspective. Cynicism or excessive pessimism about life and the future can become self-fulfilling and have a negative impact on you and those you love. Not every problem is a catastrophe. Although it sounds simplistic, a positive outlook lifts morale and increases resilience.

Resources:

www.apahelpcenter.org
Click here to learn more about building resilience during a time of war, including specific information for children and teens as presented by the American Psychological Association (APA).

www.mentalhealthamerica.net
Click on this link provided by Mental Health America for information about PTSD including symptoms, who is affected, how to feel better, and how to help someone who may be suffering from PTSD.