As military families prepare for transition from military life to civilian life, there are 3 things that become especially critical in their preparation.
Change – Would you agree, military families have mastered the art of change? Yes, of course. We make change look easy. We are the families that pack up our house every 2-3 years and venture out to a new exciting location, making it look like a walk in the park. How about when our Military Member heads out on yet another deployment, leaving us to carry on family business as usual. The family is expected to “carry on” and never miss a step with the kids and school or family finances. Well, at least that’s what it looks like to everyone on the outside of our world. The truth is change is tough for anyone, especially military families. It was never easy for my husband or me to pack up for deployment and prepare mentally to leave our family behind. Deployments were especially difficult because that change involved coming face to face with the possibility of death of a loved one. And to be honest, I really don’t know many military families who actually enjoy packing up their homes every few years for the next move – even if Transportation does most of the work, it’s still quite a chore.
But change is the one constant in military life. So during transition, change is to be expected and anticipated. The change experienced in transition will have similarities to other changes experienced in military life. You may find yourself moving the family again, you may even find yourself changing jobs once again, and the kids may find themselves changing schools during the school year yet again. We found our family experiencing all those changes and more. We soon realized that our transition journey would take us through a very unique change experience and the manner in which transition effected each family member would also be unique.
As the Service Member, I was dealing with the emotional transition of leaving behind a life I had come accustom to and was very comfortable operating in. My husband was dealing with the challenge of completing his educational goals. He also experienced the struggle to find employment after not working for 2 years while following me around as I finished up my military career. My daughter found herself changing schools and having to say goodbye to some really good friends. But we embraced each change head on as a family and made it through successfully.
Communication – Communication was an important element in my military career. I found that my Soldiers were more productive when they were informed of upcoming projects and operations, allowing time for them to plan accordingly. That same level of communication was just as important within our military family. The more effective the communication, the more informed each member was within our family unit. I discovered each family member was better equipped to deal with change the more informed they were. This discovery encouraged us to communicate even more within our family.
I recall many detailed conversations with my family when decision points arose in my military career. When I was a single mother serving in the Army, the conversation was with my young son at the level he was able to understand and at the level of detail he needed to know. I recall when we were preparing to depart from an overseas assignment and head back to mainland United States – I was heading to a career advancing military school and he was finishing up the school year and a very successful little league baseball season. That conversation was much more detailed than the one we had two years prior when we were heading into the overseas assignment. The latter conversation included my son a few years older, me at a significant cross road in my military career, and us working together to make some major family decisions as we moved forward.
When I married my husband, the conversations were first between him and me and then we included our young daughter, to the level she was able to understand. I always found that clear, detailed communication gave me confidence knowing that my loved ones were well informed of upcoming changes. It also allowed us as a family to create a great environment to express ourselves, whether that included expressing fear or excitement.
I found in transition that this same level of detail and clarity in communication is needed to help the family understand what is about to occur not only in the military members life but in the family unit as a whole. Depending on your situation, communication may include extended family, health care providers or other important people in your life because their being informed is critical to a successful transition for you and your family.
Considering – In the military, we receive something called Consideration of Others (CO2) training – this used to be Equal Opportunity or EO training. Over the years I’ve seen this training transform into what is now known as CO2 and can be described as a philosophy; it is the awareness, actions and responsibilities of the individual Soldier to be sensitive to and have regard for the feelings and needs of others. As I watched this training evolve over the years, I have to admit I was very pleased with the ability of Army leaders to keep training relevant and current to the needs of our changing military landscape.
In a family, this same level of consideration is necessary and key in creating a healthy family environment. I fully believe consideration is crucial in expressing to each family member that they are loved, valued and an important element of the family unit.
As a military member my first “squad” was my family and my #1 “battle buddy” was my spouse. My family has always been the source of my motivation to succeed and always at the forefront of my mind as I considered different paths for my military career. I remember when I was in Basic Training, I shared with my Drill Sergeant (DS) that I joined the Army in order to give my son a better life and that I wanted to be a good example to him as his parent. My DS periodically reminded me to think of my son as my motivation to push myself throughout training, especially when training was tough. I did just that and found the intestinal fortitude to carry on, oftentimes picturing my son’s face was enough to find the inner strength to push through.
So as I entered into transition from military life to civilian life I had to consider my family. I had to take into account their individual dreams and goals as well as our family goals we had set for life after the military. I knew firsthand how much my family sacrificed so I could finish out my military career. My family moved with me 4 times in the last 6 years of my military career. I knew they had been through a lot and I wanted to consider their wants and needs as we prepared for our family’s transition.
We went into transition vowing to remain flexible, fully understanding that transition would be a process for each family member. We continually evaluated and took into consideration the needs of each family member. This allowed us to have a clear plan for our family’s transition, detailed with goals for each member and the family as a whole.
Keep these 3 things in mind as you prepare for your military transition and you are destined for a successful transition, not only for you as a Service Member but for your family as a whole.
Certified Life Coach
Specializing in helping transitioning Military Members / Veterans and their families
Homepage: www.lilaholley.com / Twitter: @coachlila / Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lila.holley