by Regan McDonald
Joining the Army can be a tough transition for all involved in the process. It’s a life change for the soldier and his new Army spouse and kids, and it’s a tough change for the parents. Whether you are the soldier’s parents, or the spouse’s, you will suddenly find yourself translating military code, learning a new way to tell time and struggling to find ways to support your son’s family through this tough time. While you can easily find ways to translate military “language” and learn how to tell time online, it’s a bit tougher to find ways to support your soldier.
Just Say Yes!
A lot of times, the most comforting thing for a new military spouse is for someone to offer to help. The simple words convey that you love them and want to be there for them. As a new military spouse, I found myself floundering all over the place not knowing where to go, what I need to do or who can help me figure out this new life. The support I received from my family and my husband’s family has been absolutely invaluable.
Ways you can offer to help are:
– Help them learn their way around their new town/post
– Watch the kids while they attend coffees and FRG meetings.
– Offer to visit and help unpack.
– Offer to lend an ear and encourage her to vent!
– Treat your soldier’s spouse to a massage or a movie.
– Send encouraging notes.
To visit or not to visit … That is the question.
Visiting your soldier and his family can be a great source of comfort. Or it can be a HUGE source of stress. While you want to see where they live and what their new life is all about; they may be unpacking, learning the area or just trying to make it through every day. A lot of times you may find that the spouse’s family is planning a visit but you feel unwelcome. Keep in mind that this is very natural. It is a lot less stress for your own parents to see you in disarray, but often you want your husband’s family to only see you clear-headed and in control.
Offer to visit or to help unpack, but let them know that it is okay to decline the offer or push the date back a couple weeks. Once the spouse gets settled and meets new friends, you will find that she will be much more amenable to the idea of company.
NOTE: Please don’t plan to visit your soldier within two weeks of a deployment or a return from a deployment. This is a time that is difficult for the family and can be complicated further by your visit. Instead, be supportive from afar and send an encouraging note to the spouse about how much you appreciate them a week or so after the soldier leaves. She will thank you!
The Kid Factor
Grandkids are a wonderful thing and many parents have had to wait a long time to be blessed with grandchildren. While it may be hard to be away from your grandchildren, try not to use those emotions to make the soldier or his spouse feel guilty that you don’t get to see them as often as you’d like. It’s just as hard or harder on them that they have no reprieve without being reminded of it. Instead, offer to have the kids come to see you for a week or two every summer, which will allow your soldier and his spouse to reconnect. If he is deployed, his spouse can have a little time to relax and get her feet under her.
Education is Key
Take the time to learn as much as possible about your soldier’s new life. The internet has a multitude of great sites that explore every aspect about the Army life. The more you know, the more you can help and support your family. Just reading this article shows that you care about them. Imagine how impressed they will be when you throw in a little military slang or don’t have to ask what 1700 is again!
Basically, the key to supporting your soldier is to support his spouse and kids. That support can come in the form of a visit, a phone call or even an e-mail, as long as it comes from you. Be proud of the sacrifices he has chosen to make to serve his country and don’t make him feel guilty for them or scared of them. Instead, hold your chin up high and know that he couldn’t do it without you!