Advertisement

How do young children respond to a parent returning from the service?

Very young children will likely not understand what is going on in their family when a service member parent returns home. Toddlers may not recognize or remember the service member parent. Prepare them as best you can with what to expect on the day of reunion. Do not insist that they respond in a particular way to their returning parent.

It is natural for children to act out or get over-excited when they pick up on the excitement (or stress) of the parents. Reassure them that they are still important to you, and spend a little extra time with them before taking private time with your veteran spouse. Even infants may respond to this change in the family dynamic, especially if they are getting less time and attention from the person who has been their primary caregiver. They may become apathetic, fussy, or have a diminished appetite.

Toddlers may react to less time from their caregiver with tantrums, sleep problems, or crying, and preschool age children may be clingy or aggressive. They may even revert to a more babyish level of behavior, temporarily forgetting their toilet training, or sucking their thumb.

School-age children may be whiny and complain that they are sick or have aches and pains. They may also feel excessively worried about both parents’ safety. Do not discipline or punish children when they act out in these ways; they are only behaving this way because they do not understand their own feelings. Your veteran spouse or partner may be upset by this behavior; they, too, need to accept how their children feel and not take it personally. Talk to your kids and let them know their feelings are normal and okay. It is a confusing transition for them. Try to maintain the routines of your household as you always have. Consistency makes children feel secure

Continue Learning about Parent-Child Relationship

How can I get my dad to say he loves me?
Armin BrottArmin Brott
Start by talking to your dad (or write him a letter if you think that would be easier). Tell him how...
More Answers
Why are my children acting out now that I’m back from the service?
Challenge AmericaChallenge America
Children naturally tend to “act out” or test boundaries whenever there’s a change in family status. ...
More Answers
How can I reduce the stress of the family road trip with my kids?
Michele BorbaMichele Borba
The family road trip is as Americana as apple pie. So how can parents plan a family road trip with t...
More Answers
How do I talk to my child about their emotions?
Catherine Mogil, PsyDCatherine Mogil, PsyD
You can begin talking to your kids about their emotions by talking about four basic feelings: mad, s...
More Answers

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.