Is your loved one in the military? Are they coming home for the first time in months? Here are 5 essential tips for planning military homecomings.
Around 2.1 million U.S. troops are deployed domestically and overseas. Sometimes it feels like your loved one has been gone forever.
But now, the wait is over. They’re finally coming home.
The weeks leading up to military homecomings are often a storm of emotions – joy, anxiety, excitement, stress, and everything in between. You miss them and you’re thrilled to have them home, but you also want their time at home to be perfect. That can feel like an immense amount of pressure.
Take a deep breath. Remember, this isn’t about the party or the cleverness of the sign, this is about your relationship. Here are five tips to help you ease back on the stress and enjoy the precious time with your loved one.
Before you uncap a single marker, dust off the crafting box, or dive into Pinterest for the perfect outfit, you should first ask your servicemember how they want their homecoming to go.
It’s natural to want to make up for lost time all at once and dance on the roof for joy that your loved one is finally home, but all the fuss could be overwhelming.
Remember, your beloved servicemember has been away from home for a long time – months, maybe even a year. They haven’t lived life as a civilian for quite a while, and they’re not used to the rhythms of life outside the military.
Some returning servicemembers want to go all out and celebrate. Others just want to curl up on the couch with their loved ones and not let go.
Before you set up anything, make sure your loved one is 100 percent on board with the plan. This is the first step of their reintegration, and you want to make sure they’re eased into it in the best way possible.
While you’re ironing out the details with your spouse, work with them to create a homecoming bucket list.
Maybe they’ve got a beloved restaurant in town they’ve been dreaming about for literally six months, if not years. Maybe they’ve been imagining taking a vacation at the beach with the kids, or they just want some couple time.
Talk through everything they want the most when they come home. Maybe you hire a sitter, book vacation plans, or just make a dinner reservation. Then, write it all a checklist. It can be a fun game to work through as many wish items as possible.
If your servicemember does want a party or doesn’t mind a little celebration, there are plenty of ways that you can welcome them home festively (without overwhelming them with the hoopla).
First, talk with your loved one to figure out what kind of party they have in mind – do they want just you and the kids? Do they want the immediate family? Is it a neighborhood block party?
From there, you can start figuring out other details.
One of the big focus points for many spouses of returning servicemembers is decorating.
Many people opt for banners or signs. You can create your own with markers, paint, or even a chalkboard, but if you don’t have a creative bone in your body, Build a Sign offers free customizable homecoming signs for servicemembers and their families.
You’ve also got plenty of options if your servicemember isn’t wild about a sign. A popular idea is to write personal messages on your driveway and sidewalk–the kids will love getting in on it. You can also write messages on your car or wear a “Welcome Home!” shirt -if you’ve got a newborn, a onesie is perfect.
Another popular homecoming idea is welcome home gifts.
Depending on how many people will be joining you to welcome your loved one home, you can get everyone in on creating a gift bag to stock them up on their favorite snacks, toiletries, and homemade goods.
Another idea is to maintain a welcome home journal or welcome home jar, filled with thoughts and ideas throughout their deployment that can be read during reintegration.
You can even give them a military challenge coin as a token to keep with them. Learn more about the military significance of challenge coins to find the perfect gift for your loved one.
Whatever you do give, though, let your loved one go through it at their own pace. You’ve maintained daily life in their absence, but it may take some time for them to readjust to civilian life. It doesn’t mean they’re ignoring your gifts, it just means they need to enjoy them in their own time.
Finally, if you do have a party, give a bit of conscious thought as to who to invite.
Your service member will probably want to see everyone they can at some point during reintegration, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they want to see everyone in their first afternoon back.
Talk with your loved one about how comfortable they are having people around during the first day or week of their return. You may have a private homecoming party on their first night back and a larger homecoming for the whole family at a later date.
One of the best things you can do for your loved one, though, is to avoid the pressure of instant acclimatization.
Ask your loved one what foods they’d like to have in the house when they get back and what they’d like to do when they start out. Then, stock up the fridge and spruce up the house.
Resist the temptation to bombard them with tasks when they get back. That doesn’t mean you have to do everything yourself, but try to give your loved one time and ask them for help gradually.
Above all, this is time to decompress and be together, so it’s more important to spend quality time together than pester them to do certain chores.
Finally, be there for them.
Military homecomings are a wild ride of joy and anxiety for families and servicemembers alike. In some sense, both sides are readjusting to being around, and it’s a process.
The best thing each of you can do is to be there for each other and enjoy each other’s company. Everything else is just minor details.
Military homecomings aren’t just a party. They’re a time for your loved one to be home with you. Maybe they’re staying for just a few weeks, or maybe they’re sticking around for good this time.
Either way, you want to live your fullest, happiest life with them. That’s where we can help.
If you want more tips for the day of the homecoming, try these hairstyle tips so you can wow them. If you’re looking ahead to the future (or settling in for another long deployment) check out these money budgeting tips.