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5 Tips for Helping a Family Member Adjust to Life After Service

Serving in the military is full of challenges — and leaving military service behind comes with its own set of hurdles. Individuals who have dedicated even a small portion of their lives to the service may find it difficult to adjust to many aspects of civilian life. 

After years or even decades of living with strict schedules and expectations, managing your own time, getting a civilian job, and even finding housing or insurance can be confusing and complicated. On top of those challenges, many veterans face mental health issues like depression and anxiety following their time in service. 

As a friend or family member of a veteran adjusting to civilian life, helping your loved one make that transition can be difficult. Keep reading to learn a few tips on how to show your support and help your family member adjust to life after service.

1. Show Them How It’s Done

One simple thing you can do to help your transitioning family member is to model how things are done in regular civilian life. Things that may seem normal and routine for you could be new and confusing to them. Ask whether they’d like help searching for a job, applying to college programs, or finding a new apartment, then offer that help without judgment.

2. Adjust Roles Within the Family

Whether it is your spouse, parent, child, or another family member who is retiring from service, their retirement will no doubt have an impact on the family dynamics. This includes more than just your finances — your roles within the household may change, too.

For instance, if you were a stay-at-home parent while your spouse served, you may be used to covering all parental duties. But allowing your spouse their own space and time with your children is important in helping them adjust to their new life. Another interesting dynamic is a child returning to their family home after serving. When he or she left for the military, they may have been barely 18. Now, they are returning as an adult. For parents, it can be easy to fall into old habits. But it’s important to adjust how you speak to and act towards your child. 

It’s a good idea to have a talk with your family member about the new family dynamic upon their return to make sure that everyone is on the same page.

3. Know the Signs of Mental Illness

Many servicemen and women, including those retiring from military service, find themselves facing mental health challenges. In fact, more than 40 percent of veterans suffer from some form of mental illness.

Whether you already suspect that your loved one is suffering or not, it’s a good idea to learn some of the signs and symptoms of common mental illnesses that affect service members, like those related to anxiety, depression, and PTSD. If you do suspect that your family member is suffering mentally, offer your support, and urge them to seek professional help. 

4. Celebrate Their Service

Your serving family member has dedicated their life to defending their country, and are no doubt proud of the responsibility on their shoulders. They might have mixed feelings about retiring. And they may feel embarrassed or discouraged as they face challenges in adjusting to their new life.

Celebrating their service and prior accomplishments in this new chapter is a great way to help your loved one feel more confident and empowered. Showing your support may mean something different for every family. But whether you choose to fly a flag outside your home or simply talk about your pride regularly, this is one small move that can have a big impact in your loved one’s confidence.

5. Encourage Them to Follow New Dreams 

Even if your family member or friend pursued a career in the military, they likely had to put other dreams and goals on a shelf during their time in service. Now is the time to pursue those dreams.

While getting a job that pays the bills may be the first thing on your mind, there may still be room to encourage your loved one to go after other dreams that they have. Whether this means moving to a new city or pursuing a specific career, encourage your veteran to try new things and go for their dreams as they start building their post-service life. Having new goals is a great way to distract them from any sadness or nervousness surrounding the end of their military service.

Ease the Transition with USA Cares

These are just a few tips on helping your family member adjust to life after service. There is a lot of responsibility on your shoulders. But if you are feeling overwhelmed, USA Cares can help. We provide veterans and serving members with a wide range of resources and financial assistance so that they aren’t stranded in a state of vulnerability. If you have a loved one in need of support, check out our resources today to learn more.

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