The Emotional Cycle of Deployment – Stage 7: Reintegration and stabilization

Michigan communities can help support their military families by being educated about the unique challenges of being a military family.

The Emotional Cycle of Deployment has seven stages. Each stage is characterized by a general time frame and specific emotional challenges that may be experienced.Michigan State University Extension says that failure to successfully negotiate these stages and challenges can lead to family and individual stress and can have lasting consequences on our children, youth and families. The seven stages of the Emotional Cycle of Deployment include:

  • Stage one: Anticipation of departure
  • Stage two: Detachment and withdrawal
  • Stage three: Emotional disorganization
  • Stage four: Recovery and stabilization
  • Stage five: Anticipation of return
  • Stage six: Return Adjustment and renegotiation
  • Stage seven: Reintegration and stabilization

During the article series about the Emotional Cycle of Deployment, it is important to remember that these are general time frames, reactions and challenges that may be experienced by military families during deployment. Each individual and family is unique and will experience each stage in their own unique way.

Stage seven of the cycle, reintegration and stabilization, generally starts up to six months and beyond after the service member returns. During this stage, the family will continue to adjust having the service member home. The family and service member begin to establish a “new normal” together regarding routines and expectations. Family members may begin to feel secure, relaxed and more comfortable with one another again.

During this stage, there can be many mixed emotions as families adjust to their new life with their returned service member. They can feel a wide range of emotions from happiness, excitement, anticipation and relief to anxiety, frustration, confusion and worry. Although family members are continuing to reconnect, there may be problems that come up during this stage and it is important to acknowledge when additional help or support may be needed. Here are some tips that can support families during the return adjustment and renegotiation stage:

  • Talk about what is going on within the family and openly listen to what family members are saying. Keeping the communication lines open will help family members continue to adjust to each other.
  • Continue to work together as a family. Working as a team will help to rebuild connections between each other.
  • Think positively! Look for the good in family members and situations on a daily basis. 
  • Talk with your child’s or youth’s earlychildhood providers or school and let them know of the change at home. Make arrangements for children and youth to spend time with their service member but also keep routines as consistent as possible.
  • Celebrate the new normal! Be sure to recognize and celebrate the small steps that the family makes together.
  • Reach out for support. If children and youth are having a difficult time adjusting then reach out for additional support from teachers, child care providers or other important adults that your child interacts with. If you or your service member is having a hard time adjusting, be sure to take time to find support for you as well.

If your family is getting ready for the deployment of a service member, check out the article “Finding Support for Children and Youth with Deployed Family Members” for a helpful checklist on who might support your child or youth during your service member’s deployment.  You can also find additional deployment support information on the Military OneSource website, the Operation: Military Kids website and the 4-H Military Partnerships website.

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