5 tips for dealing with uncertainty

If there’s one thing that’s predictable about the military lifestyle, it’s that the military lifestyle is unpredictable. And since humans crave predictability, uncertainty can be hard for Service Members and their families. In fact, military couples who experience uncertainty tend to have less open and more aggressive communication, which can hurt their relationships.

Whether you feel unsure about the timing or location of your upcoming PCS, how your relationship might change after deployment, or the future of your military career, try these tips to deal with uncertainty.

  1. Seek social support. If you’re struggling with the uncertainty associated with military life, ask for support from other Service Members and their families. They’ve probably experienced similar circumstances, so they’re good resources to offer practical advice for dealing with uncertainty. You can also turn to online social support forums.
  2. Take care of yourself. One thing you can control when you feel uncertain is how you take care of yourself. Try a new activity or exercise routine. Hang out with friends, schedule therapy, or enroll in school. Self-care is a way to meet your own needs, despite uncertain circumstances.
  3. Tap into your resilience skills. Service Members and their families are incredibly resilient, so you probably already have some resilience skills you can tap into. In fact, experiencing uncertainty actually helps build resilience. You can also build resilience by accepting uncertainty as a normal part of the military experience.
  4. Focus on your relationships. Because experiencing uncertainty can hurt how you communicate in your relationships, it’s important to focus on how to maintain healthy relationships. Devote time and energy to your relationship to keep it healthy and satisfying. Talk about your hopes and dreams for the relationship, and check up on any possible sources of conflict. You can also seek professional help, such as counseling, to confront uncertainties and improve your communication skills.
  5. Reframe uncertainty as an opportunity, not a threat. Even though uncertainty can feel threatening because you’re giving up a sense of control, try to view it as a positive thing, a chance to improve yourself and your relationships. Uncertainty also offers an opportunity for you and your family to grow stronger, such as by recognizing the new maturity or responsibilities your kids have developed through the uncertain military experience. Talk about how to reframe uncertainty from negative to positive. Remember, your kids look to you for how to deal with uncertainties, so try to model positive coping skills.

Published on: May 1, 2023

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Huebner, A. J., Mancini, J. A., Wilcox, R. M., Grass, S. R., & Grass, G. A. (2007). Parental deployment and youth in military families: Exploring uncertainty and ambiguous loss. Family Relations, 56(2), 112–122. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3729.2007.00445.x

Knobloch, L. K., Basinger, E. D., Abendschein, B., Wehrman, E. C., Monk, J. K., & McAninch, K. G. (2017). Communication in online forums about the experience and management of relational uncertainty in