Duty to country and family

When there’s consensus among family members about your military service, life is much easier. It’s normal for loved ones to have differing views about service and/or levels of commitment over time. But when there’s a big difference, some families might feel an extra burden of stress or sadness. Here are some tips to help build a bridge to family harmony.

Tip #1: Start a conversation

Is your family struggling with some aspects of military life? If so, take notice. Don’t ignore unhappiness since this tends to breed more frustration or worry. Ask your loved ones about their feelings and experiences. Keep an open mind and just listen. Don’t be defensive or judgmental—don’t jump in or dismiss their feelings. Once you’ve heard their take, share yours. Often, through open communication, each member can feel that they’re being heard and supported. In time, this might foster your family’s sense of shared commitment to military life—and help them better understand each other’s feelings.

Tip #2: Create boundaries between work and home

When you’re home, focus on your loved ones. You might want to establish a routine for transitioning from service member to partner and/or parent. Think about what you need to do at the end of the workday so you’re ready to give your family your undivided attention at home. Then put your plan into action! 

Tip #3: Build your "home" team

Rather than letting military service divide you, focus on becoming a strong team with your family members. How often do you say “we” versus “I” when talking with your loved ones about challenges? If you’re not saying “we” enough, ask your partner to help create a shared sense of what you both want for your family. Then come up with a game plan to make it happen.

Tip #4: Renew your purpose

Think about what drew you (or your family member) to military service in the first place: was it to serve your country or community? For the education benefits? For your personal beliefs? Revive that sense of purpose—or revamp it. As we age, what matters to us can change too. What’s important to you now? What motivates you to perform well every day? How do you

Tip #5: Get connected

Check out local resources to find community groups and programs that could help ease some of the more stressful aspects of military life. It might help your family feel closer to the service community and happier at home too.