Coping With Deployments

The following is an excerpt from the military publication, "Providing Family Support During Military Deployments" by D. Bruce Bell and Walter R. Schumm:

One of the recurring themes in deployment literature is that spouses adapt better if they adopt positive attitudes about the deployment and concentrate upon those things that they can control. Bell (1991) summarized what appears to be a winning strategy:

  • Develop individual and family goals. Use them to develop/maintain family routines.

  • Accept the lack of control over deployment events.

  • Concentrate on what you can control: today, yourself, your family, your job, etc.

  • Become or remain active: get a job, volunteer, or take up a hobby.

  • Seek relevant information about the mission, the Army, and helping agencies.

  • Seek social support from friends, relatives, Family Support Groups, and the families of other deployed soldiers.

  • Communicate with your soldier, and open channels of communication within your own family.

  • Check out rumors, and don't believe everything you hear.

Another consistent finding from deployment research is that friends and relatives are more likely to be utilized and seen as “helpful” during a deployment than any of the formal social services offered by the military (Bell, 1993; Bell, Schuum, Segal, & Rice, 1996; Kerner-Hoeg et al., 1993). This finding is not surprising given that spouses are more likely to need the kinds of services (e.g., free childcare on demand) that friends and relatives typically provide rather than those services normally provided by the military community.

The fact that spouses are less likely to use military services than friends or relatives does not mean that military community services are not useful or needed. Many of the programs offered by the military community (e.g., housing, programs for newcomers, and Family Support Groups) help families to acquire friends, which in turn leads to needed support. Furthermore, most military social programs are aimed at specific segments of the military population. It is more important that these programs serve their intended clients than that they reach a large number of families.