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Deployment is the movement of an individual or entire military unit to an overseas location to accomplish a task or mission. The mission may be as routine as providing training or as dangerous as a war.

Deployments have three phases:

  • pre-deployment
  • deployment
  • post-deployment/reunion.

It is important to remember that no two students will react to deployment the same way.

Individual responses depend on a variety of factors such as:

  • age,
  • maturity,
  • gender,
  • parent-child relationships,
  • reaction/coping skills of the child's caregiver.


This phase begins with the notice that the family member will be deployed to another location. This could be within the U.S. or abroad. During this phase, children may feel shock or disbelief. They may also feel that their family is no longer safe and secure.


After the activities and ceremonies that take place on deployment day, community support for families with deployed members often fades and many families experience feelings of loss and are left alone to manage their grief. As remaining family members struggle with new or increased roles and responsibilities, conflicts often surface. During this phase, some children develop or improve their coping skills, while some struggle with past problems and new conflicts while others may suffer from depression. Eventually, the majority of families reach a "new normal" in daily life activities without the deployed spouse or parent.

Post Deployment

When the military parent or spouse returns the reunion is typically a period filled with euphoria and joy. During this time, there are also normal issues that must be re-addressed and resolved as the family works to re-incorporate the returned family member. While the family member was deployed, spouses and children may have operated with a new independence that is not easily surrendered. Old and new conflicts may arise over roles and responsibilities. Family counseling, support and assistance is often needed to rebuild family interaction. This phase involves challenges and the opportunity to develop stronger and healthier family relations.

Behavior during Post Deployment

Preschool or kindergarten-age children may :

  • Feel guilty, believing it is their fault deployed parent went away.
  • Need time to warm-up and get to know the parent again.
  • Demonstrate intense anger at home or school.
  • Need "proof" that the parent is real – poke, hit, or otherwise tests limits.
  • Act out to get parent's or teacher's attention.
  • Be increasingly demanding.

School-age children may:

  • Run to greet returning parent at homecoming.
  • Feel guilty that they did not do enough or were not well-behaved enough.
  • Dread the parent's return if they believe parent will discipline things they did wrong during the separation.
  • Boast about the service and parent.
  • Talk endlessly trying to bring the parent up-to-date.

Teenagers may:

  • Be excited if parent/child relationship was strong prior to deployment.
  • Feel guilty for not living up to standards while parent was away.
  • Be concerned about rules and responsibilities.
  • Unwilling to change plans to meet the ship/plane when parent returns.