Psychological Assessment and Treatment of Children and Adolescents

Archive for the Deployment Category

Published on: December 4, 2013  

Managing a Family Member’s Deployment

Military life is stressful for all members of the family but it can be a big source of psychological stress for children. Multiple deployments and frequent moves is a reality for many children in military families and these things can take their toll. Military children have experienced emotional and behavioral difficulties at rates above national average. When a family member deploys, many changes in a child’s behavior can occur such as a difference in school performance, lashing out in anger, worrying, hiding emotions, feeling a sense of loss, and displaying symptoms consistent with Depression.

Family dynamics change when a parent deploys. Routines change and the mood of the parent at home changes. So much change can be overwhelming for a child so it’s important to do what you can to support your child during this difficult time. Below are some different things you can do as parent/caregivers to help you and your family get through this challenging time.

Consistency and Routine Children can become insecure because of all the uncertainties regarding deployment so providing a daily routine is important to give your family needed structure.

Good CommunicationKids will often have questions about the deployment. So be honest and provide as much information as appropriate when answering their questions. Let them know you are always available to talk to when needed.

Attention and Fun Plan special events and start new hobbies. With one parent gone, often the other parent might be busy or stressed causing a child to feel neglected. Doing fun activities with your child and regularly spending time together is important in helping the child feel loved.

Provide Reassurance Deployment can bring a sense of a loss of control and stability so reassuring your child that you love them and that you will get through the deployment together will help relieve their anxiety. Also, with so many emotions be prepared to reassure your child that their feelings are important.

Let Them Be a Kid Do not discuss your fears in depth with your child and do not give them too many extra responsibilities. They should have time to play, be worry free, and be like other kids their own age.

Good Behavior Plan Misbehavior during deployment can be a result of negative feelings so it make sure to set limits and have consequences for bad behavior.

Physical and Emotional Expressions of Love Hugs, kisses, high-fives and “I love you” will help a child feel secure and loved during this tough time

Talk to the Absent Parent Keeping in touch with the absent parent helps in maintaining that relationships and keeps them involved and updated on the family happenings.

Have Resources Available Teens are more independent and sometimes want to seek help for dealing with the deployment on their own so keep lists of hotlines, mental health professionals, and guidance counselors around.

Ways for Kids and Teens to Deal with Emotional Stress:

  • Write poetry and stories
  • Practice relation techniques
  • Exercise
  • Listen to music
  • Do art activities
  • Start a new hobby or take up a new sport
  • Find a military children support group
  • Share your feelings with your parent
  • Write letters and emails to your absent parent to share what’s going on in your life

Please visit the Resources page on our website for more information about many behavior health issues including resources or family members on Deployment and Reunification. If your child is having difficulty adjusting to a parent or family member being away or are new to the area please give us a call – we’re here to help!

Very Respectfully,

Gyro Psychology Services

Lacey, Washington


866.616.GYRO (4976)

Health Disclaimer

Published on: July 25, 2012  

Adjusting to a Family Member Returning from Deployment

A parent returning home from deployment is an exciting, joyful time. While family members are happy to be reunited, the initial excitement eventually wears off and families are left to figure out how to readjust to the change.  Every member of the family has changed and grown over the course of the deployment so be patient when it comes to reestablishing connections and routines. Everyone will need some time. There are many things you can do to make the adjustment period as smooth as possible.

  • Limit the surprises. Keep the deployed family member up to date with any changes you’ve made to the house or changes in the family’s schedule. Keep them in the loop even when they can’t be there to help with the decisions so when they come home they are not hit with many changes at once.
  • Listen and reconnect. Everyone has been operating in different environments so it will take time to readjust being together again. Be honest about sharing feelings and listen to the needs of the returning member.
  • Communicate! Open discussion of expectations prior to returning home are helpful if possible. Discuss responsibilities you each have now (finances, child care, etc.) and have they will change after deployment.
  • Approach discipline as a team. One of you has been the main disciplinarian for a while but now that both of you are there, it’s important to discuss what you both think are appropriate responses to bad behavior. If you are the returning parent gradually step back into the disciplinary role as your child is now used to discipline coming from the other parent and may be confused or defiant if you try to take over immediately.
  • Plan family activities. Enjoy your time together. Go to the park, play board games, go on a bike ride, draw, etc. Doing activities together can help everyone reconnect as a family.
  • Get involved with caretaking again. If you were the one gone try changing diapers, help kids get ready for school, or drive them to their activities. This can help to reestablish a routine and help you get used to home life again.
  • Utilize help offered by the military. The military and other organizations can direct you to many resources to help adjust to life after deployment. Remember they are there to help!

Children may need a period of time to warm up to the returning parent, as this time can be overwhelming and confusing for them. Their developmental level will influence their response to the returning family member. Toddlers may not remember the parent well, school age children may not understand a parent’s need to take care of themselves and spend time with their spouses, and teens may seem distant as they carry on their activities with friends so let children readjust on their own time.

Quick tips:

  • Don’t force hugs or play time
  • Listen to what they tell you and accept their feelings
  • Talk about things they are interested in
  • Make time to play together if they want
  • Reinforce your love for your child (hugs, kisses, etc)
  • Spend time reviewing schoolwork, pictures, etc that were done while you were gone.
  • Praise them for what they’ve accomplished during the deployment
  • Have respect for their privacy and friends
  • Encourage them to share what has happened in their personal lives but don’t push or criticize.

Please check out the Resources on our website and community-based resources on Go-Gyro-Go.

Gyro Psychology Services, Inc.


Published on: February 1, 2010  

When a Family Member Returns From Being Away

My wife and I are sending Allison to piano classes.  She is not really learning how to play the piano…not really anyway.  She is learning to appreciate music, hear combinations of sounds and with the exposure to the notes on the keyboard will eventually be able to listen to the notes of songs and find those same notes on the piano.  Play them in a certain sequence and she will be able to play songs. She is only 3yo but she seems to enjoy music and dance, makes up songs all of the time, seems to like movement and dance and plays her princess pink ukulele while singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and other favorites. It’s fun to see her enjoying rhythm and music so much.  I find myself connecting with her through dance and music. It’s a kick of both of us.  Formal learning is on the horizon and making choices about what school to send her to is another story.  I took a tour of a school up in Lakewood this past week that, at first blush, looks outstanding.

Many of you know that I dedicate my Fridays to working in the community in one capacity or another. I often have meeting with the educational teams of my patients this day, do training and sometimes workshops and meet with kids at local high, middle and elementary schools. The lion share of my work in the schools focuses on children who have a family member in the military. There is a lot of movement these days in the military community and the kids and teens I work with have to make multiple adjustments. One adjustment I haven’t spoken much about is the reunification process. Family members of those who have been away often say that their loved one has changed in some significant way.  I hear kids report that they see their loved one startle while playing video games they used to enjoy, they have difficulty sleeping, drink or smoke more than they used to and seem more distant emotionally than they were before. 

The expectations from the child is that when my family member returns that everything will be just the way it was or just the way they hope it will be. Having the family member back is a good thing, usually.  While they were away though the child’s caretakers have had to make adjustments to different roles and responsibilities, maintain structure, be the one to help with home work and other assignments, manage the home, calls from school, activities for their kids and the family budget. I imagine that the list goes on and on…

Children and teenagers have an opportunity to learn new skills, take on additional responsibilities and develop effective organizational and problem solving skills. One of the hopes of the child and other family members is that the pressure will be relieved and relationships will be restored when the family member who is away returns. It’s important to realize that the family member who has been away has had to adjust to a different living situation, a different environment, a different speed in which things operate and a different frame of mind to succeed in their job overseas. There needs to be some time to allow for the family member returning to readjust to the pace, routine, structure and the multiple changes that have occurred while they were away. This process takes time and needs to be done slowly. The structure that the child currently has should not change much, their routines need to remain essentially the same and they should experience as much predictability in their activities and tasks as the reunification process begins.  Problems often occur when there is tension between family members who remained home and the family member who is returning. If a family member who has been the primary caretaker for the child begins to struggle emotionally and behaviorally, this behavior will likely result in the child or teen having difficulty as well. It is important for the family member returning to seek help as well as other family members during this reunification process.  The Washington State Department of Veteran’ Affairs  has developed a PTSD Program aimed at supporting veteran’s and their families through this process.

I hope this has been helpful.  I wish you all the very best.  I look forward to talking with you again next week.

Best Wishes,

Dr. Dave Callies

Pediatric & Child Psychologist

Gyro Psychology Services, Inc.


866.616.GYRO (4976)

Published on: January 26, 2010  

When A Family Member is Away

I just had the opportunity to go on a short fishing trip with my brother. The weather was fantastic and the water was clear and calm. Catching fish in the sound has not been one of my strong points but appreciating time on the water is. I’ve been around water all of my life and it’s renewing for me when I get the chance to do it. I was a big Steelhead fisherman for many years as I would trek over to the Olympic Peninsula and fish the Sol Duc and Calawah rivers.  The beauty and serenity of these rivers and the surrounding forest is inspiring.

Having young children has changed all of that as my time spent with them and my wife is just so precious to me. My 13mo son Andrew one day decided to get up and walk.  It was literally that fast. One day crawling and the next he was up and about.  He is an adorable child and so much fun to see grow up and develop. He is so different from Allison who spoke early, lit up with anything that had to do with princesses, pink and accessories and was wonderful at pretend play early on.  Andrew, on the other hand, is in to anything that has to do with making noise and enjoys taking objects and banging them together including my remote controls.  I can’t tell you how many times he’s reprogrammed my electronics. I can’t help but smile at other fathers who I see with young children as I can totally relate with the joys of fatherhood.

One blessing is that both of our children are pretty even tempered.  My wife and I help that along by trying to be as consistent as possible with their eating, sleep and play schedules. Big changes seem to throw them off and we’ve found that giving them advanced warning about changes helps.

Some of my patients are kids who have a family member in the military and many more who have a family member deployed. I do a lot of work in the school systems with this population and spend time talking with counselors, teachers and other members of their educational teams on their specific needs and how to address them effectively. I empathize with how they work to adjust with this separation and strive to assist them develop some consistency and to maintain a relationship with a loved one who is away. Bedtime and sleep onset is often a challenge. There are a couple of things that are helpful for the younger kids.  One intervention involves the parent videotaping the soldier reading a chapter book or a series of books that the child can watch before bedtime, doing activities together and special messages for birthdays, holidays and other special events. Reading stories daily can be a challenge, so one night a week can be set aside to view this video.  Some parents are fortunate enough to have Internet access and can read a book nightly from their duty station.  This is optimal, as the child will look forward to hearing from their family member instead of feeling worried about their safety or sad that they are not more actively involved in their lives. Consistency is the name of the game here, which means that telephone calls should be made a concisely as possible (every Tuesday).  I have parents and kids send loved one memory cards of pictures and videos weekly and the deployed parents doing the same.  This is done to create that sense of exchange that naturally happens during interactions.  The exchange simply takes longer but can be an effective intervention if done consistently. Again, the goal here is to have the child focus on putting together items to share with a family member who is away instead of focusing on their absence.

I plan to write more about this is the weeks and months to come as a way to help support those family members who have a loved one who is deployed.

Until next time,

Dr. David Callies

Pediatric & Child Psychologist