If you are the parent of a young man or woman now serving in the military or someone who has recently been discharged from active duty, you have some unique challenges and also some great opportunities to show your love and support.
As I was writing my book, I talked with Sara Horn, wife of a Navy reservist and founder of Wives of Faith, about the challenges unique to families of those in the military. I asked her to comment about the varying perspectives of parents and spouses of those serving. Here are her comments that were included in my chapter for parents with special challenges:
There has always been an interesting dynamic between the mother of a soldier and the wife of a soldier. Since I interact mainly with the wives of soldiers, I have heard countless stories of the “crazy” mother-in-law—the one who seems to cry more than the spouse at the mere mention of a deployment. Or the one who insists on the soldier coming home to her house for R&R instead of to his wife and their home. Or the one who doesn’t connect or stay in touch at all with the spouse or even the service member while he/she serves overseas.
Parents and spouses have different perspectives when it comes to their loved one serving in uniform. Both love, but the parent also wants to protect; the spouse wants to support.
I asked Sara to advise parents who want to be the best support to their children in the military and to the spouses and families of those serving. Her comments are directed toward parents who have a son serving but she shares the same advice with those who have a daughter in the military:
First, recognize the important service your son is performing for his country and be proud of him. Whether or not you agree with his decision to join the military (especially if you don’t agree with the current wars), your child has made a decision to serve the greater good and do something that makes a difference for others.
When it comes to supporting the spouse of your soldier, be sensitive to her needs as well as emotions. Deployment is an incredibly emotional thing and it can be hard to gauge sometimes what everyone wants or needs. Don’t be afraid to ask your daughter-in-law what she needs from you. Is it help with the grandkids? A listening ear? Prayer?
Don’t go to your soldier son’s wife and complain about his military service, or express your serious fears about him being overseas. You need another friend to talk to about these issues; your daughter-in-law has enough fear and stress of her own, and it is a difficult role to live as the wife versus the mom. For the wife, it isn’t just about the heartstrings—she is living it on a daily basis as she keeps her home going, her kids going, and encourages her husband while he’s away.
Do offer your daughter-in-law and grandchildren your full support and let them know you’re available to help them as they need it. Give specifics of how you can help. For example, if you live close enough, volunteer to have a Grammy night once a week so your daughter-in-law can have a little break. Or make plans to visit as often as you’re able and show your support in tangible ways.
Do give your daughter-in-law the “right-of-way” when it comes to any decisions regarding the deployment—departure, R&R, homecoming. Honor Ephesians 5:31 and recognize your son is now the head of his own household. Let them know if you’d like to be part of the departure or homecoming festivities but be sensitive to what they may be feeling. Don’t demand—request. Respect your adult child and his spouse’s wishes if they just want themselves and children to be together before/after he leaves or comes back.
Be a blessing to your grandchildren. Offer them encouragement and tell them often how proud you are of them and what they’re accomplishing while their parent is gone.
You’ll find these comments from Sara along with additional tips from a mom whose son is serving in the Marines in Chapter 8 of my book, Secrets to Parenting Your Adult Child.