Phases of Separation for Defence / Military Kids (by Mrs Mully)

Defence / Military children go through many emotions during each phase of this separation. The lead up phase, initial phase, the long haul and the end phase.

The Lead Up Phase

During this phase the defence child may seem lost and the heightened emotions may begin.  The defence family home during this time becomes unsettled as the member prepares for deployment. The lounge room floor or garage becomes a logistics nightmare and a constant reminder of what is happening. There will be webbing, packs, boots, uniforms, helmets, safety equipment, socks, hootchie, sleeping gear, gloves and a mountain of other required gear spread from one end to the other – this to be honest feels like a punch in the stomach every time you look at it. You are reminded of the length of the deployment and the unknown of what can happen during this time. It is a natural emotion to feel concerned and unfortunately, the ‘what if’s’ take over.

Initial Phase

During this phase the defence child may have heightened emotions leading to outbursts with anger, frustration or complete sadness as they begin to settle in to everyday activities without the member at home. From a change of who drops them off at school, who packs their lunches, who picks them up at the end of the day, who takes them to what activities during the weekend and the night time routine. This can be very hard for all the family to manage and with older children, expectations can be hard to handle to.

The Long Haul

Some days are much easier than others. A routine at home has settled and the ‘norm’ for the family is running as smooth as it can and a countdown to the end as begun. At times you will find the defence child’s emotions can change quiet quickly – in fact it is sometime similar to dealing with grief. The child may be experience a great day, laughed really hard at something and then remembered that they can’t share it with dad that afternoon at pick up – this may lead from laughter to tears or anger.

During the long haul, it is important to talk to the child about what they are feeling, giving them the opportunity to speak about it or the chance to sit down and record what they are feeling or what has happened during their day. The chance to draw or write a quick letter or jot it down in their journal is so important. 

The End Phase

The last four weeks of a deployment are another time for heightened emotion. The countdown has begun and more concerns become apparent. The excitement builds, the frustration of time builds, the concern of changes occurring again at home. As with all things Military, the planned date for the homecoming can change regularly. It is important that the child is prepared for this change and I would encourage you to mindful of this as homecoming becomes close – dates can change several times. Once the parent is home, reintegration begins. For some families this is simple and things return to how it was, for others, reintegration can be more difficult. A change in routine, a change in parenting styles can all lead to further emotional outbursts.

It is important that their emotions, feeling, concerns are all validated – it is no excuse for bad behaviour, but please remember these children are under an enormous amount of emotional pressure that at times will come to a head at school.

These are my own words from my own experience and from working with Defence / Military Kids who have been through the phases mentioned above.

4 Comments on “Phases of Separation for Defence / Military Kids (by Mrs Mully)

  1. Hi Sheree, how are you? Just had a cuppa with Abi and she mentioned she’d seen on Facebook that you’d been seriously ill. Mama Mia you do nothing by halves ! Seriously hope you are well on the road to recovery! We’re sorting out schools and colleges for Canberra and have sold the house. We’re all well …hope you and yours are too.
    Sending much love, Emma and family xxxxx


    • Hi Emma, I was so happy to received your message this morning. Are you looking forward to returning to Canberra, how do the kids feel? We will most likely return to Canberra at the end of next year but who knows.

      Yes, I managed to tear my coronary artery and had a massive heart attack on 17 April. Thankfully I recognised the signs that I was having a heart attack and was being looked over until we arrived at the ER. Once there the full cardiac team was waiting and I look at BM, told him that I loved hime and to tell the kids I loved them and turned grey having the heart attack in front of him. They wheeled me away, hit me with the paddles and thankfully saved my life – so scary and crazy. My heart has returned to full strength and beside getting tired and some residual pains life is morning forward.

      Keep in touch and sending much love to you and the family xx


      • Hi Sheree, I still can’t get my head around you having had a heart attack ….I tried to tell Ben and the kids and I welled up,on both occasions! It must have been incredibly frightening for both you and Barry observing what was happening to his beloved. In the scheme of things given Barry’s employment it’s always been you dreading the worst, you never envisage it the other way round.

        God was definitely watching over you and your family…. you have been one incredibly lucky lady. I’m sure your Mum and Granny must have been so shocked… all far away when you need them. Not easy for any of you. Great your heart is healing literally…. hope you can get back to full fitness soon.

        All the family are busy as usual, Niall and Erin picking electives for next two years. Hard to believe Niall is yr 10 picking, HSC subjects! Niall finally had his knee reconstruction 4 weeks ago, so it was crutches and driving Miss Daisy around! He’s physio 3 times a day, and fortnightly at the hospital…12 months still until he can run! He has a wee part time weekend job in Anaconda which is great.

        Erin is enjoying school, she did really well in yr 7 and got class Dux. She’s so funny, she said my class were just a bit dumb !! Weekends she’s movies with friends and loves books … not interested in dancing anymore. Plays TBall at school – I think that’s like softball ? Solid little friendship group of 5 at school.

        Connor, yr6 … how did that happen?! To be honest yr 6 has been tough on him, little bit of bullying going on which we addressed with school. He’s still football crazy and got into zone yesterday so all delighted with himself. He’s still in Scouts, and Ben and him had a weekend camp last week….loads of fun and little sleep.

        We’re in a strange situation of applying to ACT schools, and picking electives here! We’d all prefer to stay in Sydney, but we’re fine as long as we are healthy and together.

        Ben’s good, if a little too busy at work and busier again at home…I’m a demanding wife!!

        I’m ok, loss of my brother Michael a year ago knocked the stuffing out of all my family. It’s a loss like nothing else I ever experienced before …it’s hard to believe it all happened. Parents and my sister Jane came out last December and stayed for 6 weeks…Jane came from Boston as Niall and Erin had their confirmation and she’s a Godmother. Hopefully trip lifted them a bit. I’m working 3 days a week, though realise I like 2 days with 3 days pay!! So many SLSO’s at the minute 10….currently.

        How are all your kids? Are they enjoying the American school curriculum? What sports are they doing? Did we Bailey get onto a team sport… I know that was something you wanted him to experience. Are you getting to travel a bit? I know pretty much nothing about Kansas, other than that’s were TOTO was!! Is it a nice state to live in? Hope Barry is enjoying the work… it’s an awful pity you can’t work there.. but gives you an opportunity to enjoy Baileys last few years at primary school. Hope your Mum / in laws have been able to get over to visit you.

        Right I have Connor pestering me for the iPad and dinner is not going to make itself, though wish it would!

        Keep in touch, keep smiling and love to all,




      • Oh Em, somedays either can we! As you said, we had always had more conversations around the ‘what if’ for BM considering what he does for a living. It certainly opened up the conversation further and having some plans in place – not what I expected at 42!

        The kids are all growing so fast – HSC subjects, WOW!. I’m sure you would prefer to stay in Sydney, I would assume we will be joining you in CBR at the end of next year (we don’t know yet but one would assume).

        We all send our love and I know the loss of Michael would have been really hard for you and your family. For you, being so far away would have made it very difficult.

        Much love Emma. xx


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