This provides quick tips on common childhood reaction to reunions and ideas for activities that are age-appropriate. This is not intended to be all-inclusive, because different activities work for different families. Do what feels right for your family. Use the many resources in your community and online. They can provide information and support during the reintegration period.
Thanks to Headquarters US Army Europe for this information.
(0 to 36 months)
Infants and toddlers may not remember you, so expect them to react to you as if you were a stranger and show fearfulness or fussy, clingy behavior. Patience is the key. Your goal is to participate in their daily routines. Predictability is important!
Infants (up to 12 months)
• Changing Diapers
• Infant Massage
• Playtime (singing songs, playing peekaboo, stacking blocks)
• Nighttime routines such as reading bedtime stories
Toddlers (12 to 36 months)
• All of the routine daily activities for infants
• Expand play and include more activities
• Reading activities (for example, go to the library together and pick out books or attend story time)
• Drawing simple pictures
• Water play
• Listening to children’s music together
• Get down to their level (sit on the floor with them)
Preschoolers are busy gathering information about themselves (who they are in the world of family, school, neighborhood) and what they can do. They are learning how to get along with others, learning rules about group behaviors, and mastering physical activities.
• Bike riding and anything involving walking or running, or throwing or kicking a ball
• Active games such as tag, red rover, Simon says: playing with a hula hoop; jumping rope
• Reading chapter books (read one chapter each night)
• Making seasonal crafts, scrapbooks, sketchbooks, nature collections (leaves, pinecones, sea shells); using popsicle sticks; gluing buttons
School age children (7 to 12 years old) are likely to be very excited about your homecoming. They will typically want to spend a lot of time talking with you about school, friends, sports activities, their latest projects, and other things they have been doing. Ask them to show you some of their old tests, homework assignments, art work, or other things they have done (for example, Boy or Girl Scout projects, Sunday school papers).
• Prepare a meal together, such as cooking Sunday breakfast or a simple supper meal; setting and clearing the table
• Assist with or check homework assignments
• Attend or assist with special school projects such as school plays, band concerts, bingo nights (participate with your child)
• Look at old photograph albums together. Choose vacation, baby, or grandparent photographs and talk about the people in the pictures and the events depicted
• Take care of pets together (walk the dog, feed the fish, clean the gerbil cage)
• Do a family chore together (take a trip to the recycling center, grocery store, post office)
• Plan a day trip together for just the two of you
• Attend a school sporting event together or attend your child’s sports practice or music, dance or art lesson
• Learn the rules together of whatever sport your child is playing
• Fix or build something together
• Play a board game together
• Go bowling
• Play mini golf
Teens (13 to 18 years old) will probably be very excited to see you again if there was a positive relationship before the deployment. If you are the parent of a teen, you already know that they experience mood swings and have mixed emotions. This is common for this age group, and their emotional instability may be increased with the stress of reunion. Teens may be reluctant to publicly express their emotions and more concerned with acting cool in front of their peers. Be sure to take time to find out what is going on in your teen’s life. Be genuinely interested in them.
• Share pictures, activities, schoolwork (praise what they have done)
• Share what has happened with you while you were gone
• Ask what is new with them since you deployed
• Listen with undivided attention
• Respect their privacy and friends