Serving in the Armed Services, you quickly learn the expectations of military life. You are under AUTHORITY. The military expects you to respect and obey those in authority over you without question. They expect you to be ACCOUNTABLE for following orders. You accept full responsibility for completing all assignments and orders. As you successfully navigate authority and accountability, you begin to receive AFFIRMATION through promotions and recognition for your service. Resulting in ACCEPTANCE within your unit and the military community as a whole, this is and has been the foundation of success for our Armed Services.
However, as a husband and father, developing and strengthening your emotional relationship with your loved ones can be “counter-culture” to the military service expectations. You must see the difference and learn how to develop the skills that will draw your family closer.
Wives and especially children, need to know that your ACCEPTANCE of them is unconditional. Your children know they make mistakes and feel insecure about their repeated failures. Do you accept and love them despite these failures? How often and when do you intentionally express your emotions or feelings to them? Emotional expression tells them whether their acceptance is unconditional or not. It is vital that your wife and children feel accepted by you. Your accessibility and AFFIRMATION of them demonstrate acceptance.
AFFIRMATION is demonstrated by your consistent words of praise and encouragement. You can reinforce this with physical touch and by spending time with them. Your time is the greatest demonstration of your love. Your willingness to make space for them speaks volumes to the hearts of your wife or children. When your children feel unconditional acceptance and loving affirmation from you, they are much more willing to be ACCOUNTABLE for their actions and behavior.
Remember, acceptance and affirmation build and strengthen your relationship with your family. A healthy, loving relationship is key to your child’s willingness to be ACCOUNTABLE to your expectations and rules. Rules minus Relationship equals Rebellion. This truth has played out in families and civilizations for centuries. Children will be much more willing to accept your AUTHORITY and be ACCOUNTABLE to your expectations if they feel that they are unconditionally loved and accepted by you. Loved and accepted, even when they don’t meet your expectations.
Being a loving husband and father, who freely expresses his emotions consistently to his family is counter-culture from your day-to-day military career life. It’s almost like living a Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde’s lifestyle. You live and work daily within the expectations of your military culture. Then it would be best if you switched to the living and loving expectations of your home life. Doing this builds a healthy family environment in which your family can thrive, even during your deployment.
Therein is your challenge as a military husband and father. The best way to prepare your family for your deployment is to work daily on building a home life that is ACCEPTING, AFFIRMING, ACCOUNTABLE, and under loving AUTHORITY.
If the emotional bond and communication between you and your family are healthy, growing, and consistent, your family will do well during your deployment.
That doesn’t mean deployment will be easy for you or them. Still, it will be better because you’ve established and maintained the emotional connection with your family so that communication doesn’t feel awkward or forced. Staying consistently connected to your children and family is vital during deployment. The National Military Family Association has a wealth of resources on its website on ways to stay connected during deployment. These resources are great, but having a secure emotional connection and the ability to express emotions freely will significantly multiply the effectiveness of any resources you use to stay connected to your family.
So, what are some things that you can begin doing now that will strengthen your emotional bond and help you maintain a close intimate relationship with your family? Here are some ways to get started:
Your family needs your availability. When men make themselves available to their families, it gives them a sense of importance. When they are not available, it tells the family, “Yes, I love you, but other things still come ahead of you.” Therefore, being there when your wife, child, or teenager needs you demonstrates how important they are to you. Actions do speak louder than words.
Your family needs your affection. You can express affection in many ways as a husband and father. Loving words or an appropriate touch communicates volumes to your family. When you consistently show affection to your wife and children, you show them that they are loveable and worth loving.
Your family needs your involvement. Men who are involved in their family’s life tend to go out of their way to interact with them—willingly giving up some of their activities to spend more time with their family. Sometimes lockdowns, extensive night trainings, late hours or 24-hour desk duty delays, or interferes with your involvement. Therefore consistent communication is vital to your relationship.
Your family needs your acceptance. A man’s acceptance helps the family to believe that he will love them no matter what. A man’s acceptance teaches his children that they are loved for who they are rather than for what they do. When teenagers feel accepted by their fathers, they are more likely to be vulnerable and transparent. Your acceptance builds greater trust between them and their father.
Your family needs you to be consistent. Consistent men maintain a certain level of regularity in their relational habits. Their wives and children know what to expect from them. It takes effort to be consistent in your relationships, but the more consistent you are, the more approachable and loving you become.
Healthy masculinity within a military culture is challenging. Your family serves right alongside you, whether stateside or deployed. Being a loving, approachable, intimate husband, and father often means developing a healthy masculine culture within your home that is different from the culture in which you serve. Just remember, when you return from your final deployment, they will be the ones with whom you grow old.
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