The impacts of transitioning on families

02 February 2023

While transitioning from the Defence Force may offer unique challenges for those who have served, it’s important to note the impact that transitioning can also have on their partners and families.

While transitioning from the Defence Force may offer unique challenges for those who have served, it’s important to note the impact that transitioning can also have on their partners and families.

Adjusting to military life can be difficult for some partners and children of current serving Australian Defence Force members. When it’s time for them to be discharged and transition back to civilian life, this can create challenges for the whole family.

Challenges for partners and families

It can be a big challenge for partners when loved ones transition out of the Defence Force.

On the one hand, it’s great to finally have them home and to reconnect as a family, but it can also bring changes to how the family has been running. 

For example, it is common for partners to be accustomed to doing pretty much everything themselves, like managing the budget, organising the kids, walking the dog, etc. It can be a challenge to suddenly share responsibilities and to work out who should do what.

These changes can also impact children, who may not be used to having both parents at home.

If the veteran has been discharged for medical reasons, whether that be physically, psychologically, or often both, this can also create challenges for the whole family when settling into civilian life.

This can typically impact all levels of day-to-day life including the running of the house and the relationship between the veteran and their partner, as well as the rest of the family.

Sometimes partners may feel like they are walking on eggshells, but it’s important to recognise that there will be a period of adjustment, and things aren’t going to get sorted out right away.

Remember that the entire family is transitioning

While the focus can feel like it’s always on the veteran, it’s important to remember that the whole family is affected in different ways.

For example, the partner and veteran may miss the service community and social events. The child is no longer a “Defence Kid” and may need to adjust to a different identity.

Service life is far more holistic than civilian life, so the family unit needs to become more dynamic. 

Adjusting to this change can be very challenging, but with the right support systems for both the veteran and the family, it can be worked through in a positive and healthy way.

Tips for families transitioning out of the Defence Force

  • Since the entire family is transitioning, this is a great time for a family conversation about what everyone will miss most.
  • Keep communication lines open. Regularly talk about expectations and feelings.
  • Be aware that transitioning can be a challenging time emotionally and physically. Be proactive in getting support for the family.
  • Consider a new project or hobby that you can engage in together as a family.
  • Speak to your child about time in service such as concepts like comradeship, fear, and pride.

Support at Mates4Mates

At Mates4Mates, we offer access to clinicians who can assist with the challenges of transitioning from the Defence Force to civilian life. This includes psychologists, social workers, counsellors, and exercise physiologists. Together, they can help you find a way forward that best suits your family.

If you’re a current or ex-serving Defence Force member or family member who would like to find the right support, reach out to us on 1300 4 MATES for a confidential chat.

To book an appointment with a Mates4Mats psychologist or exercise physiologist, you will need a Medicare or DVA referral from your GP. You do not need to be an inducted Mate to access these services.

Written by Simone Johns, Mates4Mates Social Worker

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