Family Members

Welcome to the family section of the R2MR website. The Canadian Armed Forces recognizes the strength behind the uniform and understands the sacrifices and contributions of our military families to overall mission success. As such, the Road to Mental Readiness program has an entire component designated to family members to provide you guidance and skills to mitigate the stress of the deployment experience on you and your family.

Deployment is a fact of military life. For most CAF personnel the opportunity to deploy around the world, making a difference in lives of others, is what prompted their desire to join the military in the first place. However, for many families, managing deployments can be particularly challenging - extended separations, increased workloads, anxiety over the safety of their loved one, and managing transition and reintegration issues upon completion of the tour - all amount to increased stress.

To understand the challenges of the deployment cycle, it is useful to use the analogy of a highway. Imagine your family is driving on a highway. While you are driving at a cruising speed, you learn that the military member will be deployed abroad in a couple of months. You may have never driven this highway or this may be the third or fourth time for you. You know it may be a long and bumpy ride! Of course you have an idea of the itinerary (timing, training, holiday, etc.) but you have no control over the road conditions: weather forecast, traffic jams, accidents, road construction, detours, etc. To get to the destination, you will need some maps (information) and vehicle maintenance (tools). The military member will also require information and tools - and some of this information will be similar to what you are receiving and other information will be unique to their role in the mission.

This analogy illustrates the importance of regular checks and maintenance in preparation for and all along the drive.

Deployment Highway - Description Follows

DND/CAF - Directorate of Mental Health

The deployment highway.

Deployment Highway: Text-Only

The deployment cycle is similar to a highway:

  • The military member prepares for deployment (Military Pre-deployment training phases 1 and 2), represented by a car driving on the highway.
  • From a different road, family members (during Pre-deployment training phase 3) are also driving on the highway at the same time as the military member.
  • Both long stretches of road that the military and family members are on (representing deployment) could encounter construction, stormy weather or sunshine.
  • Close to the end of deployment, the military member prepares to merge onto the same road as the family member (phase 4, third location decompression), and then completes the merge (phase 5, Home Location Decompression).
  • At the end of the highway is an image of a garage, with represents phase 6 of the deployment cycle, Post deployment follow-up for both military and family members.

The deployment highway consists of many sections: the pre-deployment, the deployment with the HLTA, and the reintegration sections.

The pre-deployment section places additional demands on the family members such as the training for the mission and the administrative tasks in preparation for the absence. Every time the military member goes on training, he/she is taking an off ramp to drive on a different road while the family continues on the highway. You will both need to adjust your driving speed every time he/she takes the off ramp and when the military member merges back onto the family highway. It is easy to understand that the road conditions on the two highways are different; while on training the member is psychologically no longer in the family vehicle as he/she is focused on the mission while the family focuses on their own mission at home. Each reunification requires some effort and adjustment. At the same time, the number of things that need to be taken care of in preparation for the absence might take all of you on a roller coaster of emotions and will most certainly require quite a bit of energy. Some of the things that need to be looked at include: the legal documents - will, power of attorney - financial issues, fixing the house or car, etc. Parents of single personnel may also experience a level of burden depending on their involvement in the preparation phase.

The second section is the deployment section, which is the deployment or the absence and includes the HLTA. Families and deployed military members are now driving on different highways with different road conditions. After a period of recovery and reorganization family members find their own driving speed and a sense of self confidence. Nevertheless, during this lengthy drive they will face daily hassles that will necessitate some adaptation. The family might also encounter more demanding situations like a sick family member that will most likely increase your stress and require more of your energy. The HLTA, even if it is a joyful time, also requires family adjustment that may increase both the CAF members’ and the family members’ stress levels. In order to drive as smoothly as possible the family car will need regular simple maintenance checks and, depending on the road conditions, it might require a few major maintenance checks. In other words, the family will need to increase their self-care strategies to protect their health and well-being.

The last section of the deployment highway is the reintegration section. Most families go though a normal and necessary adjustment period while they re-establish family ties and return to a regular routine. Think about it - after driving the car for a couple of months it will require quite a bit of adjustment to share the wheel again. To help you cope during the transition period, try to rely on the coping strategies you had put in place during the absence.

Fortunately, there are many resources that can help families to cope with the challenges and thrive during the deployment experience. Click on one of the following programs to find information relevant to the deployment period for which you are currently preparing.

The following are Frequently Asked Questions about deployment related issues, programs and services.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is a deployment?
  2. What causes deployment stress?
  3. How can I monitor my emotional health throughout the deployment?
  4. What resources exist to help military families during deployments?
  5. How does one prepare for deployment?
  6. What is the emotional cycle of deployment?
  7. What is a family care plan?
  8. How can I help my children manage deployment stress?
  9. Are there any emergency child care services available during the deployment?
  10. Where can I find information to assist with managing the upcoming deployment?
  11. As a parent of a deploying member, are there resources and information to assist me in managing the deployment of my son/daughter?
  12. What can I do to manage successfully while my spouse/partner is deployed?
  13. I am preparing to meet my military loved on during their mission leave, what should I expect?
  14. What is a reunion?
  15. What is reunion stress?
  16. Where can I find information to assist with managing reunion stress?
  17. How can I help my children manage reunion stress?
  18. My loved one is deployed and I am concerned s/he will return with an Operational Stress Injury, what should I do?
  19. My loved one appears to have changed after his/her deployment and I am concerned, what should I do?

1. What is a deployment?

The assignment of military personnel to unaccompanied tours of duty

Throughout their careers Canadian Armed Forces personnel are required to serve away from their families for a variety of reasons for varying lengths of time.

Taken from Preparing for Deployment Stress Guide

2. What causes deployment stress?

The physical and emotional demands relating to a deployment.

Both the separation and reunion aspects of a deployment place additional demands on families.

Factors Contributing to Deployment Stress

Factors Related to the Individual:
  • personal health
  • personal coping abilities
  • previous deployment experience
  • attitude toward the assignment
  • confidence in self and unit
  • sense of security in family relationships
Factors Related to the Separation:
  • available preparation time
  • previous family separation experience
  • attitude of family toward assignment
  • important family events during separation
  • confidence in support available to family
Factors Related to the Deployment:
  • nature of the mission, especially if ambiguous
  • length of the mission, especially if uncertain
  • communication (mail, phone, e-mail) ease or difficulty
  • geographical location (terrain, weather)
  • living and working conditions
  • confidence in unit training and leadership

Taken from Preparing for Deployment Stress Guide

3. How can I monitor my emotional health throughout the deployment?

The Mental Health Continuum Model provides a way to view health and social functioning - it is the model the CAF has adopted and has taught to your loved one. This model also applies to family members. The model recognizes that daily and major life events may generate a spectrum of health concerns be they mental or physical. It stresses that mental health injuries and illnesses parallel physical illnesses. Like a broken leg or any other physical concern, mental health concerns have the potential to be temporary and reversible.

Mental Health Continuum Model (Family). Four coloured blocks with two-way arrow. Details below.

DND/CAF - Directorate of Mental Health

Mental Health Continuum Model (Family).

The model goes from healthy, adaptive coping (green), through mild and reversible distress or functional impairment (yellow), to more severe, persistent injury or impairment (orange), to clinical illnesses and disorders requiring more concentrated medical care (red).The arrows under the four color blocks denote the fact that this is a continuum, with movement in both directions along the continuum, indicating that there is always the possibility for a return to full health and functioning. There is a recognition that the earlier there is some sort of intervention, the easier it is to return to full health and functioning (green).

The green healthy zone (Normal functioning) can be defined as encompassing adaptive coping, effective functioning in all spheres, and personal well-being. It is important to mention that the green zone is not without stressful events, but rather its effective mastery without distress or impairment. The ability to remain in the green zone under stress, and to return quickly to it once impaired or injured by stress, are two crucial aspects of resiliency.

The yellow reacting zone (Common and reversible distress) can be defined as encompassing mild and temporary distress or reduced functioning due to stress. Yellow reactions are short-lived, relatively mild, and very common. However, neglecting to deal with stressful events when warning signs appear may cause you to shift to the right of the continuum rather than bouncing back to the green. Therefore, it is essential that we employ healthy coping strategies in this early stage to avoid developing further problems.

The orange injured zone (Persistent functional impairement) can be defined as encompassing more severe and persistent forms of distress or loss of functioning. It is important to note that there is no single cause of mental illness and that both professional as well as personal factors and stressors can have an impact on our well being. At this stage it is recommended to seek help from health professionals.

The red ill zone (Clinical disorder / Severe functional impairement) can be defined as including all mental disorders arising in individuals. Since red zone illnesses are clinical mental disorders, they can only be diagnosed by health professionals. However, it is important to be aware of the characteristic symptoms of mental health illnesses to recognize them and seek help from your doctor as soon as possible. Common red zone mental health conditions include depression, social phobia, other anxiety disorders, and substance abuse or dependence.

The MHCM presented below, provides observable indications that help situate your health status and functioning. What is extremely important to understand about our psychological reaction to stressful situations, is that it is okay to react. Most will bounce back using their own coping and support resources. If you can’t find resolution and are not bouncing back, it is important to seek help early.

Mental Health Continuum Model (Family)

Healthy (green)
  • Calm & steady
  • Normal fluctuations in mood
  • Fit, fed, rested
  • In control physically, mentally, emotionally
  • Performing well
  • Behaving ethically and morally
  • Sense of humour
  • Relaxing & recreating
  • Socially active
  • Confident in self & others
Reacting (yellow)
  • Easily agitated, angered, frustrated & tired
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Decreased interest in activities
  • Nervous
  • Impatient
  • Unusual sadness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Problems with daily functioning (home, work, school)
Injured (orange)
  • Persistent anxiety & sadness
  • Angry reactions
  • Noticeable fatique
  • Poor concentration
  • Inability to enjoy activities
  • Excessive distrust & resentment
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Persistent physical symptoms (aches and pains)
  • Severe deterioration in daily functioning (home, work, school)
Ill (red)
  • Excessive anxiety, fatique & sadness
  • Regular panic attacks
  • Angry outbursts
  • Severe memory lapses
  • Cannot concentrate
  • Cannot perform daily routine
  • Significant sleep disturbances
  • Loss of control
  • Avoiding or withdrawing
  • Significant change in behaviour
  • Indications of suicidal thoughts/intentions
  • Symptoms get worse over time instead of getting better

4. What is the emotional cycle of deployment?

Individuals move through similar emotional stages when trying to cope with a deployment. Some commonly identified stages include:

  1. Anticipation of Departure - feelings and emotions include denial, anger, and possibly excitement
  2. Detachment and Withdrawal - service members focus on readiness and families may find themselves detaching and distancing to deal with sadness and anger
  3. Emotional Disorganization - once the deployment is underway, those at home may feel overwhelmed and confused
  4. Recovery and Stabilization - routines are set, confidence returns, and coping mechanisms are in place
  5. Anticipation of Return - excitement and happiness about the reunion
  6. Return Adjustment and Negotiation - renegotiation of roles and expectations
  7. Reintegration and Stabilization - relationships and roles re-established

For a complete description of the emotional stages of deployment, along with the tips for managing these stages refer to the Preparing for Deployment stress guide.

Taken from Preparing for Deployment Stress Guide

5. What resources exist to help military families during deployments?

There are a variety of familial resources available to assist military families throughout the deployment.

6. How does one prepare for deployment?

Preparing for deployment includes practical preparation, financial planning, personal and emotional preparation. The information provided throughout this website is designed to assist in your personal and emotional preparation for the deployment. Attending the R2MR Phase 3 Pre-deployment Training will be particularly useful in this regard.

Furthermore, the following checklist is included to assist you in preparing for the unexpected as well as the routine aspects of daily life during the deployment. The transition from team to solo can be facilitated by recording all pertinent information for each of the items on the checklist, such as due dates, locations, policy or account numbers, etc. Additional, more detailed checklists are also available through the Rear Party and/or Family Resource Centre, as well as in the Family Plan section of this website. Feeling adequately prepared will help to limit unnecessary sources of deployment stress.

Legal Issues:

  • Will
  • Power of attorney
  • Power of guardian
  • Life insurance

Financial Issues:

  • Budget
  • Accounts
  • Investments
  • Allotments
  • Income tax

Health Issues:

  • Insurance
  • Dental plan
  • Medical records
  • Phone numbers
  • Emergency plan

Home Issues:

  • Mortgage/rent
  • Insurance
  • Utilities
  • Security
  • Maintenance

Car Issues:

  • Registration
  • Insurance
  • Driver's license
  • Maintenance

Travel Issues:

  • Passport
  • Visa
  • Leave pass
  • Immunization

Information Support*:

  • Rear party/sponsor/unit contact
  • Military family resource centre
  • Chaplain
  • Social worker
  • Parents/in-laws
  • Emergency contact for children

*Names, addresses, and phone numbers recorded

Taken from Preparing for Deployment Stress Guide

7. What is a family care plan?

Link: Family Care Plan Declaration

Administered by local units, the FCP is designed to ensure that all CAF members have a plan in place to care for their family in the event of either an emergency callout or planned deployment.

The form is designed to assist members in creating their Family Care Plan and ensure they consider all the people for whom financial, health care, family or other support is normally provided.

The FCP is not a legally binding contract but rather an exchange of information between the member and the CO, designed to assist in improving individual and unit operational effectiveness. Family care plans are filled out by CAF personnel and kept on their personnel file with their unit.

All CAF personnel MUST complete the FCP form. If required, Canadian/Military Family Resource Centres (C/MFRCs) will assist in finding a caregiver.

Taken from The Canadian Forces Deployment Handbook: A practical guide for families

8. How can I help my children manage deployment stress?

Depending on their age and developmental level, children will react differently to a parent’s deployment. The R2MR Phase 3 Pre-deployment training has information devoted to assisting you in preparing your children and helping them cope with the deployment. For additional tips click on the following links Supporting young children and Teenagers and deployment.

9. Are there any emergency child care services available during the deployment?

Emergency Child Care Service (ECS)

  • Administered by the local C/MFRC
  • Provides timely, affordable and regulated child care for CAF personnel in times of emergency
  • Funding for child care services is available up to a limited number of hours for all CAF personnel and their spouses through the Emergency Child care Coordinator at the C/MFRC
  • Under certain circumstances, additional funding may be available
  • This service is not available if incremental costs are covered through Family Care Assistance

Respite Child Care Service:

  • Administered by the local C/MFRC
  • Available to CAF families when it has been determined that a period of respite is needed for the family’s continued health and well-being
  • Funding for child care services is available up to a limited number of hours
  • Under certain circumstances, additional funding may be available
  • Family Care Assistance (FCA)

Casualty Support Child Care:

  • Administered by the local MFRC
  • Available to families of CAF personnel who are ill, injured or who have died while serving
  • Funding for child care services is available up to a limited number of emergency respite care
  • Under certain circumstances, additional funding may be available

Taken from The Canadian Forces Deployment Handbook: A practical guide for families

10. Where can I find information to assist with managing the upcoming deployment?

The R2MR website has been created to assist you in managing the upcoming deployment. Whether you are a spouse, parent, friend or child of a deploying CAF member you will find information and training available regarding managing the upcoming deployment.

11. As a parent of a deploying member, are there resources and information to assist me in managing the deployment of my son/daughter?

The R2MR website has been created to assist you in managing the upcoming deployment. As a parent of a deploying CAF member you have will find information and training available regarding managing the upcoming deployment.

12. What can I do to manage successfully while my spouse/partner is deployed?

The R2MR website has been created to assist you in managing the upcoming deployment. As a spouse/partner of a deploying CAF member you will find information and training available regarding managing the upcoming deployment.

13. I am preparing to meet my military loved on during their mission leave, what should I expect?

Canadian Armed Forces personnel and their families look forward to their visit home with great anticipation. This for most families is a happy time and an opportunity to rest and reconnect part way through the tour. However, there can be some challenges during this time. Click here for tips on making mission leave a successful experience.

14. What is a reunion?

  • is part of the deployment cycle
  • is the process of reuniting in which military families engage when service members return from unaccompanied tours of duty
  • is identified by many military families as the most challenging time for them, whether the brief reunion of UN leave or the longer reunion at the completion of the tour of duty

Taken from Preparing for Deployment Stress Guide

15. What is reunion stress?

  • refers to the physical and emotional demands experienced by all family members around the time of homecoming. The return as well as the departure of the service member disrupts the balance/stability of the family. The majority of families require approximately three months to feel comfortable together again; however unique family characteristics and/or circumstances may shorten or lengthen the period of reunion stress.
  • may be intensified and prolonged by major changes in family circumstances such as birth, death, serious illness, or moving.

Taken from Preparing for Deployment Stress Guide

16. Where can I find information to assist with managing reunion stress?

The R2MR website has been created to assist you in managing the upcoming reunion. Whether you are a spouse, parent, friend or child of a deploying CAF member you will find information and training available regarding managing reunion stress.

17. How can I help my children manage reunion stress?

Depending on their age and developmental level, children will react differently to their parent’s return. The R2MR Phase 5 Post-deployment training has information devoted to assisting you in preparing your children and helping them cope with the reunion period.

18. My loved one is deployed and I am concerned s/he will return with an Operational Stress Injury, what should I do?

While many families worry about the emotional and physical health and safety of their loved one throughout their deployment, it is important to note that most CAF personnel who return from deployment do not develop mental health conditions or operational stress injuries. Recent post-deployment data suggests that 8 - 12% of CF personnel develop mental health conditions as a result of their deployment experiences. Furthermore, the Canadian Armed Forces takes all mental health concerns very seriously and ensures that CAF personnel are educated about the signs and symptoms of mental illness prior to their deployment, during their Third Location Decompression, and through follow up screening measures 3 to 6 months post-deployment. As well, comprehensive treatment services are provided to any CAF member who develops a psychological condition as a result of operations (including Reserve Force Members).

As a family member, it is important to recognize the risk of your loved one developing an Operational Stress Injury is quite low. Following the deployment you can expect some common transition and reintegration challenges that do not require any professional intervention. However, you can also prepare yourself by attending the Phase 5 R2MR training and learning about the signs and symptoms of mental illness.

19. My loved one appears to have changed after his/her deployment and I am concerned, what should I do?

The transition from the deployed environment to the home environment represents an enormous change in the physical and social environment to the returning service member. Most personnel ultimately negotiate this transition successfully using their own resources and the social support of family and friends, but an important minority find parts of the process to be distressing to them and to those around them. Some of those who struggle with fitting in once home are having these problems at least in part because they are suffering from an Operational Stress Injury or another mental disorder.

Following the deployment you can expect some common transition and reintegration challenges that do not require any professional intervention. Things you may notice during the transition period include increased feelings of nervousness or irritability, increased alertness or vigilance, sleep difficulties or nightmares, recurring thoughts about the deployment, fatigue, low energy, and increased physical complaints such as headaches or muscle aches. After the transition phase, most soldiers note that the reacting signs slowly dissipate and they move back into a healthy zone. However, watch for signs that things are not improving, and seek help early if you notice any of the following behaviours:

  • Physical aggression
  • Severe mood changes
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • High risk taking behaviour
  • Hyper-vigilance or arousal that doesn’t dissipate
  • Excessive alcohol/drug use

It is extremely important, and highly recommended, that your loved one takes the time to go for the post-deployment medical screening. You will find details about this procedure under the R2MR Follow Up phase of this website. This is essentially an opportunity for CAF personnel to meet with Health Care professionals 3 to 6 months post-tour and ensure that no underlying physical or psychological problems have developed as a result of the deployment.

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