For those in the Reserves, being deployed on operational duty can be a life-changing experience - they are pitched into an environment that can be both hostile and totally alien to them. For those left behind the absence can also create problems which they may find difficult to deal with.
As soon as you know that your family member is going to be mobilised you should start making plans to help you and your family manage whilst they are away. Many areas of your life will be affected by their departure but the deployment will be a lot easier to bear if you and your family are well prepared.
The MoD recommend that every family of a Reservist should follow the steps on the guide below prior to their Family Members deployment.
One of the hardest things that families of mobilised Reservist personnel have to cope with is isolation. This is not to be confused with loneliness. Frequently, you will be surrounded by family and friends who will all want to help and support you – as best they can. However, they may not understand the specific situation that you find yourself in. It can be enormously comforting to be in contact with others in the same boat and a network enables you to reach other families who also have a family member in the Reserves.
Networking is a method of keeping in touch with other TA and Regular Reserve families. It could be in person, by phone or by email.
What is a Network?
A network is essentially a support group for people experiencing a similar – often challenging – situation. However, there are no rules on the makeup of the group. It is whatever you want it to be. It could include parents, spouses, children, siblings, even friends.
Why do we need one?
Experience has shown us that sharing challenging situations bonds people in a special way. Just as our soldiers gain enormously from comradeship on operations, their families can also benefit from the company and support of others who understand the unique demands that mobilised service brings.
How do we set one up?
Again, there are no rules. A network may develop informally through contacts you and your serving family member have made with others in his/her unit or perhaps with someone you meet at an Open Day or Briefing.
Service welfare staff will also be able to help in the initial start up of a network. Serving personnel could submit the names of friends and family who wish to be included and after the Unit has gained their written agreement, a list of contact details could be circulated amongst those that are interested.
For those serving
Your serving relative has been used to a very different pace of lifestyle. They are used to a set routine of work, often at a high intensity pace, with little time off. Their daily work, which may at times have been mundane, will never the less have been conducted under the intense pressure of potentially life-threatening circumstances. They may have been in an alien culture and in an environment that is basic at best or unbearable at worst.
To make a rapid change back to the comforts of home with the completely different routine - the change of pace, the apparent triviality of domesticity - and being with people who have not shared his experience, can be difficult.
For the Family
The family may have undergone changes in the soldier's absence, which may not have been as dramatic, but will have seemed significant to them. The home partner may have adopted new routines or changed existing ones.
They may have changed their work and social patterns and adopted new responsibilities. The family will have experienced stress and worry about the soldier's safety, which on home coming may release itself in unexpected ways.
Children will have grown and changed, and their emotional dependence may have transferred to other family members.
The Royal British Legion - Helpline
And of course, should you have any other issues or questions with Reservist deployment, please contact The Royal British Legion.
You can call from 8am to 8pm, 7 days a week (calls are free from UK landlines and main mobile networks) for all enquiries.
Inside UK: 0808 802 8080
From overseas: +44 (0)20 3376 8080 (full rate)
You can also email or make use of the online Knowledge Base where you can submit a question or participate in online chat.