As hard as it is for people to be in the service, reintegrating into society as a civilian often poses many significant challenges as well. In a myriad of ways, readjustment is one of the hardest things servicemen and women have to face. As civilians who never went into the service, we may not know the unique challenges that separating from the military service presents.
If you’ve ever found yourself wondering how to help veterans adjust to civilian life, you must recognize that this is a multipronged approach. First, you need to gain an understanding of the common challenges they’ll face in this readjustment time. From there, you can start to see how you can help. In hopes to aid in this approach, we’ve come up with a basic guide on how to help veterans adjust to civilian life—check it out!
Common Challenges Veterans Face During Readjustment
Reassessing Their Relationship with Themselves
A main concern when veterans return is their relationship with themselves, and realigning their sense of identity, purpose, and self-worth.
Reconnecting with Family and Friends
During absences, families create new routines. Because of this, both veteran and family will have to adjust and make changes. These adjustments are difficult for both parties, as family roles—in minor and major areas—must be re-developed.
Reentering the Workforce
There’s the chance that a veteran may never have looked for, applied for, or interviewed for a civilian job—these skills can be quite daunting to master. Reentering the workforce or returning to a job necessitates catching up, learning new skills, and ample adjustment.
Coping with Starting Over
One of the biggest adjustments veterans face upon their return is that they tend to no longer hold that the same respect and authority level that they had in the service. It tends to feel like they’re starting over, and that can be quite the blow if they were highly ranked.
Adjusting to a Different Pace
In the most basic sense, there is a significant difference between military and civilian life. Veterans have to adjust to that different pacing and lifestyle almost immediately after return.
Psychological Effects of Traumatic Experiences
Apart from PTSD, there are significant psychological effects that may inhibit personal and professional reintegration. Survivor’s guilt, depression, and inclinations toward substance abuse are a few examples.
With those challenges in mind, take a look at a few tips and tactics to help the veterans in your life readjust. These aren’t surefire ways to get them suddenly joyful and ready to take on the day, but slowly, these will help transform their attitude on civilian living.
Helpful Tactics to Help Veterans Readjust
Allow Time for Self-Care
Just as it’s important for people who’ve never been in the military to make time for self-care, it’s even more important to give and provide that time for veterans. It’s important to recognize that the emotional journey will most likely take longer than the physical journey. In that time, it’s vital that you allow time for them to care for themselves in the most basic sense. Plenty of rest, good nutrition, and a focus on improving and sustaining a good emotional, mental, and spiritual mindset will do wonders.
Wait, Listen, and Learn
One of the most important things you can do to help a veteran is to just wait. Give them some time to readjust. Chances are, they are not suddenly going to fall back easily into civilian lifestyle. When you follow some of these tips, hopefully, they will begin to open up. When that occurs, do your best to actively listen. Generally, they don’t want you to simply solve the issues they’re facing. Instead, be the person they can turn to; when you listen rather than push them away, you’ll help them cope with their experiences. You’ll end up learning quite a lot, and that can help you move forward with support.
Many organizations are there to help veterans and their families. These organizations can develop camaraderie between veterans, which in turn helps ease any transition burden. Different organizations provide different types of aid—some solely to connect veterans with one another, others help deal with psychological effects, others are there for familial help. The list is seemingly endless. We’ve compiled a few below:
- Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)
- National Association of American Veterans (NAAV)
- American Legion
- Purple Heart
- Wounded Warrior Project
- American Veterans (AMVETS)
Help Them Reconnect
Often, the most beneficial action for veterans is talking to other veterans. However, this can also be the most difficult action, since many are trained not to talk about feelings and struggles. In fact, the veteran in your life may shut this idea down right away. Steer them toward the idea that they don’t have to talk about war, combat trauma, or the military in general. Instead, emphasize that it’s important to have access to someone else who knows what it’s like to be a vet—these shared experiences and mutual support can do wonders for easing transition.
Donate and Volunteer
Whether you personally know a veteran or just want to support them in general, donating and volunteering your time is an excellent way to do so. A solid support system is an essential way for veterans to readjust and get back on their feet. This can mean various things, from donating clothes and items to organizations that support veterans, such as GreenDrop, to building houses with Building Homes for Heroes. There are many ways to help veterans readjust, and making sure that the organizations they turn to have the necessary resources is just one such way.
Say Thank You
Finally, do your best to say thank you. Show gratitude and respect for what veterans have done and what they’ve risked. A simple thank you can be enough to make a veteran’s day better and shows that you understand the sacrifice they’ve made.
Hopefully, by understanding the challenges they face and knowing the different tactics, you’ll be able to better support veterans who are in a readjustment period. If you’re looking to provide more consistent support, turn to GreenDrop. With monthly charitable donations, such as clothing pick up and drop off, you’ll lend support to charities, including Purple Heart. Support those who risked everything for us—donate now!