‘I feel like I have failed’, these were the words I cried out to my mum. A year on, and I completely disagree with those words. I know I did the right thing and I didn’t fail my son. Here, a military wife shares how counselling helped her son come to terms with his father’s deployment…

Last year my husband deployed to Afghanistan; nothing unusual something that has happened quite regularly during our married life. This time I thought to myself it will be different. My son was now older, just turned six, and understood a little more the dangers of his dad’s job. This was going to be a longer tour too, eight months to be exact, and although I knew I was strong enough to look after our home, our children, the dog and my work, I didn’t expect the reaction I got from my son.

Changes in behaviour

Half way through my husband’s tour I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown I was struggling; my daughter was coping well without her dad being around, but my son however, was not. Every day it was something different at school, ‘he has done this’ and ‘he has done that’. He became unrecognisable; my happy relaxed little boy had turned aggressive and sometimes uncontrollable.

The school was very accommodating; they had known him for a couple of years and saw the difference themselves. Although they didn’t really understand the effects or troubles that come with Army children, they did their best to support my son through this difficult time by working with me to improve his behaviour.

Yippee! Daddy is coming home

Finally, I was able to relax a little, my husband’s tour finished. Naively I thought this is it, I am going to get my little boy back – but how wrong I was. My husband had been back home for about three months, enough time for us to settle in together as a family again, but my son was still struggling and it was very hard to watch. He was very short tempered and was having a difficult time trying to express his feelings.

Recognising there’s no stigma

The school suggested a counsellor to help identify and address his feelings and behaviours that were keeping him from doing well at home or school. My initial reaction was there’s no way he is seeing a counsellor; he’s only six years old. I felt like I had failed my child; I obviously couldn’t give him what he needed. I blamed myself and felt like a rubbish parent. Seeing a counsellor or psychiatrist has a stigma to it, but after talking to my husband we both agreed this may be just what he needs to get over the shock of his dad’s deployment. I can honestly put my hand on my heart and say that it was the best thing we ever did.

Helping to express feelings

My son was seen at school. He met privately with the counsellor and his teacher and I didn’t know what went on in their meetings together. This was very difficult for me, but I took a step back and went with it. The counsellor helped him learn how to express his feelings; it was okay to be angry, sad or happy and the sessions taught him how to channel these feelings in a positive way. He had about six sessions with the counsellor, and a year on he is calm, and I have my boy back.

Counselling for my child was the best thing I have ever done and would do it again without any hesitation. I haven’t failed as a mother I just needed a little help to get my son through a difficult time of being an Army child. 

Useful contacts:

The Army Welfare Service – www.army.mod.uk/welfare or call 01980 615975

Young Minds – www.youngminds.org.uk or call the Helpline 0808 802 5544

Counselling Directorywww.counselling-directory.org.uk

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