Growing Up in a Military Family: Dealing With Isolation

Updated August 13, 2021
Feeling alone

Being part of a military family offers people ample benefits, but also several drawbacks. One of those drawbacks is feelings of isolation. Knowing how to recognize feelings and attitudes related to isolation, and ways to prevent or remedy loneliness, is key to creating a healthy lifestyle for military families.

Why Isolation Occurs in Military Families

If your family is a military family, moving around is likely a part of your lifestyle. Military families find that relocations come with the territory, and moving frequently may result in feelings of isolation and loneliness. When active military family members make a move because of a job, their families sometimes need to leave life behind and move to the next military base. Here, they need to start all over again, making new friends and connections.

Isolation and sadness in military families is a common feeling for many. In fact, studies have shown that more than 1/3 of military families feel that they have no one to turn to when they need a favor. It's hard to live your life feeling like an island. Being uprooted on a continual basis is a challenge that must be faced, addressed, and remedied.

Feelings Related to Being Isolated From Friends and Family

Living in a new town or at a new base can be an exciting adventure for the entire family, but it can also be a lonely one. Once your family settles into their new home and your spouse returns to their military duties, where does that leave you? The answer is, in a lonely space. When people feel disconnected from others or isolated, other negative thoughts, feelings, and emotions can creep in, wreaking havoc on a person's mental health. Military family members who feel isolated might find themselves experiencing anxiety and depression. They might stay withdrawn and nervous, and consider not reaching out to anyone because, why bother? It's hard to make friends only to know that you may have to leave them once again with a subsequent move.

Moving past these negative feelings is key to combatting isolation. You need human contact and people to count on during trying times. Military families know that challenging times will come, and recreating a new support system in a new place is essential. Military family members can also feel alone and isolated without a big move. When they have a spouse away on active duty, depression and loneliness can ensue. Studies have found that 7% of military partners met the criteria for clinical depression, compared to only 3% of partners in the general population.

Combatting Isolation

When military family members feel lonely and isolated, what can they do? The answer often lies in the people and community surrounding them.

Find On-Base Support

If you and your military family have moved to a new base, you will be surrounded by tons of families who are experiencing similar thoughts and feelings. They know what it's like to live a lifestyle that often takes you from one place to the next with little notice. They know firsthand how isolating and lonely it is when a family member leaves for active duty. The people on base can be amazing support networks during your times of sadness, loneliness, and isolation. Bases can also help connect you to support groups and mental health professionals, should you decide to call on those services.

Stay Connected With Friends and Family

If you have had to move away from loved ones, you are likely feeling the loneliness tenfold. Having no family or friends nearby is an emotional struggle, and you will need strong coping skills to get through your loneliness. Make sure to stay connected to loved ones even if you are physically apart. Thanks to technology, people can now connect through video chatting, text messages, emailing, and all sorts of other modes.

Engage in Healthy Habits

Stay as active and healthy as you can. Get outside and breathe fresh air. Take walks or find a means to exercise in your free time. Think about what brings you joy, and dive in. If you want to meet other people in a new community, consider taking a local class where like-minded people will surround you.

If you have children, get them engaged in activities as well. Sign them up for basketball, soccer, or dance. They will meet new friends, and you might also meet some fun dad or mom friends in the process.

Talk About Your Feelings

Sadness and loneliness can create lasting emotional damage when left unattended. It is important for anyone feeling the negative effects of isolation to seek help. This can come in many forms, including talking to a trusted friend or a professional. Discussing how loneliness impacts you is a start to healing. Suddenly, by opening up about your isolation, you are less alone.

Focus on the Positive

It can be easy to get into a negative thinking cycle with many moves and calls to active duty. A constant state of concern, sadness, and worry is no way to live. Try to focus on the positive aspects of military life as there are plenty of pros. Military families often have benefits like good health coverage, cost-effective living, on-base perks, and tuition assistance. Families can focus on feeling pride for their service members, remembering that their personal sacrifices are helping the country.

Feelings of Isolation Don't Have to Last Forever

Knowing what to do when you have no friends can be difficult. If you are experiencing isolation, sadness, and loneliness, know that there are ways to cope and rise above. Recognizing these emotions is often the first step to combatting them. Seeking out the help you need to move towards a more positive space is also essential. Work to create a community of support and pave a path to a happier, healthier you.

Growing Up in a Military Family: Dealing With Isolation