Deployment cycle

Deployments are an opportunity for our personnel to see the world and experience new things, but they can also be emotionally demanding for everyone from immediate family to close friends. 

Dealing with deployment 

Deployments can make family life challenging, but there is support available - both from the rest of the Service community and a range of Royal Navy initiatives. Here, you can learn about the different stages of deployment and get practical advice on dealing with each one. 

Family and People Support

Deployment Cycle

Every deployment has an emotional impact, whether you’re a first-timer or have years of experience. Recognising the signs and preparing well can make it much easier to cope. Discover the five stages of deployment and see what support is available in each.

“The Emotional Cycle of Deployment” was first developed by Kathleen Vestal Logan, M.S., M.A. 


Deployment Announced

Deployments are generally announced 8-12 months in advance. Using this time to prepare both emotionally and practically is really important. At this stage, it’s a good idea to build a strong support network of peers and colleagues, either through the Royal Navy Forum or at your local Royal Navy Community Centre.

What can I expect? 

It’s common to feel that you have plenty of time to prepare, but the earlier you start, the better. 

At this stage it’s important to recognise that feelings of anger, resentment and underlying tension can begin to surface, but don’t worry, this is perfectly normal. 

Who is affected? 

Partners, spouses and children all feel the effects of a deployment, but coping can be made easier if you communicate openly and honestly. Our Welfare Team is also here to offer support and guidance.

How can I prepare?

If you have children, it’s vital that you open dialogue in advance, so you can reassure them that the parent leaving will also be coming back. You can also use the When a Special Person Goes Away Workbook to involve them in the process.

Storybook Waves is another way you can maintain a connection with your child. This service allows you to record a bedtime story for them to listen to while you’re deployed.

The Experience of Parental Absence Guide produced by the Naval Families Federation details the experience of parental absence and separation, providing some strategies to help families thrive. 

The Service Children’s Education (SCE) organisation has put together a number of resources to support families during these times. Visit their website to access resources. 

You should also start considering the practical aspects of being away, from contacting service providers to locating important household documents and managing renewal dates.


Three months before

As deployment approaches, it’s common to feel the stresses that come with anticipation and a sense of loss. 

What can I expect?

It can be hard to accept that partners are going to leave, causing unexpressed anger to surface. This is a naturally emotional time, so these tensions and some arguments are not unusual.

Restlessness, depression or irritability are also common at this stage. Deployed personnel often feel a sense of guilt, while their loved ones may be angry or resentful.

Who is affected?

All the family will be feeling emotional tension at this stage. It’s common to internalise these feelings to preserve the wellbeing of the person being deployed, however it is also constructive to be open and candid. These conversations can sometimes be painful and stressful, but this is outweighed by clearing the air, so you can be there for one another.

How can I prepare?

In the time leading up to deployment, there are some practical areas to consider to avoid unnecessary last minute stress and maximise time to enjoy together as a family.

Do you know how to turn off the water, gas and electricity? Or how the heating system works? Who is your service provider? If not, find out before a loved one deploys.

Make sure you know where all important documents are kept.

Renewal dates
Make a list of when important things need renewing. For example, you need to be aware when your car tax, MOT, car service, and insurances are due.

Make sure you know where your will is to remove any worry.

If your property is going to be empty for some time, check that your home and its contents are insured. It may be worth considering re-directing your mail and giving a door key to a neighbour.

In association with the British Legion and the Ministry of Defence, MoneyForce has been established as the home of financial guidance for UK Service Personnel and their families. 

One week before

Dealing with an imminent deployment can be as challenging as the deployment itself. 

What can I expect?

This close to a period of separation, it’s natural that you’re going to become more emotionally detached, withdrawing from close relationships and becoming less intimate. 

Although you’re likely to want to share and talk about your feelings less, particularly if departure is delayed, it’s important that you continue to communicate so that everything is out in the open before deployment.

Who is affected?

Children can be particularly vulnerable at this time, especially if it’s their first experience of a deployment. Talking openly and honestly about what’s about to happen is important. They may be feeling anxious or scared about the unknown, so reassuring them that everything is OK is key. 

This stage is the perfect time to organise something special, such as a family party or event to look back on. Also, Service children benefit hugely from having a memento from a deploying parent and giving one in return.

How can I prepare?

Deployment will be just around the corner, so you should have set most of your affairs in order, from managing household admin to keeping on top of key dates. You can use this time to ensure you have exchanged emergency contact details and registered for the Royal Navy Forum.

Spending quality family time together and resolving any disagreements, gives you the opportunity to start your deployment positively, pulling together as a strong unit.



During deployment

This is a time when things at home are very transitional, with a key family member missing and normal routines disrupted.

What can I expect?

No matter how you prepare, deployment can come as a shock. This may be accompanied by feelings of relief and guilt, while the responsibility of maintaining a family home can also be overwhelming. 

A withdrawal from loved ones is completely natural, as is a change in sleeping patterns, restlessness and irritability. To help these symptoms pass quickly, you should try connecting with the wider Service community; establishing new routines and feeling more independent in the process.

Who is affected?

Children need extra support during the separation of deployment. That means keeping the absent parent part of everyday emotional life and talking openly. 

Their performance at school may be affected slightly and behaviour may deteriorate, but if you keep communicating honestly and calmly, this will pass.

If you haven’t already, involve children as much as possible in the deployment by discussing the work mum or dad will be doing using the When a Special Person Goes Away Workbook. You can also contact our Welfare Team for more suggestions.

How can I prepare?

Families at home tend to settle into their own routine at this stage of deployment, and there are support networks available to help you adjust. The Royal Navy Forum is an excellent starting point.



This stage is one of mixed feelings, where anxiety contradicts with your natural desire to be reunited with your loved one.

What can I expect?

The deployment will have been filled with a new routine, work, friends and interests. Making room for a returning partner can naturally bring about nerves, tension and apprehension. While these feelings may be left unexpressed, it’s important to know that they are perfectly natural.

 Explain the impact this phase of the deployment cycle has on the user and family members. 

How can I prepare?

Focussing on the positives of your loved one being home soon, and even planning a celebratory event, can make this stage easier to manage.

Keeping in touch

Keeping in touch

If you have a loved one away on deployment, being able to stay in contact with them is really important. You can also find it easier to cope with time apart by connecting with other members of the Service community in a safe, online environment.

Learn more


Help and Support

If you need practical advice on all aspects of Royal Navy life, as well as the latest information about deployed units, you can sign up to the Royal Navy Forum or contact our Information Support Team.

In need of personal advice and support?

If you live on or near a major Naval base, you can get support by visiting the RN FPS Office.

If not, call our dedicated team on 02392 728 777 or 0800 145 6088.

Find your local support office


Connect with other members of the wider Service family in a safe, moderated environment, and get important deployment information straight from the ship.

Access the forum