As a newly returned missionary, my mom took me shopping for new clothes. Normally, I’m a pretty picky person when it comes to clothes, so I did not expect that I would like anything.
I remember being at the store and liking almost everything. My mom said, “who are you, and what did you do with my kid?!” She wasn’t upset with me, she just didn’t expect that I had changed so much.
You may find yourself feeling a similar way upon the return of your missionary. Here are some things to keep in mind as you anticipate their arrival.
They will be…different.
They have just spent a significant chunk of their life up to this point serving and being selfless. Your son or daughter may now be more Christ-like than ever before.
They may have more patience, sensitivity, or confidence, but they will also be pretty awkward. Just like a mission is a unique and personalized experience, the effects of a mission will manifest differently each returned missionary.
Don’t expect them to react in the same ways they used to.
Although they may still react to things as they did before, I personally noticed an increased amount of patience and tolerance in myself. It bled into how I treated those around me once I got home.
For example, If we were in a restaurant and the food was taking forever or it wasn’t very good, I was abnormally patient with the servers. To the point where I would wait WAY too long for the food to just to have it come out cold. At times it really frustrated my friends and family.
They might feel uncomfortable about doing normal things.
There are a lot of strange little rules that missionaries follow when they are in the field. It can be really easy for them to feel guilty or uncomfortable when they start doing some of these things again, even though they are totally normal for you.
Things like sending a text without reading it out loud, spending more than an hour eating dinner, or introducing themselves with their first name, are just some of the totally normal things that they may need to get used to doing again.
Expect mission stories galore.
They will probably only want to talk about their mission all the time and that is totally normal. It is important that you let them talk about it. Don’t treat them as if they should just move on because it’s in the past.
I remember feeling like, after the first 2 weeks of being home, no one wanted to hear my mission stories anymore. It seemed like I was annoying people so I stopped. A friend told me that she would listen to my stories as long as I needed to tell them. Make sure that your missionary feels like you are there and want to listen to them.
The adjustment can be rocky.
Your returned missionary may go through a stage of being a little depressed. This happens if they try to keep themselves as busy as they once were. It can also happen if they choose to do nothing. This normally happens at some point within the first 6 months of being home.
While it is important to stay busy, recently returned missionaries have a tendency to overwork themselves, finding that other endeavors are not as fulfilling as a mission.
Even though they may seem okay with the things on their plate, or lack thereof, just check in with them. It’s really easy to pretend like you’ve got it all handled when you really don’t.
For those who don’t have anything to do upon returning home, Preach My Gospel quotes President Hinkley when it says that every new member needs 3 things: A friend, a responsibility, and spiritual nourishment. Returned missionaries need these same 3 things in order to succeed.
As President Thomas S. Monson said, it is so important to “Remember your purpose.” Help them to remember their purpose, even if it is a little bit different now than it used to be.
Temporary or permanent?
Lastly, don’t expect these to last forever. Some of these changes will only be temporary. Eventually, your returned missionary will feel less weird about watching movies and they will recover from companion separation anxiety.
Keep in mind that the best changes are usually permanent ones. The qualities that they have truly cultivated will shine through as time passes.
What are some other things to expect when a missionary comes home? Share in the comments.