I've had my fair share of interactions with returned missionaries, RMs. I've seen them in the post mission dating world at BYU. On an even wider scale I've heard their complaints and emotional rants as I am still nestled comfortably in the mission home of their former mission. Everyone's responses are different. Some missionaries I've talked to believe that if you worked hard in the mission then you will have closure, making leaving the mission easier. For some people this thought did make the transition easier; however, mission life is definitely different than real life. All of a sudden you are expected to make big decisions for life outside of the mission world NOT to mention removing your beloved Elder/Sister nametag! Instead of having a schedule filled with meetings, you need to consider a job, school attendance, choosing a major, and dating. That's enough to make any co-ed's head spin. But throw in the lack of thinking/doing any of those things for the past two years and it is a whole other world.
So here are my two cents on everything a returned missionary needs to make return to real life a little easier. (And by the way - taking off the nametag has broken many a missionary heart. I don't know how many times missionaries told me that they thought it was going to be something special prior to removing it. But often the stake president just tells them to take it off. (May want to mention this, just in case it happens).)
1. A missionary NEEDS some kind of schedule. In other words they need something to do. They are used to adhering to a a set time to sleep, study, work. I've seen it happen way too often. A missionary, without structure, is a perfect example of why an "idle" mind... hands... etc is a bad thing. They lose momentum and often become stagnant or, even worse, falter.
2. They NEED a "companion". I'm not saying they need to find a relationship with someone of the opposite gender, but they do need a friend. I say "companion" because they need to find a friend that will give them that nudge in the right direction. A nudge of encouragement to continue living a spirit filled life. After two years of being required to be in eyesight of your companion, personal space can be nice, but it can also feel foreign and even lonely. If all of their friends are away at college and they are stuck at home this could be harder to find. But a companion can be found in your own family, especially your ward family.
3. They NEED to feel useful. A calling, things to do around the house, goals, school applications, and even a job. All of these things will help them maintain some kind of schedule and find the "companion" that will make the transition easier.
Every RM is different. If you are an RM reading this maybe you have some additonal input. We would love to read about your ideas in the comments and depending on what you say we may even include it. But this post is also for those missionary mommas who are turning to the internet to help their valiant young sons and daughters. So Moms, this is especially for you because we know you are listening.