Spring will quickly turn to summer, which means the height of PCS season will soon arrive. Each year, more than 400,000 service members and their families move from one duty station to the next. There about 1.2 million military children, and while they are not all moving each year, about one-third of them move in a typical year. If your military family is facing a move with kids, help your children prepare for the military move with these tips.
Tell them early.
This one is key. Telling the children allows for processing in their own time. Just as adults need time to process this news, children do. It helps them decide how to share this information. Some children choose not to share this with their friends to avoid being shunned way before the move, as has happened to them. Some children decide to share the news to plan to stay connected with their friends.
Younger children, those under 5, probably do not know what to do with this information or will do or say anything different. This tip is most important for school-age children.
Give them Ownership
Military children move from their schools and homes at the whim of the military. The frequent moves and changes that are not something they oversee can lead to feelings of frustration and defeat. Help them by giving them something to remain in charge of – packing their suitcase and backpack. Give them something that will be their own that they can oversee. This is age dependent. If your six-year-old only packs underwear, you may want to help guide them, but this will give them power over some of the change.
Another age-dependent activity, but involve them as you can. If your teen can help pack up books, or your middle schooler can sort through clothes with their siblings to determine what can be donated, give them that task. This enables you to remove a task from your to-do list, which will, in turn, give you more downtime together as a family. It also gives them a job as part of the move.
Ask them about their feelings and opinions. Check-in days and weeks after the move to discuss their feelings and concerns. Value their time and their feelings. According the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, moving frequently impacts children’s psychological well-being and social relationships. By talking about these feelings, validating their concerns, the stress of the move can lessen. While nothing can make the stress of moving completely disappear, being open as a family about the feelings and concerns is key to maintaining a solid family relationship.
Create a PCS Binder
This one is a favorite of ours. After talking to the kids about the move, we create a binder together. Plans for the new home, house hunting must-haves, the new school info (if you know it), travel plans. Everyone is involved in what goes in the binder. Check out the tourism website for the new location, as there are sometimes sections of the website specifically for children with coloring sheets or ideas on what to explore when you arrive. This creates excitement about the move, in addition to the sadness and trepidation they may feel.
Find similar activities that your kids enjoy at the new location. Find a new studio with similar training or activities if your child does ballet. Find the new soccer or baseball league. Reach out to the organization to check on when their schedules come out for the next year when tryouts or auditions occur. Let your kids know what you found. It provides another thing to look forward to with familiarity with what they have enjoyed in their home.
Plan for Fun
Find something fun you want to do as a family once you arrive. While breaking away from the boxes is difficult, time together exploring a new area is valuable. Find a museum, park, or restaurant to check out a day or two after arrival. Checking the new location will build interest and connection in the new home.
Create a PCS Bin
Pull out several special books or toys for each child and put them in a bin that will be packed at the last minute. If you are moving across the country or OCONUS, save an item or two to move along with them. If you are moving door to door, have the larger items packed last or stay in the car for the drive. The constancy of their favorite things will be a comfort.
Whatever routines you can keep, do. Keep naptime the same for younger children. Keep the bedtime routine as similar as possible for children and adults. While the location may change, the consistency of the same routine will help with the adjustment for the packing, moving, and new home.