Getting ready for a move can be rough at any age. But dealing with kids, especially those who are old enough to understand what changing duty station means, can be the roughest of all.
As adults within the military community, we are hardened by the experience of frequent moves — even if only as an idea. But kids are sensitive. They’re overwhelmed about leaving all they know and starting new, and understanding and catering to that mindset can help the experience be better for all involved.
Put yourself in their shoes
Start by putting yourself in the kids’ situation. They are facing leaving their friends, their room, their school and teachers and their entire town. Depending on their age and how many times you’ve moved over the years, this may or may not be new. But either way, they are likely to be upset. Remember that just because they’ve done it before doesn’t mean it’s easier!
If you grew up in the military, you know first-hand how PCSing young feels. If you weren’t associated with frequent moving until later in life, you might have to try a little harder to understand kids’ priorities and why, to them, moving feels like the end of the world.
Tell them like it is
Kids are smarter than they often get credit for. Don’t beat around the bush or avoid a tough conversation. PCSing is part of the military lifestyle, and accepting that as a fact rather than trying to soften the blow can go a long way.
Once orders come in — or are about to — be honest. Tell your kids where you’re going, when, where the possibilities of new locations might be and more. Attacking this info head-on can give them the tools to better deal with a move.
Use available resources
Each branch will have its own resources for helping kids through big changes. Use them. Search at schools, MWR offices and more. Ask other moms what they do or use your online community for the best tips. When first moving, attend newcomers’ briefs so you can get acquainted with what’s on post, and what you have access to. Then use it! Child and Youth Services, or your branch’s equivalent, can help provide you with better data for tough conversations.
Get excited with them!
Moving is an exciting event for the whole family, so be sure to talk about all the fun that’s ahead! New activities, restaurants and outside events and more can all be taken in. Discuss future family adventures, traveling or even who you might stop and see along the way. What are the nearest vacation hotspots? What foods will everyone get to try? Are you getting closer to the beach? What about winter snow skiing where you can spend the weekends? Whatever excitement lies ahead, play them up so kids can be pumped about a location change.
Kids are extremely adaptable, and when given the opportunity to excite vs. stress over a situation, they can better cope through the moving and planning-to-move process.
Hide your parental stress
Even the most straightforward PCS to date comes with a level of stress. However, the better you hold it together for the kids, the less they will feel the need to stress on their own. Keep anxiety-ridden conversations between adults. While it’s important to be honest, there are also things that kids simply shouldn’t worry about. Do your best to shelter them from knowledge that is beyond their control to help with mental health through your next move.
Moving with kids can be a big change for all, but as a military family, it’s something that will take place often. Use these steps to the best of your ability for smoother moves in years to come.