Ideas to Help Your Military Kids Through a PCS Move

Kids carrying boxes and helping family move

Post from MilitaryByOwner

During a military move, it’s natural to get caught up in the logistics of all the tasks you need to accomplish. And if you’re a parent, the tasks during a move only multiply.

While we all know that PCS moves affect our children, it can be easy for their needs and emotions to get lost in the shuffle as we manage the mountain of to-do lists we face. Over our years of military moves, my husband and I often reminded each other that we’d fallen into “task mode” (our gentle reminder to consider the feelings of various family members as we ran yet another errand, packed another box or handled travel details). It’s so important to realize how much help our children need through this major life change, whether they’re excited to move or dragging their heels. Here are a few tried-and-true strategies from experienced military parents that we hope will help make your PCS move easier.

Before and During the Move

  1. Let kids help. From separating belongings to packing up a few boxes and choosing items to donate or sell, letting kids have a say in what’s happening can give them more of a sense of agency about the whole process. Even choosing what they put into their backpack for the car ride or plane trip allows some autonomy.
  2. Keep talking. Some children may ask a lot of questions; others won’t. No matter if it’s their first move or they’re a seasoned mover, keep the lines of communication open, ask them if they have questions and make time to check in regularly. It’s often the case that the quiet children or ones who seem to be handling it all just fine are actually struggling, but don’t know how to express it. Get more tips for communication with kids during a PCS move.
  3. Encourage goodbyes. Many children may not wish to go through yet another round of goodbyes. We encourage our children to say farewell and “see you later” to people and places that were a big part of their lives. Take photos of them with friends, at school and in front of your house. They may roll their eyes at it now but will probably be grateful for those memories later.
  4. Create excitement. Along with the goodbyes comes a time of looking forward. If your kids are old enough, research the new base together and look at resources like Great Schools and SchoolDigger to check out the new schools. If you’re homeschooling or using a private school, research state laws and options together.
  5. Plan for some fun and downtime. Make time for a special outing before you move or along the way as you travel. Often, we parents are exhausted and try to get through the travel portion as quickly as possible (that “task mode” in operation again). Take time to create new memories.

After the Move

  1. As with packing up, let kids help and make decisions. Set up the kids’ rooms first and do something special to make it their own, whether it’s purchasing new bedding or letting them choose how their room will be arranged.
  2. Maintain routines. Kids thrive with routines and consistency. Of course, that can be difficult to manage when you’re surrounded by moving boxes while you live out of your suitcases. But keeping simple routines such as bedtimes and meal times the same can provide a degree of comfort and familiarity.
  3. Be patient and allow time. Give children time and let them set the pace as they process this big change. Don’t expect them to “just get over it” on your timetable. Encourage them to keep in touch with old friends if they wish to. Of course, every child’s temperament is different, which means they’ll handle big events like a move differently. If you need it, seek out help from trusted sources, such as Military OneSource or a counselor.

Many military families aren’t aware of all the free resources available to them. Here are a few you that can help you help your military kids through the PCS transition.

Military Kids Connect: an interactive program for military kids of all ages, along with resources for military parents regarding moving, deployment and more. Military Kids Connect is an initiative of the Connected Health branch of the Defense Health Agency (DHA).

The Youth Sponsorship Program: Kids can connect with a peer before you even arrive. This can help ease the moving transition and provide children with a friendly face when they arrive at the new duty station. This program is administered by school and youth services programs at local installations.

Sesame Street for Military Families "The Big Moving Adventure": Geared toward younger children, Sesame Street has put together “The Big Moving Adventure” video for military kids, along with other resources for each phase of the move from breaking the news to settling in after arrival.

Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC): education support for military kids with a mission of "inclusive, quality educational opportunities for all military-connected children affected by mobility, transition, deployments and family separation."

Student Liaison Officers (SLO): The SLO serves as the primary point of contact for school-related matters, can assist with any school issues and coordinate with your local school system. The U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) has updated Student Liaison Officer links for all branches of the military.

Operation Purple Camp: from the National Military Family Association, a free week of camp designed for military children to connect with other military kids and receive support. They’re also offering Operation Purple Camp programs at home.

While a move is obviously a time of upheaval for military families, it can also be a season of building new memories, learning new coping skills, and making new friends. Make use of all the resources and support that are available for your military kids.

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