While supporting a parent’s military career, military children are asked to leave behind the familiar and embark on the unknown. The school they finally learned their way around, the best friends they’ve made and even the perfect bedroom must be given up when the PCS orders are cut.
Managing that transition as parent can be especially hard when you are worried about household goods and travel plans.
But here is an easy-to-remember acronym to help you mitigate any of the fears and angst your kids might have about PCSing: Frame, Acknowledge, Include, Re-engage and Support.
Frame the PCS in a Positive Light
Kids are so quick to pick up on our moods and fears, so even though you might be freaking out about moving to someplace you’ve never heard of, try to frame the idea of moving in a positive way.
Try to think of moving as your next great family adventure.
Talk about how moving helps your family support their service member parent and why their service is so important. Emphasize the positive possibilities like making new friends, seeing different parts of the country or world, trying new foods, and remind them that you get to do it all as a family.
Acknowledge Your Child’s Feelings
A certain amount of resistance and fear about a move is to be expected and completely natural. Make sure you acknowledge any fears your children might have about moving and discuss ways to overcome those fears.
It’s OK to share that you are a little nervous about the move yourself, but don’t stew in those feelings. Take steps to help keep your frame of mind positive.
Include Your Children in the Planning Process
Try to include your kids in the planning stages, if they are old enough. Things like having them help with your pre-packing garage sale or planning the route you will be taking as you travel between duty stations can help kids feel like they have a role in your move.
If you can, incorporate some leave time during your transition and include some quality family time as part of your relocation process. A weeklong cross-country road trip means you’ll have the opportunity to stop and see things you’ve never seen before and may never see again. Create memories that will give your family something to laugh, cry or smile about. You don’t have to spend a ton of money, there are all kinds of amazing sites across the country (and abroad) that just require your time and appreciation. A little online research can help you find those kind of places.
And while you’re surfing the web, spend some time learning about your new duty station and then daydream together about things you’d like to do or see when you arrive.
Re-Engage in Normal ASAP
This part takes a little bit of planning on your part, but it’s another way to include your kids before the move. If you’ve got a soccer player or dancer or artist-in-the-making, find at least one activity you know they will enjoy and try to get them involved right away. It will give them something to look forward to and create a sense of the familiar in a new place.
Also, when it comes to unpacking, consider setting up your children’s rooms first. The sooner you can get back into your family routines, the better.
Before you leave your old duty station, be sure you get good contact information – cell phone numbers, emails and mailing addresses for friends you are leaving behind. A regular letter or Skype session is a great way to stay connected and it can really help kids who are moving (and those who are left behind) feel a little less isolated.
Support Your Child Through This Transition
No matter how many plans we make, there will always be that bump in the road we can’t possibly prepare for. Make a point to really talk to your kids about their feelings and listen to their concerns during your transition and after you arrive at your duty station (and for months afterward!).
Change is hard. Remind them that their feelings are normal. Then make sure you talk about things you can do as a family to help make the transition a little easier.