It’s go time! Another PSC, a major disruption in your child’s life. We asked many experienced military moms for their best tips for moving with children in tow. Here are a few tried and true tips for your upcoming move.
Before you go….
- Talk, talk, talk. Change is hard for some children, especially for older children and those with special needs. Involve them in process in looking for homes, locations and schools. Talk about how and when things will proceed, try not to surprise them with unexpected twist and turns. Give them a suitcase or bag that they can bring along the special things they need during the move. Items like special pillows, blankets, toys, books or knickknacks in their room. Let them chose and own part of the their move, too.
- Create a PCS binder for your children. Gather pictures of their new house, maybe one of their new room, pictures and information about the city they are moving to, parks nearby, photos of the school and a travel map with route notated of their upcoming drive. A PCS binder will allow your children to be a part of the process and get excited about their new location.
- Find similar activities for your children in the new location before you leave. Activities like sports, 4H club, church groups,, scouts, art, local recreation centers and dance classes. Sign them up before you leave so when you arrive at your new location, they have a place to connect with other kids right away. Don’t forget about the on base/post youth programs, too.
- Changing schools: If you have school-aged children then you know changing schools can be exceptionally hard on the family. Be prepared. We recently published a PCS Checklist with helpful tips on how to be your child’s advocate at school.
- Goodbyes don’t have to be sad. Have a goodbye party for your children no matter the age. Whether it’s bowling party, sleepover, swim party or just a day at the park – let your children say a happy and fun goodbye to their friends. Give out pre-stamped, self-addressed envelopes with your new address to their friends so they can stay in touch. Change the stigma of saying goodbye.
- Ask for help. Many military mothers advise asking family or friends to help with children during the pack and load period. Ask neighborhood friends or family for help. It takes a village sometimes; so don’t be afraid to acknowledge your limits. Have family or friends take them during the critical move days. Moving becomes far less stressful when you and your spouse become a team and focus on move together.
- Stay positive. Your children are reflection of you. If you stay positive and focused, so will your children. They will take your lead and remember; they are watching how YOU transition. A recent study of military families revealed that the mother’s attitude towards military lifestyle directly affects their children. Read a summary here.
On the road…
- Treat your PCS travel like an adventure. Military Spouse recently published a piece about traveling for the holidays. It has great tips and tricks while on the road from fun travel apps, old school car games, behavior bags and great websites.
- Find the right hotel along the way. Experienced military moms know that the right hotel can solve most of your travel woes. Find hotels with an indoor pool and free breakfast – these are lifesavers. They keep the kids active, happy and saves on the wallet, too. Also, sign up your favorite hotel chain rewards program or honor cards and you’ll find yourself on the top floors with potential upgrades.
- It’s all about routines. Keeping sleep routines are important for children, especially during travel. Their bodies don’t adjust well to abrupt changes and their attitude during travel will reflect that. From naps to bedtime routines and times, keep them on schedule.
When you get there…
- Set up the children’s rooms as soon as possible. It’s a safe haven for them if they become overwhelmed or bored. Familiar things have a calming affect.
- Start connecting. Don’t wait until the boxes are all unpacked to start exploring. Take a tour of their new school, find the local hangouts, and explore your new city. Getting connected is a large part of the settling in. They sooner you help them connect with other kids, the sooner they will feel at home.
*A previous version of this article appeared in Military Spouse Magazine.