By Stacey Faris, PCSgrades Base Advocate
Ever have the PCS itch?
You know the one.
That nagging sensation you get when you’ve been somewhere two plus years – the excitement of new adventures, new vacation spots, and restaurants. The never-ending game of finding moving stickers when you were sure you’d gotten them all!
As it turns out, kids aren’t immune to this either.
They’ve watched new friends come, and great ones go. They’ve heard about the exciting places the military can send you, and they want their turn to try it out.
Our military kids are a resilient bunch. The poem comparing them to dandelions – virtually impossible to destroy and easily blooming wherever planted? It’s true. In their young lives, many military kids will endure more than most adults will in an entire lifetime.
And while they are usually up to whatever challenge gets thrown their way, it doesn’t mean they won’t appreciate a little help to smooth the transition of new friends, new houses, and new schools.
Half the battle is making sure you project a positive outlook about your new location. You can’t fool kids. If you bash the new place, you can set the whole move up for failure. If instead, you remind them they are that dandelion and can flourish anywhere they land, you will set them up for success from the start.
When my daughter’s best friend, Maya, left last fall it was our first foray into true heartbreak when a friend leaves. It was really important for my friend Deb and I to find a way for the girls to stay connected. I wanted Sydney to feel like she was somehow a part of the moving adventure and for Maya to stay connected to her friends. So we created a cutout of their school mascot – a lab-coated Gator, laminated him, and attached a popsicle stick. At every stop along the way, Maya brought out the Gator and snapped pictures that they could share with us and their class.
Unbeknownst to us, they had come up with a great gift for Sydney too. She received a pre-prepped Pen Pal kit that included: a pencil bag stocked with paper, pens, stickers, stamps, and pre-addressed envelopes. Talk about a great way to help your kid keep in touch and with the added bonus of practicing the lost art of writing letters!
Since I’m not generally very creative, here are some other great ideas military families have used for their kiddos!
Buy Them Books!
Katherine LeChot’s mom got a book about North Carolina for her kids. “It was the only state my children had known.” She also got them one about TX, “It got my kids excited to move somewhere new.”
We love multi-purpose gifts. Reading to and with the kids is a great opportunity for bonding, plus it helps to pass the travel time!
Before the movers show up, Jill Simcox, has her kids decorate one box that gets to hold anything they deem important inside. “We pack it together (to make sure it is safely done) and then set it aside. When the movers come, I explain the box to them, they tag it and load it. At the new place, the kids are excited to see “their” box come off the truck and it’s the first one they open.”
Jill says, “It helps them feel like they are part of the process and it allows them to see that their belongings are just as they were, just now in a new space.”
This idea would keep my daughter busy for a good two days!
Make Moving a Game
Kori Yates says, “We call our moves Treasure Hunts, and we go looking for the treasures God has for us there. We have the kids take pictures of things that are important to them in the place we are leaving and document the places we are going. Once we are settled, we add them to their moving scrapbooks.”
Heather Douge does something similar for her girls. “We drive through our neighborhood/community and take photos of each of their important places: their school; their friend’s houses; their favorite playground and even the ice cream shop. And then I print those and put them into a photo booklet.”
Buying each kid a disposable camera and a binder is a relatively inexpensive way to let them record all of the important parts of their journey, old and new!
Give Everyone Some Homework
“When preparing for our move to England,” says Rachel Toney, “we had each of our kids (aged 14, 8, & 7) research: One place they wanted to visit/explore within England; a country they wanted to visit (aside from England and the US); and a historical figure that was local or made a significant impact on our new home.”
Kids like to be involved. They want to feel ownership in their day to day lives. Plus, having extra helpers find new vacation spots is never a bad thing!
Help With Older Kids
The suggestions above work for kids of all ages. But when it comes to the older kids (late middle school and high school), here are a few extra tricks to try.
Heather suggests purchasing a copy of Dr. Seuss’ “Oh the Places You’ll Go” and have teachers and friends write a little note inside.
“Something great the Army does,” says Michelle Prosser is to offer, “Tutor.com to help kids prep for curriculum changes.” She’s used it for her girls and recommends it for others to try as well.
And last but not least, reach out in advance. As Deborah Murray and her family prepare for their next PCS with their high school aged son, she says they “reached out to the high school football coach and connected him with my son and the three of us have been corresponding.” They also scheduled an in-person meeting when they visited to look for a house. That wasn’t all, “Also, as a family, we met with the guidance counselor to discuss courses to ensure the academic transition is enhanced. Follow up meeting planned in early July!”
Now her son isn’t going into the new school cold. Kids love adventure but can be a bit skeptical of the unknowns. Arm them with information and they can hit the ground running when you arrive at your next duty station.
In the end, when they are still sad about leaving the life they’ve known and grown accustomed, and are sure they won’t like the new place remind them to listen to Dr. Seuss, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”
Author: Stacey Faris, PCSgrades Base Advocate, is a military wife of 10+ years. She isn’t sure what free time is anymore, but she revels in the chaos of her life. When not busy toting kids all around the desert, scrambling to meet writing deadlines because she is a master procrastinator, or trying to get fit at the gym, she can be found working as the Business Administrator for JCW | A Creative Agency and VolleyballMag.com.