Article by: Amy Rowland, Founder of Play Across America
Lucky you! You’ve just been told you’re moving to sunny North Carolina. The only catch is that you currently live in Washington State and you just gave birth… to your 4th child… two weeks ago… and, it was a C-section. But, duty calls and you have to leave right away.
Does this scenario sound familiar, or at least some portion of it? For many, PCS season can be a challenge: packing up everything, and everyone, and shipping it to a new, and often unfamiliar, location. Sometimes you don’t even have a house to which you can ship everything yet! It’s stressful for the servicemember and spouse, most certainly. But sometimes we overlook, or even dismiss, the stress that our children feel during this time. Especially if kids are younger, it’s easy to assume they don’t mind or that they won’t be sad or miss anything or anyone. But that’s simply not true.
As an Army brat, and now Army wife, I’ve experienced the stress of moving 16 times so far in my life (that’s not even counting my “single” years before I was married.) It was stressful at every age, particularly when we were traveling between duty stations. Everything was strange and unfamiliar. I remember getting knots in my stomach because nothing was recognizable (except McDonalds.) I just wanted to get to our new home.
Now that I’m a mother of four children (ages 7, 5, 3, and 2), I try to remind myself that when my kids are out of sorts and irritable during the long drive between duty stations, it’s likely that they feel this same stress and anxiety as well. But, there is something I’ve discovered that takes away a lot of their stress and anxiety when we move: playgrounds!
Whenever we stop at a playground the kids are thrilled! They literally run from the car straight to the swings or slides. It’s something familiar and recognizable! Joy and happiness immediately emanate from every fiber of their being. They forget, for a little while, that we are in a completely unfamiliar town on our way to a place we’ve never been. They often even find new play mates during these brief stops.
We’ve come to the point that we now plan our stops around cool playgrounds even when we’re just on long road trips. It gets them outside in the fresh air, burning off energy. Even I feel more relaxed and refreshed when we stop at a playground instead of always going to wait in another crowded line at a fast food restaurant.
Then when we arrive in our new duty station, we immediately seek out the local playgrounds and parks. These are truly the heart and soul of most communities. They not only provide some familiarity but they are also a great way to get to know the new town. In the summers especially, it’s where so much activity happens: movies under the stars, races, cookouts, and farmers markets. The community congregates there and it can be a great way to feel more like a local and meet new people.
Immersing ourselves in this way always seems to make the transition time less stressful and more enjoyable. The kids aren’t pouting inside because they have no friends (like I used to do). Now, they meet them at the local playground, skate park, or splash pad… and it’s a great place to arrange play dates when you’re first getting to know new people.
So, as the dust settles, the boxes get unpacked, and the damaged goods paperwork all gets completed, take some time to escape to the park, play and meet some new friendly faces.
Not sure where to look to find a playground while you travel or when you get to your new neighborhood? Visit www.playacrossamerica.com to help you find playgrounds near you… wherever military life takes you!
Author Bio: Amy is a military spouse, lifelong Army brat, and mother of four. Her passion for the outdoors and desire to keep her whole family active, even while traveling, led her to create PlayAcrossAmerica—an app and website designed to help families find and share playgrounds near them wherever they go.