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Military Children and PCS

(Photo: U.S. Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Nadine Barclay)
(Photo: U.S. Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Nadine Barclay)

There is one thing you can count on as a military family. One of the many challenges that you will be faced with on your journey is a Permanent Change of Station (PCS). Moving is a necessary and inevitable part of military life. It is also a very large emotional and physical challenge not only for you but for your entire family.

A PCS is a "moving" experience in more ways than one. No matter how often families change residence, moving brings with it a variety of emotions and situations. It is often times very easy to get caught up in the moving checklist of boxes, cleaning, packing and moving and overlook the emotions that are tied to the transition to a new location. When it comes to your children it is very important that you take the time to allow them to share their thoughts, feelings, and experiences related to the impending move and once you have arrived at your new location.

While children may understand that you're family is moving their reactions may vary depending on their personality and developmental age. Some children are inquisitive and will want to know "why" every step of the way, some are outgoing and will naturally find friends immediately while others will become nervous, worried, or depressed. Roller coaster emotions are not uncommon. Your child may be thrilled and excited one day, then blue and depressed the next.

Generally speaking, the younger the child, the easier the move. It is important for you to know that most children's sense of identity is formed by their peer groups and social belonging. The biggest worry that school age children endure is whether they will make new friends and fit in easily at their new school. Cater to satisfy this worry by painting the move in a positive light. If you see your move as an exciting adventure your children will most likely follow your lead.

Moving Tips for Military Children

It is critical that your children have the enough time to say good-bye to the family members and friends they're leaving behind. Encourage them to exchange contact information.

Allow your children to help with separating and packing.

Explain the process of how the move will work and where the military is sending you, how long it will take to get there, and how/when you will find a new home. Keep in mind that small children may have difficulty differentiating a PCS from a parent's deployment. Most questions and fears can be eased when you sit down and have a "moving" conversation with your child. Let children be present on moving day as the boxes are packed and movers take away your belongings.

Make sure children have an opportunity to pick out favorite things to take along on your trip to your new duty station.

Give children a special job on moving "out" and moving "in" day so they feel a valuable part of the process.

Allow children to decide how their new room should be decorated and/or arranged.

Investigate and explore your new neighborhood together. Look for fun and exciting things. Allow them to use a map to explore or write down a list of their favorite things/places and go seek them out.

Make a concerted effort to locate after-school activities where your children can make new friends with similar interests.

Teach your children you're new address and phone number as soon as you arrive at your new location.

Military Children's Booklist: Moving

"The Berenstain Bears' Moving Day" by Stan Berenstain and Jan Berenstain. The Bear family tells their story of when they moved to their tree house in Bear County.

"Who Will Be My Friends?" by Syd Hoff. Freddy moves to a new neighborhood and spends the entire book looking for new friends - until he finally finds them.

"Alexander, Who's Not (Do You Hear Me? I Mean It!) Going to Move" by Judith Viorst, Ray Cruz and Robin Preiss Glasser. Angry Alexander refuses to move away if it means having to leave his favorite friends and special places.

"The Moving Book: A Kids' Survival Guide" by Gabriel Davis. This practical handbook is divided into three sections: before the move, during the move, and after the relocation. It contains useful tools for children to stay in touch with their friends, such as an address book and change-of-address postcards.

Additional Online Resources:

JustMoved: Their "Mooving Family" is a huge hit with children.

Military Child Education Coalition: An excellent resource for military children resources.

Sesame Street for Military Families: Resources from Sesame Workshop tackle tough military life issues, including moving and transition to civilian life.

MilitaryOneSource: A variety of toolkits are available to help your family.

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