5 Tips to Help Your Military Kid Start a New School Year after a Move

students at high school

Post from MilitaryByOwner

Moving trucks no longer line the streets of military housing near where I live, and the school bell down the street rings out across a quiet morning.

Summer is winding down and the traditional PCS season is behind us with the school year beginning for military kids who may not only be entering a new grade, but who are also adjusting to a new location and new school.

One of the hardest things our family faced when it came to parenting military children was watching them have to start over and be the “new kid” multiple times. I remember a remark our oldest son made at age 13, right before he walked onto a new baseball team, “I feel like no matter how good I get, we move, and I have to prove myself all over again.”

But as long as the military stays mobile, the need for helping our children cope with PCS moves will stay. Here are some resources you might not be aware of, along with a few tips.

1) Allow Time for Grief and Goodbyes

As much as we’d like kids to be on our timetable, it’s important to remember that there is nothing “normal” about moving repeatedly during the growing up years. Acknowledge this and let your child set the pace for his grief--because saying goodbye to beloved friends and places is a real loss — and offer a listening ear and ideas for how they’ll stay connected to their friends, if that’s what they want.

Some advice in a recent post from Judy Davis, the “Direction Diva”:

“Carve out enough time for your children to say goodbye to the people and places that were such a big part of their lives. Encourage your kids to talk about ways they will stay in touch with the friends they have connected with. Don’t forget to make sure they have exchanged contact information.”

2) Reach Out Ahead of Time to Smooth The Transition

Whether it’s friends of friends who are stationed where you’re headed, the base’s information pages or social media, there’s sure to be a potential connection before you even arrive. Also take a look at:

  • The Youth Sponsorship Program: a Military Family Program connecting incoming youth with information and a personal connection to another youth. The program is administered by local installations — check with your base’s website or youth center for details.
  • Military Child Education Coalition’s Student 2 Student program: student-led program designed to aid kids transitioning in and out of schools.
  • Military Kids Connect from Military OneSource: personal stories from other military kids, help with coping skills, connecting with other youth.

Also make a point of attending newcomers’ events, “Meet the Teacher,” and school open houses. Be that parent. Introduce yourself and keep an eye out for potential neighbors and friends.

3) Sign Them Up

Gently encourage kids to try new activities. Remind them it’s a fresh start and could be a time to join a new after-school club or try an activity they’ve always wanted to do. Make connections through a youth group (your installation’s chapel may host one) or check out the Youth Center.

If you arrive in summer, check out youth center day camps, which offer activities for many interests from cooking to technology and can help your kids make friends before heading into a new school.

4) Accept That The Transition Will Not Be Smooth

If you’ve lived in a place where your child had close friends and felt plugged in, understand the time needed for transition, especially if you have other things going in your family like the active duty parent deploying. Restarting normal routines will help, as well as setting the tone with your own positive attitude.

A good tip from the post “6 Playground Rules to Help Kids Cope with PCS”:

“Sometimes, it takes a conscious effort to move beyond our immediate discomfort and look forward to new experiences. We do have the opportunity as parents to work on intentionally orienting our kids’ focus towards the adventures yet to come versus the stress of the present or longing for the past.”

5) Recognize if Your Child Needs More Help

How can you know if the problem is normal moving blues or something that could use more attention?

Observe, allow time, and then ask your child. Sometimes kids need to talk to someone outside the immediate family to work through their feelings. School counselors, a chaplain or teacher, or even the free, confidential Military Family Life Counselors trained specifically to deal with military family issues (connect through Military OneSource) are all resources.

Every child is different, and what sets one back for months will just be a blip for another. Here’s to a successful new school year for all of our military kids!

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