How Soon Should You Tell Your Kids About a PCS?


“I told my friends that we’re moving,” my 8-year-old son announced while I was cooking dinner.

“Why would you do that?” I asked. “We’re not moving.”

But maybe we were. And maybe I had just lied to my very intuitive son. And maybe I had absolutely no idea what to say or how to explain to him the complex process and ever present uncertainty of a military PCS.

Our family has lived at our current duty station for over four years. My children don’t remember living in any other town or in any other house. They’ve seen friends come and go, but we’re still here. We’ve never held a family meeting to discuss the prospect of packing up our belongings and putting them in another house, in another location where they will attend another school and make other friends.

But now the time has come. My husband is awaiting orders. And apparently those hushed conversations we’d been having about our next possible military adventure weren’t hushed enough.  Little ears had overheard, and we’re left with a son who’s been internalizing this confusing, stressful information for who knows how long.

I wasn’t trying to keep secrets from my children. I was trying to protect them. Last year I watched a friend trying to prepare for a PCS while her husband’s orders were changed three times in six months. That isn’t something I want to have to explain to my kids. So I figured I’d wait until we have orders in hand, and we’re positive exactly when and where we’re going before breaking the news. I’d tell them when there was something to tell.

For now, as we wait to learn our military fate, we told our kids there’s a possibility that we'll be moving but it won’t be anytime soon. Otherwise, I’m at a complete loss as to how much information an 8-year-old and a 5-year-old need about a PCS and how long before the actual move they should hear it.

So help me out! I need your advice. Is there a right or wrong time to share the news of a PCS with your children? How have you broken the news of a PCS to your kids? How did they take it?

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