The older kids get, the harder they are to move. At our SpouseBuzz event in San Diego, a group of moms of military middle school kids talked about how that first move with a middle schooler was a shocker.
Once upon a time, that easy-going kid only worried whether the movers would take good care of their Batman guys or Mega Bloks, or Bratz dolls. During the most recent move, these moms realized that their middle schoolers left behind an entire life—a life that that existed beyond the family.
Here are a few of the tools these moms have used to help their military middle school students make new friends and thrive in their new military life.
Help Your Military Middle School Student Make Friends1. Enroll in sports. If your kids are reasonably athletic, sports are the classic solution to a military move. Traveling teams are a little harder to negotiate, but it can be done. When in despair watch Remember the Titans. The quarterback is a military kid.
2. Sea Cadets/Young Marines (both boys and girls). The Naval Sea Cadet Corps (NSCC) is for kids ages 13-17 who want to learn about the Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine. After taking part in a two week boot camp during the summer, sea cadets can take part in a two week course on a coast guard or Navy craft. They can also attend classes in stuff like music training and SEAL team training and military law enforcement. Young Marines is a similar program in the USMC. Young Marines can participate in challenges like survival skills, wilderness training, and waterbased activities.
3. Youth Center. At MCAS Miramar, the youth center is worth checking out. It offers pool and foosball tables, video games, contests, Xbox gaming, DVD and big-screen TV and more. And they have a new state-of-the-art youth sports center.
4. Volunteering. Look for volunteer opportunities in which most of the other volunteers will also be middle schoolers. Church groups, 4H and scout groups often plan a volunteer activity. Volunteer opportunities are available at Miramar through the Youth Center.
5. 4-H. 4H is not just a raise-sheep-and-take-'em-to-the fair activity any more. If your kid has never taken part in 4H, see what the local chapter provides.
6. Dance, Cheer or Gymnastics. The routine of a dance class helps establish a rhythm to the week when you are a new kid. Granted, not every program will be the same as the one back home. Your kid won't have a reputation he or she had back home. But the moves are the same and coming back to yourself by doing something you are good at really is the way to go.
7. Host a get together. Sometimes letting your house become the Kool-Aid house opens an opportunity for your kid to be part of a group. Need somewhere to host the soccer party? How about your house?
8. Summer camp. Lots of military families wait until the end of the school year to move. Which is good for continuity. Yet it yields a middle school kid with no friends in summer. No one to hang out with at the pool. No one to come to your birthday party. Heading off to summer camp fills some of those empty hours. And you never know who your kid might meet.
9. Housing/base/command events. The virtue of dragging a kid to a local event is that you know where they are. Sometimes there are other equally bored, equally new kids at these events.
10. Other parents. I only have to look at a parent with a new-kid middle schooler and I can almost smell the misery. I remember what that felt like. Lots of parents remember what that felt like. So reach out to parents who have children about the same age as yours. Ask "how." Ask how they got their kids in soccer, cheer, art class, garden club. "How" always makes other people more inclined to help. And moms of new kid military middle school students need all the help they can get.
Heather Dome, Kelly Barton, Nicole Cook, Melody Williams, Charlene Lewis, Candace Woode, Stacy Hughs, Vina Riles all contributed to this list at SpouseBuzz Miramar.