How to Help Your Toddler PCS

If you have been in the military community for any length of time, you know that PCSing can create feelings of excitement ...  and nausea. Waiting for official confirmation for your next move, navigating through the red tape, packing up your whole life to relocate to new destination is both adventurous and torturous.

And that’s just for the adults! But what if you have children?  Relocating with them, especially little ones who are just starting to understand the world around them, adds an extra challenge.

But it's not one that can't be tackled and overcome.

Here are a few ideas to help your toddler transition to your next base.

How to Help Your Toddler PCS

1. Be Positive! Kids feed off your emotions. Your children are watching you scour the internet and listening to your answers when people ask you about your next base.  Even if you have reservations, remember that this new duty station will be their childhood home. Make it sound great!

 2. Use calendars, charts and repetitive speech. Young children do not have a solid concept of time. Get a calendar that you can hang on a wall. Circle what day you are moving (if you don’t know that, circle the month).

Add details about your move as plans become solid. Use phrasing for young children such as, “This is Pack-Up Day where the movers will put your toys in boxes to take to the new house. This is Goodbye Day where we will say bye bye to our friends, This is Airplane Day ..." Include events that are unrelated to the move like birthdays or planned play dates. This will help your child keep track as time passes because he can refer to events rather than days.

For children who can’t read, use pictures instead of words so they can look at the calendar on their own. Refer to the calendar and pictures every time they ask. Check off days as you go. The more tangible the better.

3. Be ready for anything: All children react differently to change. Your child may experience anxiety, unexplained potty accidents, appetite change.  It is important that you stay calm and remind yourself that children can get stressed out too.

4. Search the web. Do some internet research on your new location and decide what you want to share with your child. Google images of local attractions, floor plans of base housing, videos of local culture will all be great ways for your young child to learn about her new home.  You can even make a book of all the things you plan to do once you get to your new home.

5. Find your ombudsman or family liaison:  Each branch of service has their own name for them, but a volunteer from the command should be appointed to be a resource for military dependents.  Go here for a good start to finding them. If you can’t find your family liaison, try contacting the base Family Readiness Center or ask your sponsor.

5. Libraries are a great place to get started. The local library at your new duty station will likely have story hours, local papers, fliers and information about your new neighborhood. If you are living overseas, your base library might be small, but it will have the information in English. And librarians are usually full of knowledge and happy to help.

6. Get out each day and make new friends. It takes the average person years to establish the friendships a military family must make with in the first month of a move, but the military spouse knows that moving to a new base means creating a new support system that is vital to surviving this life.

It is exhausting and terrifying to consistently put yourself out there, but if you have young children, it is absolutely necessary. Plan to do one thing outside of the house a day, even if it is just going for a walk to the local park. Challenge yourself to say hello to at least two people every time you go out. Be sure to introduce yourself everywhere you go: story hour at the library, playgrounds, the parent room at the gym. The sooner you get into a routine, the sooner your child will be comfortable in your new location.

8. Know that children are resilient. They don’t call military children "dandelions" for nothing.  Military kids travel all over the world and grow where the wind takes them. Your move will be have it’s challenges, but soon things will be back to “normal,” and you and your children will be used to the changes.


Margaret St. Andre is an early childhood professional who has worked with military children for over a decade. She holds her B.A in Psychology with a concentration in both Early Childhood and Speical Education.  Margaret has taught children ages birth to 8 years in a variety of settings including the elementary classroom, preschools, after school and parent participation programs.  She currently works with El Brown Training Solutions as the Curriculum Editor and runs a KinderJam program in her overseas base in Misawa, Japan.  She is a proud Navy spouse and mother of three and enjoys volunteering and bettering her community. 

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