Our family was seated around the table one evening, finishing up our meal. It had been a typical dinner with our two and five-year-old present- meaning more food was on my toddlers face and on the floor then I think was actually eaten.
Through the clamor and chaos, I was attempting to talk with my husband about some friends of ours who are preparing to PCS soon when suddenly, my oldest child broke down in sobs and cried out “I DON’T WANNA MOVE”.
See, it’s not just our friends who are getting ready to PCS. We’re getting ready for a move of our own.
And my sweet girl is not looking forward to it.
Her little life has been full of moves. Four moves in five years to be exact.
Normally, my little lady has taken each move in stride. Other than maybe throwing off her sleep schedule temporarily, they never seemed to affect her too much.
But it’s been 2 years since our last move. She’s grown up a lot in that time. She can read and write now, she has a ballet class that she adores, and she has friends who mean the world to her.
And that’s what was causing her to react this way. She was able to articulate it so clearly:
“But I won’t get to see my friends anymore”.
I opened my arms up to her and she climbed into my lap. As she cried into my shoulder, I felt my own tears begin to slip silently down my cheeks. I held my girl tight and felt the weight of her sorrow. As I did, the impact of this move burst in and hit me full force as well.
You see, it’s not just any friends that we’re saying goodbye to.
These friends are extra special.
In military life, it’s normal to say goodbye to friends every couple of years. These friends have been with us even longer, though. They were some of our best friends at our last duty station. But in an unexpected blessing, we were sent to bases near each other and moved within the same week. So they have been our people for four years now.
Four years of playdates, of being each other’s support during deployments, of welcoming new babies and mourning those we never got the chance to meet. Four years of watching our kids play together and watching them grow from toddlers to kindergartners. Four years of talking about parenting, marriage, and faith together- crying, laughing, and complete understanding through it all.
“I understand baby. I’m going to miss them too”.
In that moment there was nothing else to say, nothing else I could do. Just empathize with my girl and let her know it was okay to feel that way.
But it got me thinking- What else can I do? How can I help make this easier for her?
So reached out to others who had been in this situation before and asked for their suggestions.
Here’s what they recommended:
FOR LITTLE ONES:
- For toddlers and preschoolers, Jen McDonald, tells parents that they should expect to explain the situation repeatedly. This will not be a one and done conversation. These kids will need frequent reminders of exactly what is happening throughout the process.
- Jen is also wise in suggesting that parents keep their children’s routines the same as much as possible.
- Heather of Happy Fit Navy Wife and Jessica part of the NextGenMilspouse team, shared some great book recommendations like these:
(Affiliate links for books included for your convenience)
For School Age and Teens:
- Jennifer of Written by Jennifer shared several great suggestions for older kids. One was to remind them that can still write letters to their friends. Everyone loves to receive old-fashioned mail! It’s a great way to stay in touch and can also be an educational experience as kids craft their letters. Plus, with military life, they may end up with friends in some very interesting places!
- Jennifer also suggests getting your child’s teacher involved, if possible. Many teachers are happy to host a going away party if your move is happening during the school year. Some teachers have even created memory books by having each student draw a picture and write about their favorite memories with the child who is leaving.
- Lizann of Seasoned Spouse, recommends having your kid talk with other kids who are going through the same experience. They can relate to each other’s struggles and even be an encouragement to one another.
- Elizabeth of Gals in Blue, a former military kid herself, said that one of her favorite parts of moving was that with each new house her mom made it fun and exciting to put her new bedroom together. She often even got to pick her own paint colors!
Helpful for All Ages:
- Looking at pictures online of your new city can be a great way to introduce your child to the idea of moving and to get them excited about the things they can see and do there. Lizann encourages parents to talk about new opportunities like a special class or sport your child can get involved with after the move. In fact, Elisabeth recommends getting your kids involved in their new school and other activities right away.
- You can remind kids that they are not losing friends, in fact, they will get to add more. The relationships with old friends may look different, but they can still maintain contact. Jennifer of Written by Jennifer, suggests that kids (yes, even the younger ones) have Skype or Facetime dates with their friends.
- One of my favorite suggestions from Jennifer is to make it seem like a fun adventure! Often kids pick up on our moods and emotions and replicate them. If we share our excitement and the things we are looking forward to about the PCS, odds are that our kids will begin to do the same.
- Michelle, editor at NextGenMilspouse, recommends creating a photo book with pictures of fun memories and friends from the place you are leaving.
- Another great suggestion from Jennifer is to give kids tasks like letting them choose what books or toys to bring with them and letting them help you load the car.
It Takes Time:
I want to close with this final reminder from Lizann of Seasoned Spouse. She reminds us that it can take some time to adjust. This goes for our kids, as well as us parents. We need to be patient with ourselves and with them. Remember: All kids are different. Each age is different. Every move is different. Do what works for your child.
And if all else fails: use bribery. In an attempt to brighten my girl’s spirits I may have promised her a new swing set once we get to our next house. Learn from my mistake, though- be sure to get your husband’s approval on this first. Oops!
Moving is hard, but it’s part of life- whether you are military or not. Like many others who have come before, your family will get through it. Kate Horrell offers us hope. She says, “My kids have now moved seven times and I think we’re all stronger, individually and as a team, because of it”.
PS! If you preparing to PCS soon, click here to access my FREE PCS Printables. You’ll receive access to all of these:
1. To-Do List– your master list for keeping track of all your PCS related tasks
2. Donate/Sell/Trash Sheet– an easy system for getting rid of the stuff that’s not coming with you
3. PCS Survival Kit– a super helpful checklist with the most essential items to keep with you during the move
4. Box Inventory– record the contents of each box here so you know exactly where to find everything (print as many as you need!)
CLICK HERE to get your PCS printables now!
Also, for even more help on how to help kids of all ages through a PCS, check out Operation We Are Here for a great list of resources!