Does PCS equal STRESS? The answer is probably “Y-E-S” — particularly when children are involved. But there are ways parents can smooth the process and ease the transition beyond the typical promises of a fun family adventure that awaits. Here are some ideas on how you can help your children before, during and after a move, as well as some useful resources.
Keep the information flowing. Let your children know about the move as soon as possible so that they have time to prepare, adjust, and say goodbye to their friends. Have regular conversations with your children so that they understand the “when, where, how, and why” of the relocation. Encourage their questions and answer them honestly. Reassure your children and be as patient and upbeat as you can during this time.
Consider hosting a farewell party. This will allow your children to say a proper goodbye while staying positive. Take pictures of their old house and of them with their friends. Use these photos to create a memory album or collage that commemorates this chapter of their lives.
Buy postcards of your new town so that kids can stay connected to their friends and extended family after the move if this seems important to them. Follow their cues to determine how much connection they need.
Help familiarize your family with their new home and community as much as possible before the move. Spend time online helping them research their new school, available activities, area parks, etc. If possible, visit your new community in advance. If your children can’t come with you, take pictures and videos of anything that will interest your children: schools, parks, possible homes, etc.
Help your children make a map of their new neighborhood or town, including pictures of places that will be important to their lives.
Involve the whole family
Involve your children throughout the moving process, age-appropriately. Give them specific jobs to help move out — and in — so they feel part of the move rather than simply being shuttled from one place to another. On moving day, let them pack and label a “favorite things” box that they can open for comfort and security immediately upon arrival to their new home.
Once you are in your new home things will be chaotic at first, but try to maintain familiar routines including bedtimes, family mealtimes, and special traditions. Reassure your children that although many things have changed, there are definite constants in life.
Add some fun surprises
It may sound like bribing, but there’s nothing wrong with boosting morale with a few new toys, a backyard playset, fun furniture for their bedrooms, etc. You can also plan a special dinner at their favorite type of restaurant in their new town.
Allow your children to be part of the decision-making process of what to keep and what to donate/discard. Encourage them to decorate their new rooms. If they’re old enough, let them pick out a paint color and allow them to help paint. They can draw pictures and a floorplan of their ideas. Make your child’s new room a priority when unpacking and decorating.
The first night in a new house can be unsettling and even frightening for children. Not only will their surroundings be unfamiliar, you won’t be fully unpacked and darkness makes everything seem worse. Pitch a tent — inside. Make your first night a fun family adventure together.
Meet the neighbors
Take a walk around the neighborhood with your children early on and introduce yourselves to the new neighbors. They can help connect you to other families with children who are the same ages as yours.
Helpful online resources
Sesame Street for Military Families has a great website with tips for parents, downloadable PDFs for children, and a video: “The Big Moving Adventure.”
MCEC (Military Child Education Coalition) supports military-connected children through education, advocation, and collaboration.
Military One Source helps military families move with information, online tools, and personalized support.
Books for children
The Berenstain Bears’ Moving Day by Stan Berenstain
The Moving Book: A Kids’ Survival Guide by Gabriel Davis
My Very Exciting, Sorta Scary, Big Move: A workbook for children moving to a new home by Lori Attanasio Woodring, Ph.D.
Moving Away Will Be Okay! by Kellie Carter-Sears
Moving to the Neighborhood (Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood) by Alexandra Cassel
Learn about our Military Rewards Program and receive up to $8,000 when buying or selling your home!