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Relocation Made Easier, Part 3: Children and Relocation – Making a PCS Move Easier for Children

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This is Part 3 in a four-part series covering nearly every aspect of a military PCS move. You can view the previous articles here:

Part 1: What to Expect and Pre-Move Tips for Your Next PCS

Part 2: Moving Day Tips – Save Time, Energy and Your Sanity on Moving Day!

Following these tips will help you transition into your moving day with less stress and a lot more confidence. Do you have any additional tips, stories or advice you’d like to share? We’d love to hear them in the comments section below!

Making a PCS Move Easier for Children

One thing is certain: Moving is a necessary part of military life. Another thing is certain: Military PCS moves can be stressful. Receiving official PCS orders doesn’t impact the service member alone; it is also a very large emotional and physical challenge for your entire family, and especially for children.

While children may understand and intellectually grasp the fact they will be moving, it is hard to erase or ignore the emotional aspect of a military move. Children’s reactions may vary depending on their developmental age, personality and level of imagination. For the most part, the general rule is the younger the child the easier the move will be.

To ensure your kids feel like they’re involved and part of this big life-changing event, try the following tips and tricks:

  1. Have a “moving” conversation with your child(ren):  Make sure your kids hear the news from you first. Children are extremely perceptive and can generally tell when something out of the norm is taking place. They trust their parents to keep them informed. Explain the process of how the move will work, where the military is sending you, how long it will take to get there, and how/when you will find a new home. Using a map to show your current and future locations along with anticipated stops along the way will help them visualize the move. Children thrive on security. Knowing what to expect and what comes next can go a long way in soothing their fears and anxiety.
  2. Be willing to answer their questions:  While covering the basics of your upcoming move, you may not think of questions they may have such as, “Why are we moving?” or “Can we take our pet with us?” Answer every question your child has with as many details as you can provide. Being honest and open will help your child feel confident over the process of the move.
  3. Make the move an adventure:  As soon as possible, research your new duty station and surrounding community. Gather photos and information that you think might interest your child. Pay special attention to local attractions that may be of interest to them to generate excitement about their new location. Go on a a treasure hunt for landmarks in your new community, take photos or videos, and prepare for the actual physical move by bringing a bag of treats for each child and playing games while flying or riding in the car.
  4. Give plenty of time to say good-bye:  It is critical that your children have the enough time to say good-bye to the family members and friends they’re leaving behind. Encourage them to exchange contact information. If no one volunteers to do so, don’t be afraid to throw your own good-bye party.
  5. Make a “survival kit” of their favorite things:  The survival kit should be all about fun! Pack a box or backpack to include any essentials your child will need during the move. The kit should include games and books to keep them busy on the road, or their favorite stuffed animal or blanket. Your child may also want to include their address book or photos of friends. Essentials such as toothbrushes and clothes can be packed in a suitcase. The survival kit should be about comfort and entertainment.
  6. Maintain routines:  Some kids (and adults!) function better if their routine stays the same. Any sort of deviation may result in emotional or behavioral changes in your child, exacerbating the stress levels of everyone involved. If routines play an important role in your child’s life, it’s a good idea to establish how you’ll handle the traveling portion of your move. Although maintaining an exact version of your child’s schedule may not be feasible while traveling, you may want to try and create a routine that’s as close to their normal routine as possible. Put them to bed at the same time as usual, eat meals at the same time as usual, and let them have opportunities to stretch their legs and have play time.

Book List for Military Children:

Here is a list of books that may help your child with the transition of their upcoming move.

  • We’re Moving, by Heather Maisner and Kristina Stephenson:  This charming new picture book series of heartwarming stories and illustrations will help prepare young children for new situations. The First-Time Stories series stars six-year-old Amy and her little brother, Ben, who—like all preschool children—have mixed feelings about first-time experiences. These gentle, warmly illustrated stories present a positive message about change and growing up. A must-have addition to every young family’s library.
  • The Berenstain Bears’ Moving Day, by Stan and Jan Berenstain:  This is the story of the Bear family’s move to their now-famous tree house in Bear Country. Would Brother Bear like it? Would he find new friends? He wasn’t sure until he got there.
  • Moving with Kids: 25 Ways to Ease Your Family’s Transition to a New Home by Lori Collins Burgen:  A no-nonsense, compassionate guide to helping children deal with the stress, trauma, and potential excitement of relocating.
  • Big Ernie’s New Home: A Story for Children Who Are Moving, by Teresa Martin and Whitney Martin:  Big Ernie’s New Home gently affirms the normal sadness, anger, and anxiety that young children feel after a move. And as Big Ernie gradually discovers familiar comforts and exciting adventures in his new home, young readers may be encouraged to do the same in theirs.
  • The Moving Book: A Kids’ Survival Guide, by Gabriel Davis and Sue Dennen:  This invaluable tool is filled with advice and activities to help you prepare for a move and suggestions for making your new location feel like home. Use this book as a scrapbook of your moving experience.
  • Footsteps around the World: Relocation Tips for Teens, 2nd edition, by Beverly D. Roman, Dalene R Bickel (Editor) This workbook style text is written for teenagers facing a relocation.  It offers organizational checklists, recommends journaling, and gives communication advice.


Other articles in this series:

Part 1:  Introduction and PCS Timeline – What to expect before your move and things to take care of before your moving day

Part 2:  Moving Day Tips – Ways to save time, energy and your sanity on your moving day

Part 4:  Your Final Delivery and Tips to Know After Your Move – Questions like “What are the movers required to do?” and “How do you file a claim?” are answered in this section


About the Author:
Torrey Shannon is a Blue Star Mom and wife of a severely injured veteran.  After her husband’s injury in 2004 due to a gunshot wound to the head, the Shannon family spent three years at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington DC.  After dealing with the invisible wounds of war on a daily basis for the last 8 years, Torrey continues to share her experiences and help others who are going through the same hardships.  She is a freelance writer for a variety of publications and has been seen in multiple media outlets featuring her advocacy work. You can learn more about Torrey by visiting her blog at TorreyShannon.com.  You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and Pinterest.