Oh, the joys of PCS season! If you're not in the military, PCS means permanent change of station. This occurs when a soldier receives orders to move to a new base or post. In the summer, we see a high rate of PCS'ing. During this time, there is an exhausting list of to-dos, challenges, farewells, and emotions. It's all too easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of a PCS and forget to intentionally aid our children in this emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually trying process. Below, you'll find ten tips to help you and your children PCS well.
1. Identify your new location on a map
Our kids need to see where they will be moving to, in relation to where they are currently stationed. Take this time to marvel over all the places they've lived, pointing out each location, from birth to now. Here are a few ways to do this: use a paper map, complete a map puzzle, look at Google Maps.
2. Play moving games
Before our last PCS, a counselor recommended we play games about moving to help prepare our children. She suggested buying or building a toy moving truck and acting out the move. We used a toy truck and pretended to pack our toys, put them in the truck, and drive or fly across the country. Then, we used magnatiles to build our "new house" and unloaded our "boxes." Get creative with pretend play, skits, stuffed animals, wagons, legos, and building toys. Do this often before the actual move.
3. Create art
Research supports the fact that children often express their hidden emotions through art. Pull out some paper, crayons, chalk, markers, and paint and ask your children to make a piece of art about their upcoming move. You can do this on the back end too after you've arrived at your new duty station. Our children may not have the ability to accurately explain their feelings during this process. As adults, we know all too well the gamut of feelings that come with this process.
4. Find fun activities near your next duty station
Get online and bookmark all of the attractions in and around your new town. Find local parks, splash pads, fishing ponds, ice skating rinks, soccer teams, beaches, swimming pools, museums, theme parks, or whatever it is your kids love to do. Then, pull everyone together and show them the fun attractions you have to look forward to upon your arrival.
5. Purge together
Use this moving preparation time to help your kids sort through old toys and clothes and pick several items to donate. Moving is the perfect time to purge. This is a great opportunity to teach your children about those less fortunate and the importance of giving. Or, teach them some financial skills and help them to sell their items for cash.
6. Let them help plan the move
More often than not, your move is going to include stops, restaurants, attractions, and hotels. Ask your children to help you plan the move. How many hours per day should we drive? What will we stop to see along the way? Which towns should we stay the night in? What hotel should we reserve?
7. Plan something special for their friends
This is the really hard part, saying goodbye. Explain the possibility of seeing their friends again at future duty stations, on vacations, or along your journey on future moves. Tell them they can call their friends on the phone, video chat, or write letters (and then make sure that happens!). Help your child plan something special to give their close friends when they say goodbye. Here are a few ideas: A picture frame with a photo of them together, a friendship bracelet or necklace, a letter, a piece of art, a photo album, or a special gift they pick out for their friend. Make sure they get one last playdate or throw an all-out party!
8. Facilitate a sense of pride in their parent's role in the military
This is one of the most significant aspects of the moving process for our children. Our kids need to understand the importance of their military parent's role in the world. There should be great respect for the job position (even though it requires a lot of sacrifice on the family's part!). Our soldiers train and fight to protect freedom across the world and this knowledge is essential for our kids to understand as they try to grasp the reason for the move.
9. God is in control
This is THE most important lesson you can teach your child during the move process. God has a plan for every one of us. One of the main reasons your child is on this planet is to love others and spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. God has entrusted your child with an elite and special mission: The Lord has given your sons and daughters the capability to endure the trials of military life to share the love of Christ around the world. This mission is not to be taken lightly. When your child is sad to leave his or her friends, is anxious to start a new school, is angry about moving, or overwhelmed with all the changes, remind your son or daughter of the God-entrusted mission in progress.
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."
10. Model how to do "hard"
Now, this is for the parents. In all of the crazy, overwhelming, haphazard, and unforeseen circumstances that we're about to encounter, we must remember that God is for us, that He loves us, and that He has a good plan all mapped out for us, even if we can't quite see it. You are about to model how to walk through life when things get hard. They're watching. Show your kids how to healthily express emotions, how to apologize, how to offer forgiveness, how to show compassion, and how to love selflessly. You've got this!
11. Bonus Tip
Have fun! Lots and lots of fun!
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