By Amanda Huffman
Moving is tough on everyone, but it is a part of military life. And military kids know this too well at such a young age. Saying goodbye to friends and starting over are a part of military life that even though they are not serving is something they have to endure. It can be hard for kids (and parents, too) as they prepare for a move. These are some of the tips I have learned over the past few moves and I continue to learn more way to help kids with each new one.
1. Talk About Feelings
It is important to talk about how everyone feels when it comes to moving. While there is not anything that can be done on where your next assignment, make sure to have open conversations about where you are going and give your kids a safe place to ask questions.
It can be easy to stuff down emotions and just get caught up with the list of things that need to be done to move. But having feelings, good and bad, about moving is normal. On the one side, it can be exciting to move to a new location and see new things. On the other hand, moving away from friends and things that have made your life what it is can be hard. Talking about the both good and bad parts of moving to a new location opens the door to conversations.
2. Let Your Kids Know It Is Okay to Not Be Okay
Sometimes the lack of choice in military families on where they live can inspire people to focus on the positive. And it is a great coping method especially when moving to a place that may not have been on the top of your list. But it does not mean that everyone should be happy. Forcing your kids to pretend everything is okay and not allowing them to show emotions can make things easier at the time but can lead to hard circumstances in the future. Let your kids know it is okay to not be okay. And if they need space to cry or want to talk about their emotions, make sure to give them that safe place.
3. Share How You Are Doing
Even though you may let your kids know it is okay to not be okay, sometimes as parents we want to protect kids and not let them see how we are struggling. Instead, let your kids into the conversation. Be open and honest about your own struggles. Maybe you are stressed about packing up the house or you are worried about the schools at the next assignment. You don’t have to tell them everything, but being open and sharing about your fears and concerns can help them not feel alone in their struggles.
It is also important to talk about stress and the work you may need to do before you move. When you tell your kids about the dynamics of moving, they can help you in tasks that you may not have considered. It also brings them more into the activity of moving and they know what will be happening and when.
4. Give Kids Time and Space When Preparing to Leave or Arriving
Depending on your children’s personalities, they may need time to adjust to the news of leaving or when they arrive at a new place. Don’t push your kids to move past the grieving stage of a leaving a place behind or rush them to get involved if they are not ready.
Getting your kids involved in different activities is a great way to meet new people but be open to listening to your children about their comfort zone and ask their input on what activities they would like to be a part of. And if they want to take a step back and get involved at a later date, that is okay, too.
5. Leave the Door Open to Communication
Moving is a process and the more you can communicate with your kids the better it will be for both them and you. Communication doesn’t end just because you have moved to a new place and have all the boxes unpacked. Keep the doors open and continue to talk to your kids and watch for red flags that could be an underlining hint that they might be struggling with moving.
One of the best ways to talk to your kids about moving is through hearing stories of others. That is why I love Pixar’s Inside Out. The storytellers work to show how complicated emotions are through the journey of saying goodbye to Riley’s home and beginning her new life in San Francisco. It has such a great message and is a great movie for kids of all ages and can be an open door to conversation about moving.
Amanda is a military veteran who served in the Air Force for six years as a Civil Engineer who served on a combat deployment with the Army in Afghanistan. She traded in her combat boots for a diaper bag to stay home with her two boys and follow her husband’s military career in the Space Force. Amanda is the host of the Women of the Military podcast. There she shares the stories of women who have served or are serving in the military. The podcast has over 200 episodes and over 100K downloads. Amanda is also an author and has published two books. Her first book, Women of the Military tells the stories of 28 military women who served in the military. Her second book, A Girl’s Guide to Military Service, is the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Gold Winner for Teen Non Fiction. It is a guide for high school girls considering military service to help them build a strong foundation for their future career. She also works as a freelance writer and has been featured in a number of military publications including The War Horse, Military.com, Military Families Magazine, Clearance Jobs, Military Spouse Magazine, and more.