Moving as a military kid wasn’t too hard when they were in preschool and the early elementary years. As long as your family was together, they were OK.
Your kids are a bit older now, middle school or high school, perhaps. They are deeply rooted in school activities, like student council, cross country, theater, and your son plays on a competitive baseball team. Your kids have made friendships as they enter their teen years and built relationships with adult mentors.
Then your Spouse Receives Orders
It’s that time again to schedule the movers, purge the garage, and say goodbye. And your heart aches for your children who have thrown themselves into friendships and emotionally invested without abandon, as kids do.
They know that moving as a military kid is part of their family’s reality, but it’s different now. You’ve taught them that friendships are important, no matter the expiration date. But now they must pull away. And they’re ticked.
“I’m staying here until I finish high school! Then you can move wherever you want!” your teenager might scream. Your not-so-childlike child doesn’t want to leave friends behind, and those feelings are justified.
There is no simple way around this subject. Moving as a military kid gets harder and more complex the older kids get into the teen years. You’re dealing with emotions, hormones, school credit transfers, switching athletic clubs, and an overall sense of losing those precious bonds of friendship.
Start with a Conversation
If any of this sounds familiar (or you’re stressing the day you can relate), be assured that these feelings are normal and there are ways to talk to your children about your upcoming military move.
Keep it Vague, Until You Don’t
Open communication with your children throughout their lives will help kids understand that the military is the boss and that moving is not negotiable. That said, we all know how often orders are changed or canceled altogether. There is no need to get your kids worked up about a move when you only have verbal orders, which may lead to unnecessary emotional turmoil, especially if it turns out your service member gets to extend at the current duty station. Instead, drop in casual comments about how military families get to see the world, but wait until orders are printed before sharing the big news.
Remind your children how much they have been through already — previous moves as a military kid, starting new schools, and deployments. They made new friends and will find a bestie again. Build up their confidence by speaking these truths daily. Their teen brains need the reassurance that they can start over and will be OK. They may snarl back and lash out, but remain calm. They are listening even when it doesn’t seem like they are. You are setting them up for a lifetime of resiliency with the ability to jump into any situation, make a friend and find their way.
Set the (Positive) Example
Maybe you are also dying inside because you’re going to miss your walking partner and sushi-lunch partner. But orders are orders, and there’s nothing you can do to stop the reality. As much as possible, put a positive spin on your move while your children are in earshot. “It’s an adventure! We will have friends in several corners of the world. How lucky are we?” Wait until they’re in bed before you cry into your wine glass. Kids will pick up on negativity if you are constantly complaining and whining.
Texting and social media offer a way to keep in contact with dear friends — a close second to sitting on their couch, yakking away. Additionally, through the miracle of gaming consoles and headphones (we’re looking at you, Fortnite), kids can talk (OK, squad up) several times a week. Sure, it’s through video games, but long-distance friends can also catch up on each other’s daily lives with a little prompting from mom.
Remain a Strong Family Unit
Whether the kids move peacefully or kicking and screaming is up to them, but your job is to remind them that your family is strong and intact. Knowing they are a vital part of Team [your last name], offers security that will withstand moves and friendships as you move toward a fresh start.
Moving as a military kid is not easy. It will likely come with protest, requiring endless patience and understanding. But in the end, like so much in life, it’s all about attitude, which will be contagious. Life will go on, and your kids will rise again, building new friendships, and increasing their resiliency. And isn’t it kind of fun to get attention as the new kid again?
Photo Credits: Unsplash | Pixabay