The other day I was driving with my two daughters to Walmart for a much needed grocery trip. From the back seat my four-year-old daughter, Whitney, asked for a drink of the diet soda I had sitting in the center console.
“No, you can have some water instead,” I responded.
She flung herself into a full game-on tantrum, sobbing a dramatic performance worthy of an Oscar. It was one of the worst tantrums in a long, long time. We arrived at Walmart and I was relieved to get out of the confined space. But right there in the middle of the street she firmly, stalwartly, planted her feet, still crying hysterically. In we went, crying, screaming Whitney and all.
When the fit continued inside Walmart, I threw my hands up in surrender. This could not possibly be happening over denying her soda. I say no to soda all the time, only allowing sparing sips. Then it dawned on me. She must be stressed out about our quickly approaching 1500 mile permanent change of duty station (PCS) to Fort Bliss, Texas.
And it makes sense, really. A few days after talking to her about moving to Texas, she had a bed-wetting accident twice in one night; the first and only time she has ever done that. Plus, my husband and I have been stressed and emotionally strung-out lately. I know now that she is feeling the trickledown effect with our pending move.
I knew that I needed to create a strategy of keeping a happier home. After some careful thought, I came up with this short list of five ways we deal with child stress during our PCS.
Stick to the routine.
Kids thrive on routine. It’s often hard for me to stop what I’m doing to pick up a book and look into my daughters’ eyes for longer than a nanosecond knowing that I have a moving to-do list up to my ears. Try. Try to welcome the break the best you can. Do it for the littles.
Recognize the emotion out loud.
Young children do not understand what they are feeling. If you put a word to the emotion, it may help them come down out of the red. When my youngest gets extra loud, I explain, I know you’re angry about Whitney not letting you play in her bedroom. That must make you feel sad. KidsHealth.org says, “putting feelings into words helps kids communicate and develop emotional awareness — the ability to recognize their own emotional states.”
Listen and move on.
While waiting out the Walmart tantrum, Whitney surprised me by taking a breath between sobs (finally!) by saying, “Mommy, I got so mad when you said no to me drinking your soda.” This made me listen to her frustration, talk about it, and move past the stressful moment. Later that evening, she told my husband about her Oscar-worthy performance.
“That’s right,” we said. “That wasn’t a happy moment, and we know that made you feel upset. Now it’s time for bed. Tomorrow will be a new day to laugh and play.”
Involve them in the process.
Allow your children to pack their special items in their very own box. Place it last on the truck, and unpack it first when you arrive. This demonstrates that all of your things from your last home have arrived at your new home. If you hired movers, bling the box out with stickers so it stands out. Or, keep it in your personal vehicle for easy access.
When all else fails, have a living room dance party. Seriously! Who can stay mad or stressed when you’re dancing crazy to your favorite songs?
Do your kids show signs of stress before a pending move? What tips and tricks work for your family? Share it with us in the comments!
Posted by Erin Bettis, Army spouse, National Military Family Association Volunteer, Ft. Bliss, TX