6 Tips to Ease Your Military Kid Through Transition to a New School


You look over your PCS To-Do list and feel an immediate twinge of panic. There is SO much to do in so little time. Are you going to be able to find a new job in the new location? Are there any decent homes available? Are the cleaning fairies going to come help you sort through all this junk you’ve accumulated in the last three years!?

As the adults in the family, there is so much that goes on during a PCS that it is often easy to overlook, our children may be having just as much fear and anxiety about the move as we are.

While their worries look different than yours, moving to a new city, leaving behind best friends and having to start a new school are all highly intimidating thoughts running rampant in a child’s mind as they prepare for a PCS themselves.

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Coming from a Montessori Education background, it is essential that we look at the WHOLE child when teaching them to be independent and how to cope with change and transition. But even in the midst of all the chaos, lists and chores that need to be done, there are still a few simple and easy things a parent can do to take care of the physical, emotional, social and cognitive components of each child, and help ease the transition of a PCS move.

Involve the children.
We are not talking about having them pack their own boxes, or deep-clean the fridge before out-processing (even though those things are still great!). Instead, think of a few simple things your children can feel like they have a say in. They can:

  • Offer where the last dinner in town can be
  • Plan their own good-bye party with their friends
  • Look through housing options with you and tell you their preferences
  • Start planning how they’d like to decorate their new room

Letting the children be a part of the moving process will not only help the child find closure, but also have something to look forward to.

Be positive.
It is easy to have your life revolve around a PCS, but chances are, the talk happening in your home is stressed or agitated. Instead, as the adult, focus on modeling positivity around the move. This could be as simple as:

  • Asking your spouse or other family members what they are looking forward to most during regular conversation
  • Inquire what you could do tomorrow to help your child get ready
  • Joke that it is the perfect time to de-clutter

These should be positive and encouraging conversations, not a time to nag or vent. Remember that you are modeling what kind of behavior and expectations you want from your children.

Talk about the move.
Sometimes, your child just needs to talk. During a moment where you can separate yourself from your own long list of things to accomplish, grab some cookies, relax on the couch and just chat with your child.

  • Ask them how they are feeling. See if they are nervous, scared or excited
  • Acknowledge these emotions and validate them. Let them know that their feelings are normal and ask them what you can do to help them
  • Be honest and share your feelings as well so that they see that everyone goes through those emotions

Sometimes, your child just needs to know that they are supported, that they have someone they can talk to and that what they are feeling is normal.

Research the new town.
Even for the most hesitant and resistant children, having them learn about their new home can get them excited for new opportunities. Think of the last time you planned a trip; as you read about the destination and the more pictures you saw, the more excited you became!

  • Bring a dose of history and culture into the mix and find out what the state is known or famous for. What sports teams are big and find out other unique and interesting information for the city and state that could spark interest
  • Research the new town together and come up with a list of places that they would like to see, explore or learn more about
  • Start collecting ideas of parks, museums, restaurants or concert halls to go to

Even in the midst of movers and in-processing, make it an absolute priority to follow through with at least one wish-list item within the first few weeks of arriving.

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Look up the new school.
Transitioning to a new school is one of the hardest parts of a PCS move for a child. Preparing them BEFORE arrival can be the key to a successful transition.

  • Almost every school has a website or even Facebook page today. Look these up together and create buzz and excitement around what you see
  • With your supervision, have your child like and comment on photos and start engaging in that community before even stepping foot on the campus

Contact the new school.
Take researching the school a step further and have your child write a letter or email to the class(es) that they may be placed in.

  • Include a photo of your child doing something they love in their current town that they can share with new classmates
  • Encourage your child to write about what they enjoy doing outside of school, as well as what they look forward to at their new school.

Having your child know that the first time s/he steps into the classroom won’t be the first interaction with the group can help take the pressure off that first day.

Maintain ties with the past.
We live in a highly engaged world. This is when Facebook, Skype and What’sApp are all brilliant technologies!

  • Ask your child’s friend’s parents if they would be ok with an occasional Skype or FaceTime date. Schedule these and then follow through. Your child will love talking to their friends, just like you enjoy catching up with yours
  • If they are old enough, have phones and it is permissible in your family, have them maintain contact through texts. They can even have group chats with Apps like What’sApp, which can help keep them connected to their old gang

It is difficult leaving friends behind, but luckily in today’s day and age, we can still be in each other’s lives, despite the new distance.

One thing is sure: military children are resilient! They sometimes handle a move better than the adults in the family, and are experts in finding new friends and adapting to new locations. However, that doesn’t mean that it is always easy.

When approaching your next PCS, consider that your child may be going through a transition period themselves. Find ways to foster the whole child (mentally, emotionally, physically and socially) to help them develop coping mechanisms that they can internalize for any future and upcoming transitions and changes they may encounter in life.

Do you use any of these tips during PCS moves? Join us for a Facebook party to talk about it!

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You’re invited! Join us for another fast-paced evening of conversation and fun. We want to talk to you about your child’s education, and support you in helping make this the BEST SCHOOL YEAR EVER for your military child. Join us, and our panel of experts on October 15th, from 9-10 PM EST on Facebook. We’ll be ready to answer question on everything from supporting your child through transitions, getting your child’s school the funding it deserves, communicating with teachers, and even educating your child at home if you are considering homeschooling. Join us for a fast-paced hour of fun, support, and of course, PRIZES!

Posted by LeAnna Brown, an Elementary Certified teacher with a certification in Montessori Ages 6-12, with a background in Special Education. Now living in Germany, she helps military members learn how they can see the world and bring real-life education through travel to their families through her website, Economical Excursionists.

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