Anyone who has ever moved knows how tough it is, whether you are single or married. Add children, and the process gets tougher. Just the physical move can be challenging. Then factor in the daunting prospect of having to start all over in finding child care, a new school, and transferring records.
Fortunately, military families have great resources to draw from online and on base. Don't forget you also can learn a lot from other military families who have experienced the same challenges. Here are some tips to help you get through the move and make your transition just a little bit easier.
Preparing for the Move
- Children generally thrive on routine schedules and familiar surroundings. Be sensitive to how the move will impact your children. Some children don't adapt well to changes or disruption in routines.
- Discuss the move with older children. Give them as much information about the move ahead of time, if possible.
- Maintain a positive attitude throughout the move even if family members are unhappy about the relocation.
- Involve children in the planning process, whether it is house hunting or searching for a new school so they will feel part of the decision-making process.
- Engage children in researching the new neighborhood and activities in the area.
- Try to avoid any major life changes in the family, if at all possible.
- Contact your local installation family center relocation manager to obtain information about your new assignment and surrounding communities, including information about schools, child care, special needs services, school-age and youth programs, and resources.
- Make sure your new command assigns a sponsor to assist with your transition. Ask your sponsor questions about child care, schools, and youth programs in the area.
Moving with Infants and Preschoolers
- Be prepared that even younger children are not necessarily immune to the impact of change during the move.
- Explain the move in very simple terms, using stories or toys children can relate to. Show them pictures of the new location and some fun activities to see and do when they arrive at their new home.
- When packing toddlers' toys or belongings, reassure them that these items will be going to the new home. Be careful of how you dispose of items you don't plan to move.
- Set aside favorite toys, blankets, pillows, or other items to take on the trip.
- Consider holding off toilet training or transitioning the toddler from a crib to a bed until after the move.
- Make time for fun activities and exercise during the move. This will help reduce stress.
- Arrange for child care on packing and moving days.
- Help children find playmates in their new neighborhood.
Moving with School-Age Children and Teens
- Acknowledge your child or teen's concerns about the move. Your move may not fit with their academic or social plans or dreams about the future, even the immediate future.
- Talk over these concerns, and let your child or teen know you respect their concerns while helping them recognize that together, as a family, you can get through the move.
- Involve children in planning and decorating the new house, bedrooms, and play or recreational areas.
- Record familiar sites, or memorable areas, and friends your children are leaving. Exchange phone numbers and addresses, including e-mail addresses, so everyone can stay in touch with friends and neighbors.
- Have a party to say good-bye to friends, neighbors, and family.
Schools and Other Activities
- Next to managing your move, finding the right school for children can be a major source of concern. Regardless of whether you move in the summer months or not, it is important to start researching information about schools at your new location and understand the transfer process as soon as possible.
- Contact your military school liaison officer, if your current or new installation has one, to assist you with your transfer.
- Notify your children's school of your move.
- Assess your children's needs, including strengths and preferences.
- Research schools at the new location that will meet the needs of each child and the family. If possible, visit the school with your child and meet the principal, teachers, coaches, or other staff. If not, collect pictures or brochures from the school and share with your child.
- Identify what academic and health records information the new school will need, including high school graduation requirements and transfer of credits for the new school.
- Gather information and identify before and/or after-school programs, including local military and civilian youth programs.
- Gather and forward necessary school enrollment, education, and medical records to meet established school deadlines.
- Gather and forward information on before and/or after school program activities to meet school or program deadlines.
- Hand carry all school and health records with you during the move. Do not ship them with your household goods.
Moving with Children who have Special Needs
- Contact your family center Exceptional Family Member Program Manager (EFMP) manager at your current or new location to make sure your child is enrolled in EFMP. Coordinate community support, housing, educational, medical, and personnel services that are available to families with special needs (physical, emotional, developmental, or intellectual disorders requiring special services).
- Family members are screened and enrolled if eligible. The military member is responsible for keeping enrollment in the program current to ensure family needs are considered during the assignment process and services are available when the family is relocated.
Additional Resources for Families with Children
- Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA). DoDEA's schools serve the children of military service members and DoD civilian employees throughout the world.
- U.S. Department of Education. You can fin information about various education policies and programs at federal and state levels at this site. Also included is information on programs that strive to improve educational quality, including those run by states, local school systems, the private sector, public and private nonprofit educational research institutions, community-based organizations, parents, and students.
- U.S.Department of State Information On Individual Countries.Get information about the land, people, history, government, political conditions, economy, and foreign relations of countries abroad, which are listed alphabetically.
- Military Child Education Coalition. The Coalition serves as a clearinghouse of information to parents researching the educational needs of a child.
- ZERO TO THREE. This nonprofit organization promotes well-being and development of children by providing various resources and links designed to educate parents.
- Child Care Aware. This nonprofit initiative is committed to helping parents find the best information on locating quality childcare and childcare resources in their community.
- National Network for Child Care. This Web site is an information and network resource to bring practical information and resources from around the country to individuals who work with children or to parents.
- National After School Association. This association is dedicated to the development, education, and care of children and youth during their out-of-school hours.