After four months of preparing and blogging about tips for PCSing, I can say I have learned A LOT. It is amazing to me that during my fourth PCS I am still learning new things. New resources, new ways of travel, ways to make transition easier on the kids, pets and marriage. So, in my first new blog of the year here are the tips and lessons I learned during our recent move.
1. Use H.E.A.T. (or the equivalent) to help jump start your housing hunt. You can use this even if you have NO plans to move into government housing. It helps give you an idea of your options and all the information about the area you will be moving to.
2. Contact the local School Liaison Officer. This person will direct you to the resources you’ll need in making decisions about which school(s) your child(ren) will attend (if they aren’t home schooled). For example, when we reached out to our new SLO in Hawaii we learned that our children needed school physicals and we were able to complete them prior to leaving. Most times Family Support Centers and Commands will have the contact information for the SLO.
3. Every move is different so be flexible with your methods. I thought for sure I had this PCS thing down! WRONG!!! I was totally unprepared for the work involved in moving school aged children and the emotional aspect of leaving a place we loved. It was a very hard four months that went entirely too fast!
4. Don’t over pack! Going from mild to cold back to mild to warm was a challenge in the packing of suitcases. We managed to get everything to Hawaii but we also have some very, very heavy luggage and a lot of it. Not to mention the gifts we received for Christmas. Looking back I could have packed a little less. That is my norm but I really wanted variety and we were allowed two pieces each. So, I went for it and it is all just too much. I realized that when my friend was hanging out with me watching me pack and asking my why I needed two pair of black boots. (Thanks, Cid, for this one!)
5. Be in good communication with your child(ren)’s departing school. From the day school started we, along with our children’s teachers started planning their departure. It was everything from getting unused school supplies to making sure the kids had a proper good-bye to their classmates. As a reminder of their school and friends the kids brought in plain t-shirts and all their classmates signed their names. Even though they don’t ever wear them, it was a good way to give the boys closure and help them understand that they were leaving.
6. Have a plan for your pets. I have a blog about PCSing with pets but to reiterate, it can be costly. SO BE PREPARED! To give you an idea of what one move can take here are the hurtles we had to over come: the cost to take them will be over $2000, finding foster homes while we visited family, temperature restrictions and the worry of their over all health and well being during the last month. For us it is worth it because they are family to us. Especially the lazy Jack! She has been with us for every move. Our first baby and there is NO WAY we would leave her behind.
7. Establish a “new” normal as quickly as possible. Being on leave and visiting family and friends is great but at some point you have to get back to everyday life. We had the option of waiting to enroll our children in school but we didn’t. The second day at our new duty station they were enrolled and on the third they went and my husband was back to work. It really helps making life in a hotel A LOT easier when we aren’t on top of each other all day.
8. Transition is hard so don’t forget your resources! Moving is tough on everyone, even the most experienced. Don’t forget to lean on all the great transition resources like Family Support Centers and Military One Source. They can offer help in so many ways!!! Also, there are these great volunteers called Ombudsman, Key Spouses and FROs who can help when needed. Their job is to know the lay of land and be a resource to help you get established.
In closing, I just want to reassure all spouses that moving is hard and stressful no matter how many times you do it or where you go. Our husbands/wives go back to work and our children go off to school leaving us to rebuild our lives. But, remember, it doesn’t last and we are strong and can do it! It is what military spouses do best!