PCS Hacks for Your Next Move

My family may soon be embarking on our next PCS journey. Although I’m thankful for a potential new adventure, it’s no secret moving is stressful. I’ve put together five PCS hacks that I’ve discovered or learned from another person in the military community. Hopefully, these will make our transition, and possibly yours, a little easier.

  1. Start early and create a clean space. When we PCS, I love to take the opportunity to go through every drawer, cabinet and space that is disorganized. Inevitably, I find a lot of things I want to get rid of. This makes me feel great because there will be less stuff to move, and organizing before a move makes me feel more at ease. I like to start this process two or three months out; that way I have plenty of time and can do it slowly. We don’t always have the luxury of knowing we’re going to move that far in advance, but try to start as early as possible.
  2. Have a garage sale. This feels like a no-brainer; however, this year will be my first time doing it. After you go through your house and set aside everything you don’t want, more than likely you’ll have enough to have a garage sale or at least to sell some things on online. Save all the money from your sales and set it aside to use during your transition time.
  3. Make a special space for items you don’t want packed up during the move. I always have small, breakable, sentimental items packed in my car with me. That way I don’t have to worry about them breaking or getting lost. This also goes for your suitcases, clothes you’re going to take with you, and other items you’re going to need easy access to. It’s not a bad idea to set aside toilet paper, paper towels, and trash bags too. That way once you get to where you are going, you won’t have to automatically run to the store to pick up any these necessities.
  4. Color code your boxes by room. Grab some cheap colored stickers and use them to help organize your boxes. Use one color for a specific room and put that color sticker on every box in that room. If you want to go a little overboard, put the color sticker on each side of the box so it will be easily identified. Then, when you are all moved in, you can quickly figure out where each box should go. Also, write down what room each color is. That’s the last thing you want to try to remember when moving.
  5. Get your kids involved. There are ways that your kids can help, and I believe it helps everyone’s sanity to have something to do while our houses get turned upside down. Even if it’s putting the color-coded stickers on the boxes. Finding small ways for them to get involved will help make it a family effort and help keep everyone busy. I like to also set aside some small activities for the kids to do during the actual loading up of boxes. It makes it easier to know the kids are occupied and aren’t running around while there are a lot of heavy boxes being moved.

The most important thing to remember is to breathe and remember that this is only a temporary situation. Eventually, we will be all set up in a new house with no boxes in sight. Being prepared emotionally before the actual move has really helped me and may help you too. My goal is to be 100% emotionally ready for the new destination by the time I get in my car and drive off. By that moment, I want me and my family to be focused on the new adventure ahead and excited about a change. This attitude can help the trip, and the whole PCS, go smoother.

You can also utilize tools for your move from Military OneSource which can be accessed here. Do you have any essential tips or tricks to help with a military move that I didn’t include here? Let me know in the comments.

How to Support Military Spouses on the Day of the Deployed

Every year, October 26 is the National Day of the Deployed. This is a day set aside to honor all our service men and women deployed around the globe. Whether they are involved in combat missions or peacekeeping assignments, service members work hard during deployment and deserve recognition for their many sacrifices.

During deployments, the service members aren’t the only ones who make sacrifices. Behind most deployed troops are family members who stay behind and support them: parents, spouses, siblings, girlfriends, boyfriends and children. Military loved ones often shoulder extra responsibilities and take care of day-to-day tasks on their own throughout the deployment.

If you are not able to honor a service member on the Day of the Deployed, you can certainly make a kind gesture to a military spouse or family member going through deployment on the homefront. While military spouses often smile and put on a brave face during deployment, the reality is that it becomes a difficult challenge to face each day. Every kind gesture makes the burden a little lighter.

Six Great Ways to Support a MilSpouse During Deployment:

  1. Offer to help: Everyone always says, “let me know if you need anything,” but the reality is that military families often feel so overwhelmed by the multitude of responsibilities during deployment that they don’t know HOW to ask for help. Juggling work duties, raising children, and taking care of a house and pets can become an endless struggle. When they finally do make a request, many military spouses feel defeated when they are told no, or that it isn’t a convenient time. The most effective way to help is by making a specific offer. Choose a responsibility you are comfortable with, and just tell them you are going to do it. “Can I come mow the lawn each Saturday? Would it help if I took the kids to school one morning per week? I’m going to the grocery store today—what can I grab for you?” These are all convenient offers that lighten someone’s burden during deployment and are easy to accept.
  2. Send a meal: If you live far from a military family, you may not feel able to offer much support during deployment. But mealtime is always a challenge, and any meal a spouse doesn’t have to cook is a huge blessing! Consider sending gift cards for a company that delivers meals, so they can place an order without the guilt. Or go ahead and tell them you are ordering them pizza on a Friday night. You could also set them up with a meal delivery service that delivers healthy meals. If someone has a baby or goes through surgery during deployment, set up a meal train website so their local friends and neighbors can take turns bringing them meals.
  3. Write an encouraging note: Every military spouse could use a few encouraging words to help them through difficult deployment days. Handwritten notes in the mail are a rare and beautiful gift that will help lift someone’s spirits. Don’t have time for a handwritten note? Send a text, email or Facebook message to let them know you are thinking of them and their service member, and that you admire them for their strength or sacrifices.

  4. Lend a hand: It seems that everything breaks when the service member leaves for deployment, so military households often suffer from broken appliances, costly repairs or car trouble. If you have any handy skills, ask a military family if they need any help around the house. There is a good chance there is a two-person job the spouse has been putting off because they aren’t able to do it alone. An extra toolbox and set of hands can make a huge difference to someone struggling through deployment!
  5. Let them vent: Sometimes military loved ones just need someone to talk to — someone who will offer a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. You don’t need to have military experience yourself to be a patient listener. You don’t have to know the right thing to say or give expert advice. Just listen without judging. Don’t tell them “this is what they signed up for,” or “it will be over before you know it.” Just acknowledge that they are going through a difficult challenge and they are being tested. Then compliment them on one thing they are doing well, like their strength, their patience, their hard work or their creativity with the kids. Those kind words will mean so much.
  6. Send a care package: Want to make a military family smile during deployment? Everyone loves getting surprises in the mail! Whether you send a birthday gift, a homemade treat, gift cards for a massage or a commercial gift basket, sending a care package is a great way to let someone know you are thinking of them. It will help them feel supported as they face the rest of the deployment.

However you decide to support a military spouse during deployment, know that your kindness will always be appreciated. When you encourage a military spouse, you are helping to support their deployed service member too, by giving them the reassurance that their loved ones are taken care of back home.

Bully Prevention Starts at Home

I can vouch for the fact that 2020 has not been a five-star experience as an adult. At my age, I understand that life is not fair (obviously I also know that no one will stop me from throwing a temper tantrum or two though). But, have you looked at 2020 through the eyes of your kids?

If you’re like our family, the year was going to be hard enough by uprooting them again to PCS, but to PCS without ever saying goodbye to friends of three years? To move to a completely foreign place and not have the usual opportunities to make friends? To watch school districts dance between virtual school and in-person school for the 2020-21 school year, wondering when they might get to make a friend? My heart just breaks for them, and unfortunately, there isn’t much I can do to fix it.

But I did what I could. That meant enrolling them in a weeklong, half-day, outdoor and socially distanced summer camp in July and huddling up with parents to coordinate small playdates or safe use of online chats and gaming throughout the summer. And, my husband and I have made a huge decision financially to opt for private school — because the school has smaller class sizes, it had the luxury of returning in-person full-time in August.

My kids, probably just like yours, have missed other kids (not that we aren’t loads of fun to be around as parents; we totally are). But it wasn’t until meeting with their new principal ahead of the first day of school that I realized: socially distancing kids, specifically in school and their activities (sports, clubs, dance, basket weaving, whatever) has taken away all the great, some might say “normal,” parts of childhood, but it hasn’t necessarily sheltered our kids from the bad.

Awareness

Our kids’ principal told us that when they had to move online in the spring of 2020, they did so effortlessly and without the bullying issues between the students online that some of the public schools faced. Thank goodness for that mask on my face because there was no way my mouth wasn’t hanging open in shock when he said that. I pictured my own kids desperate to socialize, then being bullied in a classroom chat. I consider our family very lucky that on top of everything else 2020 gave our kids, being bullied in virtual school wasn’t on the list, but think for a minute how easily it could happen.

Action

After that conversation, I felt hyperaware of interactions my kids had with each other, with kids at their summer camp, with friends who would come over and play, and virtually through a messenger app or through the gaming system headset. “Did my son just raise his voice with his friend?” “Is he being too bossy?” “Is my daughter’s shyness coming off as rude?”

Our kids were taught the golden rule early, but I feared they were out of practice and ill-equipped to handle social interactions in a different setting. Socializing has become something of a delicacy this year, and I did not want A) My kids ruining a chance at fun for another kid, or B) A social opportunity to be ruined for my kids because another child was bullying.

Bully Prevention at Home: 2020 Version

What can we do to ensure that the few shots our kids have at socializing the remainder of this year are positive? It’s probably not what tired parents want to hear (speaking as a tired parent), but it’s going to take some extra effort.

  • We need to be nosy. Eavesdrop on those classroom chats or conferences. Listen in on the one side of the video game headset conversations we can hear. Our kids will hate it, but tough. They don’t like broccoli either, but I make them eat that.
  • We need to step in when it’s warranted. My husband and I take turns marching down the stairs to the basement to tell our naturally bossy son to cool it on the video games. We know he isn’t a mean kid at his core, but bossiness can be considered bullying if it carries on long enough. So, we tell him something along the lines of “You’ll be a team player or you’ll turn it off,” or “You wouldn’t talk to your friend like that face-to-face, so don’t do it online.” This goes for school and in-person activities as well. “Don’t talk over your classmates,” “Support your teammates,” “Be kind to your friends.”
  • It’s also well worth your time to stay ahead of any issues by keeping open lines of communication between you and your kids, your children’s teachers and their friends’ parents. Because if my child is being hurtful to another, I want to know about it. Likewise, if my child is ever bullied, the communication lines are already open to address it with involved adults.
  • We need to set examples. Anyone else have their phone with them at all times? We’re always connected. I don’t let my kids read over my shoulder or listen in on my calls all the time, but sometimes I share funny or caring things that friends or family say and how I respond, or I let them pop into the conversation and sort of coach them through when they need it. And the example-setting doesn’t have to be strictly virtual. We have a very sarcastic household. Very. Whenever there is any doubt, (and I know this because one of my kids inevitably says “stop fighting” or “be nice”), my husband and I make sure to clarify that we are just joking with each other.
  • We need to be clear. Both of my kids have been known to play the victim (like Oscar-worthy) when it benefits them. My kids both know that when they are wronged, I will be their advocate, but I always want the whole story before I get involved. Nine times out of 10, the issue is “We were joking around, but then so-and-so hurt my feelings.” That is not a bully situation to me. Now, if someone puts them down verbally more than once, makes them fearful when approached, or ever physically harms them, that is a different story. It’s hard to understand the difference when you’re young, so I have no problem repeating myself here. I want them to grow up into adults that don’t let every stick or stone break their bones, but I also want them to grow up knowing they are incredible — and no one has the right to make them feel otherwise.

So much of 2020 has happened at home, and that’s where bully prevention has to start. I know we’re tired from the countless adjustments throughout the year, and if you’re like me, there was definitely a “there are no rules” vibe to the spring and summer. But we can’t get lazy on the bully prevention just because this school year looks different than anything we’ve ever seen. Have the talks that make them roll their eyes. Ask the nagging questions. Be present. And force them to do the right thing every time.

The 2020-21 school year is going to be one they talk about to their kids and grandkids one day for a lot of reasons, and if we each do our part behind the scenes, bullying doesn’t have to be part of the narrative.

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