On a typically chaotic Monday morning, I watched my 3-year-old daughter spin in circles trying to catch her second coat sleeve before we could finally fumble out the door to school. Meanwhile, my 6-year-old son relentlessly questioned me about what I put in his lunch box, what we were having for dinner, whether or not it was going to hurt when his first loose tooth fell out and, finally, if it was weeks or months until we moved to Japan.
“Mom, I always get weeks and months mixed up.”
I get it, buddy. At 7:30 a.m. on a Monday I barely know what month it is myself.
But this little conversation had me thinking all the way to my kids’ schools. The PCS that we’re currently navigating has been our most chaotic by far. Not only is it our first overseas move, it’s also the first one where the kids are old enough to really ask questions and expect some answers. It’s the first PCS where they will have to say goodbye to friends and the comfort of their current schools (not counting preschool, of course). And, it’s the first PCS I’ve ever experienced where we had orders in hand, with dry ink and everything. Plans were made and construction paper countdown chains were shrinking, only to have those pulled and replaced with something totally different.
My kids who trust basically everything I say (aside from my promise that broccoli is delicious), had every reason to believe we were Virginia bound – mommy and daddy said so. Their little foundations were rattled when we told them there was a change in plans – big time, like different continent big. I felt guilty for putting them through an extra layer of stress.
So much of parenting is trial and error. When it comes to what our kids need to know about military life – moves, deployments and the like – it’s on us to figure out how much information is the right amount. There are a couple of key factors to consider when determining how much information to share and when.
Age. Older kids have more experience with all the planning (and plan changes), and they can probably handle more information. Younger kids, like mine, are still making sense of how long a month really is, so maybe less is more.
Personality. My daughter may just fly by the seat of her pants her whole life. She follows her heart like the bravest of Disney princesses and changes her mind as often as she changes her outfit, so a change of plans doesn’t faze her. I’m both in awe of her and totally confused by her because she is my miniature opposite. My son though, is more stressed not knowing his next move. He doesn’t like surprises. He doesn’t like not having all the information. Him, I get. We have the same personality. For that reason, how much information I give him is on a case-by-case basis. He has questions about moving and I answer them.
In short, I like to approach each situation by thinking: Would knowing (blank) make the situation harder or easier for my kid? Eventually they won’t come to me for every answer, but while they do, I’m going to guard their hearts and minds as much as I can.