Somewhere along the route of our PCS between Corpus Christi, Texas, and Monterey, California, our daughter (then 2 years old) had an absolute meltdown at a rest stop. Anyone who has ever been halfway through a PCS knows that feeling — we’re always just one snafu from losing it. But her meltdown wasn’t about packing or orders or even in protest of where we were going. Her ugly cry was in response to being told she, a 2-year-old child, could not drive the car. Zero points for rationality, but if we can be honest with ourselves for a second, some of our own adult PCS-induced meltdowns lack an element of rationality in hindsight.
Fast forward to PCS 2023, and we are prepping to move something arguably more delicate than a toddler who can’t be reasoned with. We are moving our 12-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter (who has already been briefed that she will not be driving any leg of the trip). They are packing their budding tween attitude, concerns for keeping life as steady as possible while in transition, and questions, so many questions. These questions and concerns, unlike the desire to drive at 2 years old, are completely valid, and we are doing everything we can to make sure they are set up for success when we get where we’re going.
Despite everything I’ve learned through five moves, I found it necessary to start researching before orders dropped. This is risky because it’s a short leap from harmless research to emotional attachment to a potential future that the military could always change any time they need to. But the research in this case is purely focused on the kids and making sure we can answer their questions. Some early research topics include:
- Which school district would we target?
- What would their middle school or high school be?
- Are options available to continue their participation in extracurricular activities?
- What neighborhoods would we consider living in to make sure we are zoned for the right schools and that there are potential new friends nearby?
And that’s it. We’re focusing on making sure we have answers that can calm their concerns, like “Will I still be able to dance after we move?” or “Do they have a lacrosse team where we’re going?” If they ask about what their school will be like, we can tell them little things that just help them create a picture of what their next three years will look like.
As adults can attest, unknowns are stressful. Not being in control of a situation is stressful. So, as long as it is clearly communicated with an emphasis on “IF,” we are happy to share anything we can to keep their minds from racing on an easily answered question.
Though we haven’t had any tears (yet) with our upcoming PCS, the emotions are swirling. My toughest challenge is keeping a lid on my desire to respond to every outburst with “It’s not that big of a deal,” because I know that won’t make it better, and it could likely lead to them not coming to me with their emotions next time.
In middle school and high school, your friends become incredibly important in your life. School can become the center of your world. We think, at the time, that we’ll be friends with our besties forever, whatever embarrassing thing that happens on any given day is the end of the world, and that making the team (or joining the club, etc.) is like peak coolness.
Now, we know that isn’t true. We all do plenty of growing and maturing after high school, and you naturally lose touch with friends and memories. We eventually realize the “big deals” at that age were blips, if anything at all, in our stories. But have I found it constructive to explain that to the two tweens living in my house ahead of this move? Hard no.
Instead, I am trying hard to acknowledge what they’re feeling — the butterflies, the sadness and the excitement. I’m trying, above all else, to make sure they are confident in who they are, wherever they are. And, despite the eye rolls it receives, I tell them all the time that they will not have any trouble making new friends after this PCS because:
- They’re already really good at it from lots of practice.
- They are fun!
- They are smart!
- They are going to have other kids nearby, and meet a few more in their extracurricular activities, so they can make friends before school even starts.
- They won’t be the only new kids because we’re moving to an area with a heavy military population.
- We love them so much and think they’re the coolest kids ever — heavy eye rolls on that point.
They are going to be facing a lot of change and new things during a time of growing up that is complicated enough without added obstacles, so whenever I can, I listen to their concerns. Right now, the major worries are leaving their current friends, having to make new friends, starting a new school, and making sure they can still do the things they like to do. Whenever possible, I offer practical solutions, like reminding them they can still talk to their current friends and assuring them opportunities to keep participating in the activities and sports they love are available.
Keeping it positive:
Above all, building their confidence is my main priority, and it would probably be my main priority at this age even if we weren’t PCSing. This age is a rollercoaster, so I reinforce at every chance I get how amazing they both are and how we can talk through anything bothering them, no matter how big or small.
And, for what it’s worth, I am not the only one trying to find the sunny side of this move. My son, who is more social than I ever desired to be, is excited to be in a larger school. He’s excited about the possibilities, the chance to try out for his school’s soccer team — which will be a shift from the rec soccer he plays in Virginia, and he’s excited not to have to deal with so much traffic (which, same).