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Do’s and Don’ts of Purging to Move

 Posted by on March 19, 2018 at 09:51
Mar 192018
 

Whenever we get ready to move, I have an overwhelming desire to purge, consolidate and get organized. This summer, we will execute our eleventh Permanent Change of Station, and that doesn’t include the number of times we’ve moved houses during a tour due to a variety of situations.

Cassie

More than once during one of these moves, I’ve found myself wishing I had kept something I had donated, or wishing I got rid of something we hauled across the country. Here are some thoughts on what to take and what to discard or donate during your next PCS.

Keep:

  • Furniture. Every house is different, and it’s rare that you will live in more than one house with the same square footage. It’s also rare that you will use your furniture in the same spaces in each house. If you are moving from a large house to a smaller house, store your furniture, even if it means storing it for two or three years and paying the monthly fee. The moral of the story: Storage may be expensive, but replacing furniture is even more expensive.
  • Curtain rods, window coverings and décor. Everyone’s taste changes over time and it’s nice to have new décor and window coverings when you move. It makes the home feel cozy and up-to-date. But I have found myself replacing that set of antique keys that went out of style, or that table lamp I didn’t need anymore, with items that are eerily similar to the original. If you are in the mood for a change, store the window coverings and décor and pull them out at your next duty station. You may find that what is old is new again when you haven’t seen it for a few years.

Ditch:

  • Expired medication, cleaners and pantry items. Ask your installation hospital if they will discard expired medication for you – never toss meds in the trash. If you don’t live near an installation, ask a local pharmacy. Study the expiration dates and discard anything that will expire before you move or while in transit.
  • Open items. Contracted military movers should not move open items, but some will still try. Three guesses on how fun it is to clean up a moving box of pantry items covered in spilled olive oil, powdered sugar, or my personal favorite: chia seeds. I’m just saying.
  • Broken items. Either fix your broken items or kiss them goodbye. Chances are that if it has been sitting at the bottom of your “to-do” list at this duty station, it will still be there at the next one. (Looking at you, 20-year-old broken coffee mug).
  • Alcohol. Contracted military movers are not authorized to move alcohol – so ditch the booze.

Donate:

  • Clothes. Donate clothes you don’t wear (sorry, skinny jeans) or that are not suitable for your next duty station’s climate. Consider local churches, military thrift stores and nonprofit organizations willing to pick up bulk donations free of charge.
  • Baby items and toys. Most local shelters and some after-school programs will happily accept donations for little guys.
  • Food items. If you have unexpired items that you don’t want to take with you, donate them to the local food bank.

Here’s the truth: Regardless of how much you purge and how much you plan, moving is hard. But getting organized and clearing out the clutter before you arrive at your next duty station will make the transition less stressful. Start organizing folks – your next move will be here before you know it!

De-Stress Before Your PCS

 Posted by on March 12, 2018 at 10:28
Mar 122018
 

New stations, new relationships and new adventures lie ahead whenever we prepare for another (or first) Permanent Change of Station. Part of the appeal of military life is the opportunity to move to new places, but let’s be honest – moving can be scary and a lot of work. Below are some simple but helpful things you can do to make your PCS as stress-free as possible.

Kelly

  • Get Rid of Stuff. A PCS is a great reason to purge. Have a garage sale, list items online or donate to charity. This is best done a few months before you move, or seasonally. As your move gets closer and you find a new place to live, you can sell or donate larger items that won’t fit, or you do not want to store. Money from anything you sell can go toward your moving fund.
  • Create a PCS Binder. Over the past few moves, we inadvertently created what I now refer to as the PCS Binder. Every piece of information needed to PCS goes into this binder. Ours has a zippered pocket in front where I keep pens, permanent markers, sticky notes, paper clips, tape, stamps, etc. Inside, I keep a small hardcover journal. Any information that we might need access to before, during and after the move goes into the book. Names of utility companies and account numbers, realtor names and numbers, the name of the moving company and contact info, prospective home options, school info – you name it, it goes in the book! We’ve referred to it more times than we can count. A word of advice – do NOT keep bank account or credit card information here.
  • Stay Healthy. Most importantly, take care of your health and wellness during this time. There are a million moving parts during a PCS! It’s important to keep your head clear and your body calm. Meditate, exercise, eat well and try not to schedule a lot of extra activities or overextend yourself. Also, do your best to get some sleep. I know how the mind can run wild, but you probably can’t do anything about your PCS in the middle of the night.

For a stress-free PCS, remember to utilize the resources available to you, including an entire section dedicated to PCS on the Military OneSource website. There is plenty of information out there, so set aside time to read through and take notes as needed. Remember: Be proactive when you can, stay organized and ask for help if you need it. You’ve got this!

Nov 142017
 

Last Sunday afternoon, our family of four walked out our front door together. We walked right by both family cars (lemons that we paid a grand total of $4,200 for when we arrived in Japan). We walked down the sidewalk of our duplex-lined street, passing neighbors, busy playgrounds, our commissary, the building where mommy volunteers and eventually wound up at the base theater.

Kristi

I paid $12 for four tickets and we shuffled inside to grab popcorn and drinks before our movie. In line, we saw friends and made plans for future lunch dates. Once seated, I did the classic mom move and divided the popcorn between kids with just enough time leftover to squeeze in an adult conversation with my husband before the previews started. We were quickly interrupted by our 6-year-old son who tried frantically to get me to take the popcorn tray I had just given him. When I asked him what was wrong, he replied confidently, “They’re about to play the anthem, mom. I need to stand up.”

It took exactly three movies in that theater for my son to remember to stand for our anthem before the start of our movie — something a civilian movie-goer would probably find strange. I was so proud that my usual Star-Spangled Banner goosebumps rose twice as tall. The anthem ended, we sat down and I passed the popcorn tray back down to my son.

The differences between a Sunday afternoon here and one back in the states, living off base, are subtle. However small, though, our life is different here. We are different here. Maybe it’s because we’re getting our first real taste of base living, or our first real taste of overseas living — maybe some combination of the two. Before any big move, parents ask themselves something like, “Are we doing the right thing for our family?” We asked ourselves that very question before moving to Japan. The answer is revealed in little moments like our son remembering to stand in the theater; our lives have been shaken up in the best ways by moving here.

  1. We start our day with morning colors. I never have to look far for Monday motivation — it plays every morning at 8 am, without fail.
  2. We pause for Kimigayo. Out of respect for our host nation, we remain standing for the Japanese national anthem that directly follows our own. Our kids know the name of the song and why they are standing for it. That, to me, is a real-life lesson in respect.
  3. We walk. The value of our cars in the second sentence of this blog was not a typo; we paid next to nothing for them. They get us from point A to point B, unless point B is within walking distance, as it usually is on base. I drove to the pool once. By the time I found a parking spot it was within sight of our house and I felt ridiculous. We haven’t driven to the pool since.
  4. When we do drive, it’s painfully slow. There’s a poorly translated cautionary sign at the end of our street that reads “Dead Slow.” If you’ve ever driven on base, you get it — you’ve probably even thought it a couple of times. The 30 kph (less than 20 mph) was tough to adjust to, I’ll admit, but I don’t mind it now. There are so many pedestrians and bicyclists, many of them kids, that I prefer to take it slow and keep everyone safe.
  5. We watch old movies. Our theater shows movies long after they’ve premiered in the states, including the one I mentioned earlier. I feel confident in speaking for everyone when I say that not a single person cares.
  6. We get creative with groceries. It’s fantastic living right down the street from the commissary, except on the days it’s awaiting a shipment. Walking down the bread aisle only to find dinner rolls and otherwise empty shelves was a first for me. But, I’m not complaining. Our local Japanese grocery stores have fresh produce and plenty of opportunities to be adventurous. It’s nothing like grocery shopping stateside, but that’s why it’s an adventure!
  7. We take care of each other here on base. Family members, classmates, neighbors, friends, it doesn’t matter. We recognize that we’re all together here in this community. Regardless of rank or situation, we tackle things together.
  8. We fall asleep to TAPS. Even on the worst day, when nothing went right, it’s a little reflection and a little perspective.

How to Create a PCS-Ready Home

 Posted by on September 19, 2017 at 09:31
Sep 192017
 

You can’t live out of boxes for weeks just to PCS prep your home — you’ve got to have space to live in the meantime. But there are things you can do that will make your life easier when PCS orders come in and you find yourself breaking down one household to build another. Here are my tips for making your home PCS-ready:

Julie

  1. Create a home inventory. No matter where you are in the PCS cycle, it’s important to make a home inventory. In case of damage during a move, fire or theft, you’ll know what you have, its condition and value.
  • Organize your home inventory by room to make it easier to check off as you unpack.
  • Include item name, brand, serial number, date of purchase, description and its condition and value. If you are still making payments on an item, note where you send payments, the amount still owed and monthly payment amount.
  • Take photos of expensive or precious items to prove condition and include in the list. Capture the brand logo, serial numbers and receipts in the pictures with the item.
  • Save your inventory in the cloud, on a thumb drive and print two copies. Staple the receipts to one copy of the printed inventory and store it in a fireproof safe or safety deposit box. Keep the other printed list with you so you can use it to check off the items when you unpack.
  1. Purge early and often. It’s less work to get rid of something than to pack it up and unpack it later. Only keep and move what you love.
  2. Pack room by room. Request that the movers pack boxes by room and do not pack multiple room items in one box. This will speed up your unpacking and make the process so much easier.
  3. Color code by room. Use different colored tape to mark the boxes for each room, then prep index cards with the tape colors and attach them to the corresponding doorway in your new home. Matching the colors makes it easier for movers to place boxes and quicker for you to put things away since they are already in the correct space.
  4. Guard your bed hardware. Place each bed’s hardware into a separate Ziploc bag and label it. Then tape it securely to the bed frame. If you want to sleep in your bed again — do this.

Check out “Resources for Smoother Moves” for more tips. With this advice in your PCS tool box, you’ll be a moving pro in no time!

OCONUS PCS: Think Outside the Gates

 Posted by on September 12, 2017 at 10:53
Sep 122017
 

Now that I’ve outgrown the phase, I’m not ashamed to admit that I felt trapped when we first moved to Japan. The pre-household goods delivery time that I usually filled with shopping, exploring my new town or day trips was a true test in patience. Not only did I not have a house or a car, but the thought of my first solo venture off-base stressed me out.

Kristi

What if I forgot what all the road signs meant?

What if I forgot to drive on the left side of the road?

What if I couldn’t find my way back? (Some people are blessed with an internal compass; I’m not one of them!)

If you have any of these fears about moving overseas or venturing out now that you’ve relocated, know that they are totally justified. I still find myself freezing up and forgetting all ten words of my Japanese vocabulary from time to time — luckily this is a culture where silence and a bow go a long way.

But, as justified as these questions are, they grow into irreversible walls between you and adventure outside the gates of your base. Confined to base, you’re basically living overseas without leaving the USA — and then you’re missing out on the best part of OCONUS orders. True, you can survive on installation events, commissary and exchange shopping and the handful of American fast food available on base, but pushing beyond your comfort zone can make your time OCONUS something you’ll remember fondly, versus a sentence you were forced to serve. Let’s break down those intimidating walls and get you prepped for a foreign adventure!

Start small. We took friends up on a ride to the beach to get us out of the temporary lodging facility. Then, when I first ventured off base by myself, I drove to that beach because I was comfortable navigating there. I was prepared and confident, which made me excited to travel again.

Do your research. Research is not as daunting as people make it out to be. You don’t have to learn it all in one night. Research where you’re going, ask around about it, know expenses and get directions. Set yourself up for success before you leave base, and don’t forget that you have two incredible sources of information at your fingertips: word of mouth from others in the military community and Information, Tickets and Tours (ITT), which can book trips for you and arrange for transportation!

Be their guest. From day one it was drilled into us that we (as in all of us stationed here) are all ambassadors for the United States. Do the U.S. proud by being a gracious guest. Respect the local people, the environment and the customs.

Be safe. Make sure you know what you’re getting into when you venture out; bad neighborhoods and bad weather exist in all parts of the world. Stay informed and aware of your surroundings. Be sure to have your military ID, emergency contacts and enough cash on hand so you’ll always be prepared and able to get back to base.

Don’t wait. Leaving Japan with regrets scares me much more than getting lost or saying konnichi-wa (good afternoon) when I should have said ohayo gozaimasu (good morning). I am making a point to see something new each week (even something as small as trying a new restaurant). This commitment to adventure is serving me well so far. Our first two months have been packed with adventure, and we are just getting started!

Moving Overseas: It Takes a Village

 Posted by on August 8, 2017 at 09:52
Aug 082017
 

When I originally got into blogging, my very first (short-lived) blog was called “No Thanks, I Got It.” That should sum up how ridiculously independent I am. I would rather make a pyramid of chairs to finish painting the high point of a living room wall than ask the neighbor to borrow a ladder. That’s not a strangely specific metaphor, I’ve actually done that. I’ve always hated asking for help. I’ve never liked burdening the people I care most about for favors, however small.

Kristi

Then I moved to Japan. I was awake for 40+ hours, not counting the times I dozed on the plane for a few minutes only to be awoken by:

  • My head jerking back to the upright position
  • The beverage cart bumping into my seat
  • The drool taking over my face
  • My child asking me for something to eat or play with

When my family of four finally landed in Japan, my head was still in the clouds somewhere over the Pacific. It hit me right about then that I was in the middle of a country where I didn’t know the language, we didn’t own a car (let alone have drivers’ licenses) and neither my best friend nor my mom were anywhere on the island. I felt overwhelmed there in the terminal – people and thoughts swirling – as we followed the masses of tired travelers stumbling toward the exit.

I’ve learned quickly that offers for help aren’t rhetorical here; they are legitimate and we have needed each and every one of them. If your sponsor is supposed to set up your mailbox, it will get done. If you’re expecting a ride at the airport, it will be there curbside and your driver/new favorite person will even install your kids’ car seats for you. If you have an amazing sponsor, your kitchen will be stocked with food – perfect for when you’re wide awake and starving at 3 a.m. If a total stranger offers to spend the day watching your kids while you attend an all-day “Welcome Aboard Brief,” she will show up and have activities planned.

Living here is slowly teaching me that it is okay to accept help and that there is nothing wrong with asking for it. I have accepted rides around town as I learn my way from place to place and have asked for recommendations on where to shop. The people have made all the difference for my family so far.

Because I remember clearly what it feels like to stumble off of that Patriot Express, I’m learning to be better about offering help, too. Incoming families can barely tell right from left (and it doesn’t help when you see cars driving on the opposite side of the road) and need someone to take the reins until they are comfortable enough to steer. Not to mention, paying it forward makes me feel a little less indebted to the wonderful people who helped us get settled.

Community is a concept that’s alive and well in the military, but I have spent nearly nine years as a military spouse without having to ask for favors – until now. That wasn’t the case leading up to our OCONUS PCS, or as we’re getting settled in our new home. It turns out I may just be one of those “It takes a village” spouses after all!

Jul 032017
 

Military families move a lot and the majority of us expect frequent moves. Since it’s just part of military life, I’ve quickly learned that it’s best to embrace it. After all, moving is part of what makes military families so resilient!

Dani

As military spouses, we also know that every move is different – some are overseas, sometimes we’re packing for small children, and depending on where we’re going we pack entirely different things. And you know what? We get better with each move—more fluid, more organized, more prepared. We’re even a little calmer because we know what to expect.

For me personally, there are three steps that lead to a successful move. That’s right, just three! These basics really pave the way for a smooth transition for my family:

  1. Plan ahead. Even if it’s only a month in advance, there is still plenty of time to prepare the necessities. Once you have your packing date from your moving company, break out your day planner or “to do list” app and make plans for:
  • Child care during the packing and unpacking processes (or a plan with your spouse for how you will trade off supervising the packers and movers)
  • A budget for the travel costs if you won’t be getting money upfront to move
  • A file folder, envelope, or binder to store all your important documents, receipts, birth and marriage certificates, orders, etc.
  • Time permitting, sweep through each room of your house for items that you can toss, donate, or sell before your move
  1. Prepare your space. Before the packers come, clear your house of clutter. Even if you shove all the clutter into a big ol’ bag or box, get it off the floors or counters. I generally shove all this into a drawer I label “junk drawer,” though that’s a messy way to do it. Pack up any personal or sentimental items you don’t want the movers to take, like jewelry or family heirlooms. Make sure each room is ready for them to just come in and do their job. Place sticky notes on any larger items you don’t want them to pack. Move smaller items you don’t want packed into a corner of your house or garage.
  2. Pack your first day box. The key to this one is to pack your first day box before the movers come to pack everything else. I’ll be bold enough to say that the first day box is key to a successful move! If you’re like my fellow milspouse friend, Kristi, you may even have several themed boxes. She has the best ideas for what to include in your box (or boxes)! I find the easiest way to determine what to include in your first day box is to break it down into these areas:
  • Need to have – toilet paper, toothbrushes, clothing, and hand soap
  • Nice to have – a curling wand, batteries, lamps
  • Wait for it – big or bulky items, books, office supplies

When in doubt, take as little as possible. Strip it down to the basics and travel lightly to make your trip easier, whether it’s across the state or across the country. Worst case scenario, toiletry items can be bought at a drugstore.

With these simple steps in your back pocket, each move will get just a little bit easier. For more ideas, tips and resources check out these articles. Best of luck on your next adventure!

Jun 272017
 

I’m not the first military spouse to move overseas, and I know I won’t be the last. Yet, I spent the first 24-48 hours scouring military and base-affiliated websites, military spouse blogs and Facebook discussion threads trying to figure out where to start and what to pack in which shipment. I am a huge fan of efficiency and organization and it bugged me that I couldn’t find exactly what I needed. So, since I know you clicked on this blog because you have some serious packing and planning to do, not to hear my anecdotes and wit (don’t worry, there’ll be plenty of time for that another day), let’s get right to the OCONUS (that’s outside the continental U.S., by the way) to-do list that worked best for me and my family.

Kristi

  1. Get the web orders. Print them. Read them. Hold them in your hand. Basically, make sure the OCONUS move is official before you start jumping through hoops. Check the dates so you can see what kind of timeline you’re working with. Make several copies — at least three, and keep them in a central location (like a moving binder).
  2. Make doctor appointments for each member of your family. This will inevitably take more time than anything because the military takes family member health pretty seriously. Several people need to see the paperwork post-doctor visit, so the sooner the better. If anything gets red-flagged on any family member’s paperwork, don’t freak (ahem…like I did). Each installation is different, and the process is all about making sure your OCONUS installation can accommodate any medical conditions you may have (i.e., my son gets hives and I have a heart murmur).
  3. Get your passports and visas. If you already have a tourist passport (the blue book), you are ahead of the game. But, if it will expire while you’re overseas, renew it now. To apply for or renew your tourist passport, visit the State Department website for the necessary paperwork, timeline and process. Most post offices and a handful of other places around town can take your picture. Instructions for your no-fee passport (this is the one you will need when you are traveling on official orders — essentially your PCS to and from your overseas destination) will come from your command, and you will likely be directed to an office on your installation to complete this process (post office workers will look really confused if you ask them about it because they don’t handle no-fee passports). Be advised that (at least in our case) they were much pickier about the photos, and we couldn’t use a photo used on any other passport, and it takes longer to process. Whether or not you need a visa is dependent on your destination country, and it may be impacted if you (the military spouse) plan to work in that country. Be sure to ask early to avoid surprises.
  4. Decide if your pets will make the trip. If they will come with you, make sure you know what your receiving country’s policy is on pets. For instance, I can speak from experience about Japan: Authorities require two rounds of rabies vaccinations (even if your pet is already current), a blood test and a 180-day quarantine. The vet on your receiving installation is a perfect resource.
  5. Complete Level I Antiterrorism Awareness Training. This is done online for any adults on the orders via Joint Knowledge Online. It’s quick and I even learned a few things!
  6. Plan, clean out and pack. It seems most common that OCONUS movers have three separate shipments (that’s our case and the most common I’ve seen):

Aside from splitting your belongings into three piles, the biggest difference between a CONUS and an OCONUS move is the weight limit, a max of 18,000 pounds (but this depends on rank and dependents). This may mean some serious downsizing or at least reprioritization of what you can live without for your time overseas. If it helps, our express shipment is being packed first, followed by household goods, and storage will be picked up last as a sort of safety net for anything that doesn’t make the household goods cut. Keep in mind that you will also be bringing luggage with you. For Patriot Express passengers, this is two pieces of luggage 70 lbs. or less each, a carryon and a personal item; if flying commercial, make sure you show orders upon check-in to waive baggage fees.

  1. Learn a little bit about where you’re going. My must-see travel list for Japan is longer than my packing list. It’s also significantly longer than the list of survival Japanese phrases I know. We are having fun as a family learning a little culture, language and geography before we arrive, so we can do our best to embrace the culture after we land.

Aside from the usual PCS steps — like notifying your kids’ schools, turning off utilities, changing your address, and making plenty of copies of everything to hand carry — this is the bulk of the work ahead of you. It looks simple, but account for processing time, appointment scheduling and the fact that something (or worse, somethings) will go wrong. Hiccups are a part of everyone’s OCONUS PCS story. They are just one more thing we will all have in common when we get where we’re going.

Military Spouse Sanity Secrets Revealed

 Posted by on May 16, 2017 at 10:44
May 162017
 

I’m sitting in our townhouse today, still surrounded by all of our things (including a healthy dose of kid-induced mess), and I can’t help but think about what we were supposed to be doing right about now. We were supposed to be rolling into Seattle, Washington,  on day two of our cross-country PCS. But instead it’s a regular old Saturday for us, thanks to a change in orders that was made after the ink was good and dry on the first set.

Kristi

The last-minute switcheroo from Quantico to Japan uncovered a whole new layer of crazy that I never knew existed in military life. I find myself — now almost on a daily basis — losing track of everything from my car keys to my middle name and fighting off the urge (sometimes unsuccessfully) to bite my tongue when someone behind a desk tells me they can’t give me what I’m asking for.

Somewhere in the midst of this chaos I thought it would be a stellar idea to write a blog on sanity secrets, only to realize that I don’t have a clue what they are. What’s a frazzled girl with a deadline to do? I took to Facebook to ask my panel of experts (a.k.a. fellow military spouses) and their responses did not disappoint.

Job stuff. One of the biggest challenges of military-spousedom is trying to maintain a career with each move. The Department of Defense’s Spouse Education & Career Opportunities program provides free education and career guidance to military spouses, no matter where they are in their career track. The service branches also offer support – one spouse in my Facebook community mentioned Marine Corps Community Services was a lifesaver. The point being that there is free career help near all of us so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

Deployments. Deployments are like the military spouse Olympics, aren’t they? During times of separation, a few spouses admitted their dogs made the months less lonely and others used the alone time for self-improvement. One tip is that any time formerly deemed “couple time,” now becomes alone time to try kicking a bad habit or learning a new skill — hello, silver lining.

Another spouse anticipates the ugly-cry phase of deployment, and beats it to the punch by stocking up on comfort foods, fuzzy socks and good friends — a reminder that sometimes the best way to salvage sanity is just to give yourself a break and let your emotions run the show for a day. And when you’re done with the sad session, it might be a good time to take the advice of another spouse who guarantees a maid service is money well spent.

Universal sanity savers

  1. Let’s all agree that exercise is a good way to combat stress. I run faster and farther when I’m mad, and I always feel better afterward.
  2. If you have a friend who could barge in on you at any time and you wouldn’t be embarrassed about your messy house, you’ve got a good friend. Keep that person close when stress is at its worst. And don’t count out the healing power of milspouse events, even on the days when you just want to rock sweatpants.
  3. My last bit of advice would be to know yourself. I like to socialize, but too much of it makes me want to shut down. I need quiet time, but it drives some people bananas. I’m a list person, and others may see that as just one more thing to do. Whatever it is, if it’s stressing you out and it’s within your control to fix it (unlike orders), do it!

Keeping Kids on a Need-to-Know Basis

 Posted by on April 18, 2017 at 09:38
Apr 182017
 

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.

Kristi

“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.

All materials copyright Military OneSource, 2012. Blog content held jointly by writer and Military OneSource, with shared rights to republish with appropriate attribution.