When you receive PCS orders, you're bound to have mixed feelings. You're likely to be excited about the upcoming change and the chance to meet new people and see new places. But you're also likely to feel stressed about the logistics of the move and about helping family members - especially children and teenagers - with the transition. Fortunately, there are steps you can take and resources available to help you make plans, stay organized, help your children and keep a step ahead while you move.
Gaining a sense of control over your move can help ease the stress. Whether this is your first move or your 15th, it's a good idea to:
- Visit your current installation's Relocation Assistance Program office. They can give you information to help you with the move. You can find the Relocation Assistance Program office on your installation by searching MilitaryINSTALLATIONS.
- Tell your family about the move. Create a "command center." This is a central location for the details - including to-do lists - that relate to your move. This is also the place to keep all of your important documents - orders, medical records, powers of attorney, wills, birth certificates, passports and statements for financial accounts. A large accordion folder works well for this. Even if you're keeping lists and other documents on your computer, be sure to make hard copies for your "command center."
- Prioritize rather than trying to do it all at once. Make lists labeled A, B and C, depending on what needs to be done first. This can help you focus on the deal-breakers - what's most important to get done.
- Create a budget. You can use the relocation budget planner on the Military OneSource website or ask for one at your installation relocation office.
- Contact your installation's transportation management office. They can help you learn how to set up your move. You'll need to have orders in hand. You'll probably be instructed to create an account online at www.move.mil to manage the shipment and storage of your household goods and other personal property.
- Check out MilitaryINSTALLATIONS. MilitaryINSTALLATIONS is an online tool that helps you find contact information for programs and services at your new installation, plus articles, photos and facts about the military community and surrounding area.
- Contact the housing office at your destination installation. The housing office can help you explore temporary and permanent housing options. For housing options off the installation, you may want to check out the DoD-sponsored Automated Housing Referral Network - to browse available properties near your new installation - and the Defense Travel Management Office to calculate the basic allowance for housing for off-installation housing.
- Create an account on Plan My Move. This Military OneSource tool allows you to create a customized plan and calendar to help you make a smooth transition. It will also generate a list of important phone numbers and addresses that you'll need to keep with you as you move. Be sure to include contact information for the nearest hospital, your new family support center and the office of your child's new school.
Learn about your new installation and the surrounding area
Many resources are available to help you learn about your new installation and the region where it is located. Being armed with information when you arrive will keep you from wasting time and energy as you're trying to get settled.
- Connect with friends who have lived on your new installation or are living there now. They'll be able to answer many of your questions from a first-hand perspective. Ask friends at your current installation for names of people they know at your new location.
- Ask for a "welcome aboard" package from your new installation. Check with your current installation's relocation office and ask that one be sent to you, or if you aren't near an installation now, call your new installation's relocation office. You can find contact information on MilitaryINSTALLATIONS.
- Find out about motor-vehicle related requirements in your new state. Most states have websites that outline licensing rules.
- Visit the website for the chamber of commerce. Look for the chamber of commerce site that serves your new town or area or see if your new town has a website by using the town and state as search terms.
Help children make a smooth transition
No matter what age your children are, there are steps you can take to help them with the transition. Keep in mind that as soon as you know you will be moving it's important to:
- Acknowledge your children's feelings. Make sure they know that it's OK to feel anxious about the move. Even though you'll be busy, it's important to make time to sit and talk about what the move will mean for everyone.
- Be a role model with a positive attitude. Try to convey to your child that even though moving can be hard, it's also an adventure. Although it's important to acknowledge the stresses of moving, it's also important to focus on the good things about relocating: expanding your community of friends and learning about new places.
- Try to keep routines intact. Even though you'll be extremely busy organizing the details of the move, it's important to keep in mind that children are comforted by the routines of daily life. By continuing to have your usual Friday-night popcorn, bedtime reading, Saturday walk to the library - or whatever rituals you enjoy together - you'll reassure your child that the important things in life will stay the same.
- Help a younger child make an address book with pictures, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses. An older child or teenager will appreciate an address book too. Knowing that they will be able to stay in touch with old friends easily can help make the move feel less stressful.
- Encourage involvement in activities, clubs and teams that appeal to your children through their new school or other community organization.
- Include teenagers in moving decisions. Relocating can be especially stressful for teenagers, whose emotional states are often in some sort of turmoil even without the knowledge of a coming move. Helping Your Teenager Cope with Relocation, available on the Military OneSource website, offers strategies for parents relocating with teens.
- Visit online resources with your child. Military Youth on the Move is a DoD site that offers information for children, pre-teens, teens and parents.
- If your child has special needs you will have some extra steps to take as you get ready to move. Contact the Exceptional Family Member Program coordinator at your installation for information about local services, both on and off installation.
Take care of yourself
In order to navigate the adventure - and the boxes - ahead, you need to take all the steps you can to take care of yourself. Be sure to:
- Ask for help. There are many resources available to help you, including other families on your installation. People will be happy to give you a hand by watching your children as you pack or even helping with some of the nitty-gritty details.
- Make a point of spending time with friends and co-workers before you leave. Although you may feel as though you can't squeeze one more thing into your schedule, it's important to connect in-person before you go.
- Eat well. You may be so busy that you forget to eat meals, which can lead to tiredness and lack of energy. And be sure to drink lots of water - you can easily become dehydrated when you're preoccupied with the details of a move.
- Watch your back. You and other family members are likely to be lifting boxes on both ends of your move. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons public information site provides detailed information about safe lifting.