How to Survive a PCS Move with Children

Written by TeLeah Thurston


While Permanent Change of Station (PCS) moves can occur throughout the year, peak PCS season typically runs from June to the end of September. In honor of April Military Child Month, I want to provide you with four military moving tips that helped my family tremendously during our PCS with small children.


1. Stay Organized

As a family of six, everyday life can feel very much like extreme chaos. A PCS move has many moving pieces, quite figuratively and literally, so a PCS move with kids can potentially be more challenging. Whether you have a small or large family, the first step is to stay organized.

A military moving tip that can play a huge role in the success of your PCS move is to keep personal documents and records in one location. You will repeatedly be requested to provide the same files for different departments, so organizing your family’s important files, like birth certificates, immunization records, leasing information or financial records in one safe place will save you from stress and worry. It will also help ensure you don’t lose anything in transit.

Not only do you want to keep important documents in order, you want to keep your home tidy. As a military family, it is very easy to accumulate extra stuff over the years, especially if you have multiple children. Be sure to frequently clear the clutter, so that when it is time to pack, you are not wasting your time or energy sorting out items you are more than likely not going to use at your next location.


2. Prioritize Your Family and Yourself

Prior to our move, I was working as an Executive Assistant for a small publishing company and coaching practice. It became extremely overwhelming to keep up with the demands of my position and take care of what needed to be done for our move. Unfortunately, I chose to work until days before our departure, which took a toll on my mental health.

You may have the luxury of finding out your PCS move timeframe well in advance. If so, request at least a week or two off from work to allow yourself and your family adequate time to spend together preparing for your move.

A military family move is as much a physical task as it is an emotional one. To avoid any unnecessary conflict amongst each family member, take the time to focus on one another and enjoy the final moments of your parting duty station. As much as you can, especially for the sake of your children, spend plenty of time with the community you are departing. Your children will both miss and cherish the memories made at their school and with neighborhood friends.

Also, don’t forget to sneak in some self-care. Schedule an hour massage or have a lunch break with your closest friends. If finances are tight with career changes and the big move, consider taking a walk in a nearby park and practice being mindful (focusing on each of your senses without thought or judgment) or journal your thoughts. It’s important to keep your own cup full, so when stressful events of your PCS move arise, you can easily find the balance within the chaos.


3. Ask for Help

Prior to our PCS move, which took place in the fall, my husband left to reclass (change his military occupational specialty) over summer vacation. First, we took a week-long vacation as a family and then, our two oldest children stayed with my parents for six months. It made the entire process of packing and preparing for the PCS move so much easier because we had two less children running around. Plus, this experience gave my daughters the opportunity to spend summer vacation with their grandparents and attend two months of school in their town, which was my elementary school growing up.

For some, this may be an extreme scenario. However, it was the best plan of action for our family. Whether it’s just a day, a week or a few months, ask for the necessary help from friends and family during your PCS move. You will be busy with so many errands and your children will need time and attention to help them cope with the move.

Maybe you don’t have a close friend or family member to give you an extra hand in situations like these. Another way to find help is by utilizing local drop-in-care centers or enrolling your students in day camps. The Armed Services of YMCA (ASYMCA) offers junior-enlisted families the chance to participate in day and residential camps that provide support, friendships and resources that help children cope with the challenges of military life.


4. Communicate With Your Community

My final military moving tip is to keep an open line of communication with your spouse, children, and community of friends and family. The better you communicate with your family and your support system, the easier your military family move will be.

Though military kids are extremely resilient, it does not minimize the fact that they too are experiencing challenges with the coming changes. Make sure you are constantly keeping an open mind and communicating with them throughout the journey.

To help keep the conversation flowing, involve their teachers and any additional care providers. Our family kept our children’s teachers in the loop, letting them know dates of transitions as well as any big emotions our children were experiencing, so they were able to better assess their work in class.

Bottom line: As long as there is open communication, it can allow hidden stress or frustration to flow. In turn, this naturally should minimize any bitterness and resentment within the family dynamic.

These additional tips will also help your military child through a PCS move. 


ASYMCA is Here to Help

The ASYMCA helps you navigate military life and strengthen your family. Programs like Operation Hero are in place to serve military kids who may be struggling with change and getting back on track at home and in school. Operation Hero is an after-school 10-week program that can help kids cope with moving through interactive methods like art, journaling, and other independent or group activities. Learn more by contacting your local ASYMCA branch.


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