Packing up and leaving: Tips for military families moving to new bases

Packing up and leaving: Tips for military families moving to new bases
Published: Jun. 21, 2023 at 5:47 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The summer break for many military families means it is also time to say goodbye to their current community and prepare to transfer to a new base. Each year, over 400,000 service members make a permanent change of station (PCS) at some point during the year.

“And it’s when military families get orders and the service member actually changes jobs,” MaryBeth Goodman, the director at the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic, said. “But the whole family follows on and so this is when kiddos change schools, spouses change jobs, families change homes, residency, voting status, medical facilities. And all of the things that come along with a move.”

It’s a reality Goodman has experienced numerous times throughout her life. During her husband’s roughly 25-year career in the military, Goodman has moved her family over 14 times, around once every two to three years.

“It is always been an adventure. No matter if it was a good adventure or a bad adventure. We always looked at it as an adventure,” Goodman said. “Something to learn, some memories to take away. I’m a firm believer that life is what you make of it, and if you know things are going to be miserable, chances are they are going to be.”

Goodman said her family found ways to create certain traditions during their travels, such as finding a hotel that had a pool or providing gifts in the car.

“We had this silly tradition called the ‘PCS fairy’ and we would hide little gifts all over the car that kids would find,” Goodman said.

However, the PCS process can be a stressful time, Goodman said. Having everything change with no control can increase that stress level. Each base offers resources for families, like military and family readiness centers, which can help provide financial resources and new housing.

Additionally, Goodman recommends that families connect with their local chamber of commerce, which can help with adults looking for a job and setting up new utilities. She recommends that people immerse themselves in the community. Joining Facebook groups, she said, is a way for people to see what is going on in their community and be active participants.

During the move, parents can help ease their child’s stress during the transition process by giving them as much information as possible.

“Helping kids know that they do have some control. It might be as simple as: ‘You can pack one suitcase,’ or, ‘What pillow do you want to have in the car with you?” Goodman said.

Additionally, she said adults should be prepared to be ultra-communicative. She said creating a checklist of things that need to be done can help during the moving process.

“So that you know, what you should be accomplishing, what you have accomplished, and what is yet to come,” Goodman said.