Did I ever tell you that I was a Navy wife…twice? Yes, I was married twice before! Hey, that’s like 40 less husbands than some Hollywood actresses, so I don’t feel too bad. Anyway, as a Navy wife, I’ve moved from my home in PA to Maryland, back to PA, up to Maine, and back to PA. Then, with my second husband, from PA to Japan and back! I didn’t have kids when I did it, and it was still a major challenge! My aunt was a Navy wife for 20 years and moved close to a dozen times with three kids!

Why moving is moving so stressful for military families?

Just about everyone moves at some point in their lives. Whether it’s across the street or across the globe, we all know moving is stressful. So what makes moving for military families especially stressful? Let’s take a look at it from my experience and from friends’ and family experience:

  • It’s a regular occurrence! Just when you get settled into your new life, start making close friends and find the best places to eat in town, it’s time to move. The average tour used to be about four years. Now, I know military families who are moving every two years! This is particularly difficult for children who go to school!
  • Culture shock– Most military families don’t move the next town over, or even the next state over! I moved from Pennsylvania to Japan and back. Talk about culture shock! I lived in Japan for two years. It was just as much a shock to my system to come back home as it was to live there. Over a decade later, I still sometimes turn on my windshield wipers instead of my headlights (everything was reversed there in cars) and I still desperately miss my hot coffee in a can! Imagine being a kid and having to learn a whole different way of doing things every few years.
  • Going it alone– In some cases, the military member deploys almost immediately upon arriving at the new location. This means his or her spouse has to manage everything alone in a new place. On top of that, there’s the worry that every spouse feels when their soldier or sailor is deployed. Kids also feel that stress, although they show it differently.
  • Weight limits– Military families are restricted in the amount of stuff they can move. For large families with kids, this means some stuff has to be left behind. This is especially stressful for children! Weight limits for overseas moves are even more restrictive. You basically have the choice to pare down your collection of household goods or pay for storage.
  • You just never know what surprises await! I’m really hoping that things have changed in the last decade and military movers are a little more careful. Back when I was a Navy wife, I heard horror stories though. My aunt’s pet lizard was packed up in the moving van once! My friend arrived in her new home to find that the movers had packed a full garbage can and shipped it. Talk about stinky!

Tips to reduce moving stress for military families with kids

  • Get help from a moving adviser. Look into your base’s options and find someone who has gone through the process before. In the Navy, this service would have been found at the Ombudsman office. Not sure if it’s called the same thing in other branches of the military. Your base housing office should also have information.
  • Start planning your move as far in advance as possible. While things change quickly in the military, as soon as you know where you’re going, start making plans. I’m not talking about packing and what not, that’s a given. Start talking to your kids about the area! Go online and read up on cool activities. Get a book about the culture if you’re moving overseas and read it to your kids.
  • Involve kids in the clutter-clean out. If you need to pare down your household goods, let kids have a say in what stays and goes. Give them choices. Tell them they can fill up X number of bins with their toys and let them choose what they take.
  • Talk to your kids about their feelings. Make sure you communicate regularly with your children about how they are feeling. Ask them what they’ll miss most about your current home, and what they’re looking forward to most in their new home. Let them know it’s okay to be sad about the move, then give them reasons to be happy about it too!
  • Supervise the movers! One of the biggest mistakes you can make, when you hire a moving company is letting them handle everything while you lounge on the back porch one last time. It’s the quickest way to make sure that incredibly important box of documents ends up buried in a box, not to be seen for weeks! In fact, put that box in your car! The shower is also another good place to stash stuff you don’t want them to take.

Moving is definitely stressful for military families with kids! It’s stressful even when you don’t have kids! It’s also a fact of life in the military, so there is no escaping it!

Do you have any great tips on how to reduce stress when moving in the military?