A PCS (Permanent Change of Station) is a normal part of any military family. It is also a very stressful, hectic and time-consuming process. Add to the mix a child with special needs and it becomes a huge undertaking.
The normal routine is out the window. For most children and moms, this is not a big deal. They are able to transition from the everyday routine of one home into a new one at the next home. However, our children don’t usually fall into that category and thus our children and us are thrown into what I loving call organized chaos.
For my daughter, routine and consistency is paramount to being able to function and cope with her world. Sometimes, it doesn’t work perfectly but most days it makes the difference in her behavior, ability to regulate her own emotions without redirection, handle transitions and adjust to situations with more ease. Blondie has a prePCSing as a SPECIAL Military Familytty set schedule that she understands and is comfortable knowing what to expect every day. This, for the most part, makes it easier for us to help her through any changes or surprises that come up. After all, life isn’t scripted and we can’t expect it to go exactly as we plan or hope am I right moms?
Now, I’m beginning to consider “PCS” a four letter word, loll! Having a child that depends on and thrives with schedule, routine and limited distractions is complicated enough and throwing her into a complete routine /environment/location change is a daunting, intimidating thing (and I’m talking about for me). She, of course, is excited to be exploring a new place. I, on the other hand, know that this initial excitement will be replaced with a long list of feelings, anxiety and difficulty with adjustments as well as transition problems. I know we are looking at some level of regression when it comes to her ability or desire to regulate her emotions and behavior without redirection. I fully know to expect more meltdowns and increased need to have things perfect and heightened sensitivity to noise/fabrics/food/temperature, etc. She definitely seems to handle all of this much better when the day is planned and a normal repetitive schedule.
What can we do to make this PCS less hectic?
- PCS Binder: Organize all your PCS documents, housing information, past and future installation information, etc. into one binder. Easily accessible and you can keep it with you at all times.
- School: Collect all current school records, IEPs, letters from teachers, etc. to pass along to the new school. Contact the new school ASAP and start to get to know the school, forward all current school info and ask for any forms that need to be completed for registration.
- Medical: Get a personal copy of all medical records from your current location and make a binder for your child. (PCM, specialists, therapists, etc.). Start to research new providers at the new location. Contact them for info on waiting list, Tricare and other helpful information.
- You: Research as much as possible about all aspects of new location. Try to have the majority of things in place prior to leaving (get on housing list, reserve temporary housing, have school physicals done, etc.) The less you have to do upon arrival will be a welcome relief.
- Child: Start discussing the PCS as soon as it is official. Plan a goodbye party for your child and their friends. Share information on schools, available activities, sports and more that are available at the new place. Downplay the negatives about moving but always validate and allow your child to share their emotions and thoughts on leaving as well as being “the new kid”. Answer all their questions and share the new installation website with your child. Show pictures and videos so that they know what to expect.
- Trip: Plan for long car or airline trips. Prepare games for the ride, snacks, entertainment and comfort. Don’t rush the trip if you don’t have too. Stopping at dark to rest, eat and relax will be good for EVERYONE.
- Pray, hope, cross your fingers, etc. Nothing goes perfectly, plan for the unexpected and hope for the best!
We are moving in just a few short weeks to our new home with the Army. I have a seemingly endless to-do list that I’m checking off each day. I’m hoping I get it all accomplished before the last minute with little interruption to our daughters’ routines.