4 Ways to Make Your PCS as Painless as Possible
The number of things that can go wrong during a PCS move is unreal. Between movers misplacing, breaking, or losing your household goods to a last-minute change in orders, military moves are full of surprises.
The comforting part is that the PCS monster doesn’t single out just anyone. We all have horror stories. Just take a look on Facebook. You’ll find a community full of people supporting one another as a comment after comment floods in with relatable mishaps. Honestly, each of us could likely write a book about what we’ve encountered.
There’s not much you can control in a military move, but there are a few things you can, which will help make your PCS a little smoother and a little less painful—specifically when it comes time to settle into your new community.
4 Ways to Make Your PCS as Painless as Possible (So You Feel Settled Faster!)
One of the quickest ways to feel settled is to unpack your things. As I shared in this MILLIE post, "How to Deal When Temproary Lodging Becomes Long-Term,"
There’s nothing quite like rummaging through your luggage for clothes to initiate deep feelings of displacement. It’s frustrating to not have things where they belong, and if you’re digging your slacks out for your meeting with housing, a job interview, or home tour only to find them wrinkled, you’re one step closer to an impending meltdown.
But this rule extends beyond clothing. The sooner you find the proper place for your things, the sooner it starts to feel like home. But that's easier said than done—especially when you’re standing in your house surrounded by cardboard boxes full of everything you own. It’s overwhelming. So, where to start?
Unpack the essential rooms first.
Save yourself a few headaches and unpack and put together the areas of the house that you use the most. A good place to start? Begin with the kitchen, the kids’ rooms, and your bedroom.
Create an overflow space.
In the post, 4 Tips for Settling in on the Flip Side of a PCS, Kellie Artis reminds us that “if you have space you can close off (like a guest room), preferably one with a DOOR you can close, use that as overflow space. And when you have thirty minutes to spare, grab a box and dig in.” Her motto? Take it one box at a time!
Create a deadline.
Get on the same page as your spouse. Are you speedy unpackers? Are you okay with losing sleep to get the house organized or do you prefer to chip away at it? Setting a deadline of a week or a month (or whatever works for you) will help you budget your time and give you the confidence that everything will be unpacked at some point!
There are no rewards for unpacking your home the fastest (I wish there were). So stop to breathe every once in a while. Instead of ordering take-out, dine in at a local restaurant. You'll welcome the change in scenery while you get to know the area!
Create a reward system.
Did you get a room unpacked? Go get ice-cream! Did the kids unpack their rooms? Take them mini-golfing! Use whatever motivates you as inspiration to break down all those cardboard boxes.
2) Get to know the area.
Hopefully, you did a little research on your new duty station before you made the move out there. But there’s still a lot to do before you get to the point where you can say you’re settled.
Go sit somewhere.
If you have little ones, go sit at the playground and let your kids socialize and run their energy out while you chat with other parents. If you don’t have kids, or they’re in school, grab a cup of coffee out in town. Let conversations come up organically or sit on your computer and just feel part of the local crowd. The more you do it, the more you’ll feel like you belong.
I don’t like being a slave to a GPS, do you? It’s a constant reminder that I have absolutely no idea where I am. After you’ve driven to the store (ahem, Target) a couple of times already, turn off your GPS. Find the way based on memory, then do a little exploring. Chances are, you’ll likely learn the roads much quicker than if you were to use your security blanket to navigate. And who knows what fun little place you might find to wander around when you do!
Be a tourist.
Playing tourists sounds like the opposite of settling in like a local, doesn’t it? But I’ll let you in on a little secret--all the locals have done it. Even if they were born and raised there, everyone has done the cheesy tourist stuff. Do it for some fun. Do it so that you can show people around when they visit or move there, too.
Explore local spots.
When you take that break from unpacking to grab a bite to eat, go somewhere local. No, it might not be as budget-friendly as a cheeseburger from McDonald’s, but it’s a much better way to get familiar with the local culture.
Get more inspiration with 10 Ideas for Venturing Out From Your New Duty Station.
3) Help your kids feel settled.
Helping your children feel settled after a PCS move requires more than unpacking their rooms. After saying goodbye to their friends, leaving their school, and parting ways with a familiar home, no amount of resiliency will protect your kids from some feelings of displacement.
Jen McDonald shares in 7 Tips to Help Your Military Kid Cope with PCS to:
Let your children set the pace and give them time to process this big change. Encourage them to keep in touch with old friends. Don't expect them to ‘just get over it.’ Each child’s temperament is different, which will have a big impact on how they're affected by the move.
Letting your kids set the pace doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t provide a way for them. Help them adjust and get settled with a little guidance.
Create routine.A routine does wonders for us. Even as an adult, I find incredible comfort and peace with a routine, though not all of us are wired that way. But routine does provide structure for kids and can help them transition into the next chapter of their lives. It might not look the same as it did at your last home, but the foundation remains. Keep mealtimes the same, keep to their bedtime routine, and maintain their responsibilities/your expectations of them—while allowing them some grace!
Stay in contact with friends.
Keeping in touch with friends from your last community won’t keep them from making new ones. But seeing a familiar face or two can help them to have someone to talk to and remind them that solid friendships withstand the distance a PCS move puts between them! It might be a while before they’re able to make strong friendships in their new community, so being able to feel things with friends who already know and understand them might be exactly what they need to get out and make some new ones.
If you’re rolling right into a new school year, then finding community will happen more naturally. But, if you’re moving in before the start of school, your kids might have a harder time finding their way. Create opportunities for them to meet new friends! Take them to events at the library or enroll them in an extra-curricular activity like gymnastics, soccer, volleyball, etc., to have some fun and meet others their age.
Do some kid-led exploration of your new area.
Let your littles set the pace and see what places they want to explore! Sit down and research things to do nearby online. Give a set time and let them write the schedule for the week. This can be a great way to help them get their minds off whatever they might be feeling after the move and give them confidence as they get to explore their new home.
4) Plug into your new community.
Getting to know the area isn’t the same as getting involved in your new community. Find out where you fit in and jump into a few familiar activities!
Jump into spouse groups.
Every duty station has a presence on social media and within that, there are groups. Spouses' groups, groups for your pets, groups for parents, groups for your neighborhood, groups for volunteering, and more. Not every assignment will be
so comprehensive, but there’s typically no shortage of niche communities to help you find your way. But let’s not forget that connecting online is not the same as interacting in person. Use these groups to network, but make sure that you follow up in person when you can. When the unit hosts a spouse event, go!
Connect with a church.
If you’re a church-goer, start the hunt for your new church home immediately. With services, small groups, youth groups, and children’s ministry, plugging into a church community can be an excellent source of “normal” for not just you, but the entire family. And since you can typically try a new one only once a week, this process can take a while, so you'll want to get started right away.
Find a play group.
Kids need community as much as we do, if not more! Start online to see if you can find groups of other parents looking to socialize their kids just like you are. It could be as simple as meeting across the street at the park or coordinating a trip to the zoo together. And while you’re kids are making friends, you do the same!
In our post, 5 Reasons for Military Spouses to Volunteer, it's noted that “volunteering will provide you with the instant opportunity to meet lots of new people and hear of other opportunities to connect.” Maybe that means volunteering with the local pet shelter, the USO on base, or serving the local community. By doing so, you’re opening yourself up to making relationships, getting to know the local culture, and finding out about potential job opportunities. Have young kids at home? Not a problem. Volunteering as a family is an incredible way to set a good example, teach core values, and strengthen the family!
Take control over what you can with your military move. You might not be able to have your hands on the logistical side or guarantee the state of your precious china, but you can control how you get acclimated to your new environment. Remember these words of advice as you fight off feelings of displacement.