What Every Military Teen Despises: The Dreaded PCS

Being a military family is not an easy job. What most civilians don’t realize is that when you are part of a military family, your husband’s job directly affects the lives of everyone in your family. Generally speaking, soldiers don’t go into the office and punch a clock and work an 8 to 5 job everyday. Military families essentially live the soldiers job 24/7. If you have a family bowling night planned and the commander calls, your soldier goes and family bowling night gets put on the back burner. Soldiers are required to miss birthdays, anniversaries, major holidays, and school events because training and the needs of the military take precedence. Lots of times there are no sick days, and if you don’t have leave time accrued, there are no family vacations.

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One of the hardest parts about being a military family is having to move roughly every three years. As an adult I’ve always approached this aspect of military life with an adventurous attitude. Every new assignment brought a new location and a new adventure; a new place to be explored, new opportunities to be pursued, new neighbors to meet, a new environment, and a fresh start. What I didn’t realize was the huge impact that moving all the time had on our children.

Military moves don’t come with a whole a lot of options. Usually, soldiers may be given a choice of two, maybe three different locations… but the option of whether to move or not is never on the table. Kids don’t get a choice . They don’t have a say . We require them to dig deep and go with the flow, to take one for the team and to be a good sport about it. As difficult as it may be for us to leave friends and family behind, it’s even more difficult for teenagers who are trying to establish friendships, trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in. And just about the time they think they have it all figured out,  those PCS orders come down the line and it’s time to start all over again. What a frustrating system this is for military teenagers. Teen years are hard enough without having to pick up and start over as the new guy every three years, leaving behind everything that has become familiar and comfortable and having to start over at ground zero.

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I never used to think that my kids had a problem with us moving frequently. They always seemed to love the adventure of a new location just as much as I did. They always seem to make friends pretty easily and adjust well to their new surroundings. Very few times did I ever hear them complain, because they always understood that Dad’s job was the one to put food on the table and a roof over our heads. In a sense, they were expected to be grateful for a move not be upset by it . A move meant a new job, a job meant income,  income meant food, housing, clothing etc. There essentially was no room and no time for a pity party. They are expected to suck it up and drive on like a good soldier does .

The thing is, our children aren’t soldiers.

Recently one of my daughters expressed to me how hard it has been for her all these years to pick up and have to start over every time we moved. She told me of how difficult it was for her to ever feel like she fit in even though the areas we move to were heavily military areas where other kids were also military kids and faced the same challenges that she faced. My heart broke as she expressed her feelings to me, because I knew that she had held it all in because she didn’t want to complain. She wanted to be a good team member, She wanted to be supportive of our family. She wanted her dad to know how much she respected him and appreciated what he did for our family, but inside she was just really struggling.

Photo courtesy of Flickr: US Department of Defense https://flic.kr/p/k3Bbrc

Photo courtesy of Flickr: US Department of Defense
https://flic.kr/p/k3Bbrc

It’s important for people who don’t live the military lifestyle to understand that the soldiers aren’t the only ones who serve. Our entire families serve our country in our own way. We serve in support of our soldiers. We make sacrifices that are required of our chosen lifestyle. Our children are required to be stronger, more mature, and better behaved because they are children of military soldiers . It’s a lot to ask of anyone, but we do it for our country we do it in support of our soldiers. It’s our way of giving back to this great nation for all it has given to us.

Military parents, if you have teens please check on them. Ask them how they feel about moving and what you can do to help make the transition easier. I know my daughter put on a brave face and tried her best to be strong, but inside she was really struggling. Keep the lines of communication open. Let your kids know that it’s okay be upset about having to move. It may not change things (because we all know home is where the military sends you) but allowing teens to voice their feelings will help us as parents better understand where they are coming from. It’s a lot easier to help teens adjust to new surroundings when you know they actually need help in the first place. Getting that information out of them is the first step!

I would absolutely LOVE your input on this one. It’s a toughy, and I know lots of us have gone through it. Please feel free to share your strategies on helping your teens adjust after a move. You never know when something you have to say just might help someone else.

 

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