When you have young children, you’re not the only one who will experience the challenges of a transition from active duty to veteran. In many ways, the military life has prepared your children for the challenges of a new place and the experience of moving, but this will be different in many other ways. New duty stations have a built-in support system for military families. Organizations, schools and clubs all live alongside your command, but going out into the civilian world can feel a little more isolating for both you and your family.
Here are five tips on how to help transitioning military kids integrate into civilian life:
1. Extracurricular Activities
Does your new company have planned family days? Picnics and/or take your child to work days? Ask and pencil these activities down so you can discuss with your child if they would like to attend.
Also, local organizations like the YMCA, churches, and martial arts, dance, and music schools can offer support for military families, like age-appropriate activities that can also introduce your child to peers while learning something fun.
2. Quality Time
There is a lot going on for you right now and it’s stressful, but your children are experiencing their own stress. Spend some time with them doing things that help them connect with you and the anchor you provide as a parent. It could be anything from coloring together, building Legos or making a meal together. You are the constant while everything in their world has changed. Spend some good one-on-one time with them and remember, they will be OK. If childcare is needed, read our post about finding childcare in the civilian world.
3. Turn on the Lights
Seems like a simple thing, but a new home is unfamiliar and since many young children have a fear of the dark, it may seem more scary. Don’t be afraid to let them keep the lights on at night while they adjust. Spend time with them in their rooms before bed, read a story, sing a song or even give them something that makes them feel safe, such as one of your shirts, a special teddy bear or lucky rock from their last house. We have a great article that will teach you how to choose a REALTOR® during your military move.
4. Take a Walk Together
Walking a neighborhood is one of the most underrated activities in modern life. Not only is it wonderful exercise but it is a great way to meet your neighbors. It also gives your child a chance to see the neighborhood for themselves and get familiar with it with you. You may even run into other children eager to meet new playmates.
5. Take it Slow
If you want to help your kids during a military transition, don’t try to rush too many new things on them at once. They might need their favorite macaroni and cheese lunch for a few days straight or their favorite TV show at three o’clock sharp. Children in flux may feel a need to exert control over what they can when their world seems so very out of their control. This may not be the time for a push to try exotic cuisine or a new haircut.
READ NEXT: Finding Childcare in the Civilian World