Story by Rosemary Freitas Williams, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy
Cardboard box brown is my least favorite color in the crayon box. Not because I don’t like the color brown – in fact, milk chocolate and dark chocolate brown are two of my favorite colors (70 percent dark chocolate, to be exact). No, cardboard box brown brings back nightmares of moving. I close my eyes and see Mount Everest-sized mountains of boxes to be packed and then unpacked. The color subconsciously triggers moving-induced stress and anxiety.
I imagine many of you react the same way whether it is your first move or your fifth. And, March – the beginning of the Permanent Change of Station – season is upon us. Moving is a part of military life, and each move has its unique aspects. Before your home becomes a sea of cardboard box brown, we’d like to offer some tips to help you prepare for your next move:
- Create a spending plan. It may not be your favorite task, but budgeting for a move is imperative. Unanticipated expenses pop up, and some families may experience the temporary loss of a spouse’s income. Learning about travel and moving allowances can help ease some of the financial burden. Visit the Military OneSource Money Management page to access information and connect with a personal financial counselor who can give confidential help with creating a personalized budget.
- Plan ahead. A good plan includes making to-do lists, researching your new installation and finding out what paperwork is necessary to register your children at school, especially children with special needs. Service members and their families have access to online tools, such as Plan My Move and MilitaryINSTALLATIONS, which can really help with this pre-move planning.
- Set up a command central. As you begin the planning process, set up a place to keep moving paperwork, important phone numbers, travel documents, prescriptions and anything you’ll need to hand carry. Make it easy to lay your hands on these items when you need them. When the movers arrive, you’ll be able to quickly store them away so they don’t inadvertently end up in a box in the back of the truck.
- Look into career and education options at your next duty station. It’s never too early. A PCS move can open doors and offer exciting career opportunities for military spouses. Spouse Education and Career Opportunities is a one-stop career and education resource for spouses, providing information on portable careers, educational opportunities and employment. The MySECO portal ensures 24/7 access to online resources, tools and assessments in a secure environment. Spouses can explore the site independently or work with a career counselor.
- Take advantage of resources for families with special needs. For families moving with a member who has special needs, the Exceptional Family Member Program offers information, referrals and non-clinical case management. Special needs consultants, available through Military OneSource, can assist families with concerns regarding the care and education of a family member with special needs.
You may also want to check out The Education Directory for Children with Special Needs, an online tool offering information on programs throughout the United States.
- Plan a vacation. A PCS move can be the perfect opportunity to see the world. For a little adventure or relaxation, you may want to visit Morale, Welfare and Recreation facilities, which can include modern resorts, beach cottages or mountain cabins. To find out more, check out Best Kept Secrets: Joint Services Campgrounds and Facilities.
Service members and their families may also wish to explore MWR programs on their new installation, including swim lessons, computer centers, yoga classes, recreation equipment rental and more.
- Pack a first day box. Include cleaning supplies, towels, medications, favorite toys, changes of clothing, bedding, an air mattress and anything else that might come in handy during the first few days at your new home. Keep the box locked in a closet or in your car so it doesn’t get carried out by your movers. Check out What to Put in Your First Day Box for more ideas and helpful tips.
- Keep your sense of humor. Many seasoned military families will tell you that a sense of humor has kept them going when the going got tough. When things don’t go as planned, keeping a good attitude can help keep it all in perspective.
If it all seems overwhelming, remember you have access to confidential non-medical counseling through Military OneSource. To find out more about the counseling options available to you and your family, visit the Military OneSource Non-Medical Counseling page.
I’m certain that many of your have stories to tell about “that move” and what you learned from the experience. Why not share your story by writing for the Military OneSource Blog Brigade? You don’t have to be a “writer.” This is a blog for military spouses by military spouses. We provide easy steps for posting to the blog. I welcome you to share your advice and your adventures in moving, so that other spouses can benefit from them before the boxes start piling up in the living room.
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