A quick Google of military moving and stress will generate tips on how to organize your household goods as if keeping organized will eliminate the stress. But managing the physical move is only one aspect of dealing with PCS.

The second, and perhaps more important aspect, is the emotional side of moving. Moving is more than just packing up boxes; it’s packing up a life.

Military families move often and after a few times, become pretty efficient at it. But let’s be honest, fear of the unknown, the dread of saying goodbye, the worry over finding a new home, and wondering if the kids will find new friends never goes away.

Every member of the family experiences the stress of moving and at some point it’s bound to erupt. Whether it’s the unavoidable “moving spat” between spouses or a teenager yelling at a younger sibling for seemingly no reason, there will be drama.

Here are some tips on how to face the reality of a military PCS and survive it with your sanity intact!


Put On Your Oxygen Mask First

If you’ve ever been on an airplane you’re familiar with the flight attendant’s emergency instructions to put on your oxygen mask before assisting others. This isn’t being selfish. It’s because if you are oxygen deprived, you can’t help someone else. The same principle applies to handling the stress of a move. As the physical part of the move fills the calendar, be sure to take some time to destress as a couple and as an individual. If you are overwhelmed with stress you can’t help the rest of the family deal with their emotions surrounding the move.

Acknowledge that the stress of leaving the familiar behind is real. It can be easy to ignore it in all the rush of packing and making arrangements, but that doesn’t make it disappear. Go to dinner and talk about anything other than the move. See a movie or let the kids stay the night with friends and have an evening home alone.

Take advantage of CDC (Child Development Center) to let the kids have some fun and to give you some time to pack uninterrupted.

Reach out to the relocation manager at your new base. Make this person your best friend so you and your family can get assistance throughout the moving process.

Download the free Relobase app here. It provides you with invaluable resources to organize and take control of your PCS.

Kids Need Special Care

Children who move a lot can experience what Freudian analysts call “repetition compulsion,” or a Goldilocks complex, when they become adults because they are always looking for just the right place. Helping your kids cope emotionally with a move is as important as making sure all their belongings get to the new home.

Tell them as soon as you know you’re moving so they have time to mentally prepare. One military mom suggested talking to the kids about possible locations even before you find out where you’ll be deployed. Have regular family meetings to talk about their role and check in on how they are doing. Make time for a special evening out. Visit their favorite ice cream place or playground or let them have a party with their friends. They need to have closure as much and maybe even more than adults do. If your kids are older, give them the job of head researcher. They probably know how to do research on the internet better than you do anyway, so let them find out the history of the new place, what kinds of things there are to do, what the weather’s like and so on.  This will help them feel involved and help them connect to the new place.

While the move can be stressful, it can actually be a great bonding time for the family. If you do it as a team and involve every family member at the level appropriate for them, lessons will be learned and you’ll grow stronger as a family.

(Article originally appeared on Relobase.com)