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Travel With Kids :

How to relocate with kids

Moving as a military family is difficult to say the least. It is a stressful time. Saying goodbye to friends, leaving schools, changing jobs, moving somewhere else (possibly another country where you don't even speak the language), all of these things can be the absolute worst. Moving is one of the top-ten stressors. The others on the list include changing jobs, financial hardship, and experiencing loss…all of which can be involved in a military move as well. Children can be the hardest hit because they may experience feelings of powerlessness and not understand the stages of grief which occur during the relocation process. They are, after all, saying goodbye to an old life- an old place, and transitioning to a new one. The following tips will aid you in the transition.

  1. Be inclusive. Create an "all for one" atmosphere where everyone has a part. Empower children by letting them organize their rooms for the movers. Help them draw a chart as to how they want their rooms set up in the next house. This will empower them and help them transition to the new home.
  2. Be a "plain Jim/Jane" when it comes to the youngest children. Children under the age of 10 (or even older) sometimes will regress during a move. It is not the time to start any rites of passage (potty training or giving up a comfort item). Let them have their favorite teddy bear or blankie during this stressful time. Do not pack them up. There are many things changing for them, your job as a parent is to be a plain and simple as possible.
  3. Have an "open door policy" when it comes to discussing the move. Make sure your children feel safe to discuss their feelings. Anger, disappointment and fear are all part of the re-location process. If the assignment was a long one, your children may not have experienced moving before and need more time to adjust to the idea. Be a sounding board for them. Help them understand the reasons for the move and know that they may not "accept" them, but hear the words and will process them as the process moves forward.
  4. Be understanding and forgive. Older children, those perhaps with more than one military move under their belt, may express some serious ANGST. Remember, even though they may have moved many times before, the process does not necessarily get any easier. As children grow older, the importance of friends (their peer group) increases. In essence, instead of getting easier, moves during teenage years are actually more difficult. Children at this age may act out- seriously- argue and bait. The best thing to do is keep your cool, they understand that the move is going to happen, but have more to lose when they get older. Keep cool and let them work it out. Additional privileges and time with friends may be called for during this time---even if their behavior does not necessarily warrant it.

Tips for Traveling with kids

  1. Bring along a good Bag of Tricks
    Always bring more snacks and amusements than you think you'll need.

    IMPORTANT: if you have more than one child, it is best to prepare separate, age-appropriate materials.

    Also, it helps to have additional surprises. Make sure that you pack a "secret stash" of extras for each child in a bag up front so that you can "surprise" them with something new and different when they get bored.

  2. Be a Mood Manager
    The old saying "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" is apt for tantrums: it's far, far better, to spend five minutes reading a story, or looking for a lost Smartie, than fifteen minutes dealing with a child so frustrated she loses self-control.

    First point about moods: Make sure your child's physical needs are met before they become a crisis. Offer a snack or drink long before he's desperate.

    Also: Try to manage expectations. If there's a danger of disappointment ahead, prepare your child: "We'll be seeing lots of toys, but we can't buy one today"; or, "you might be too little for some of the rides".

  3. Watch for tell-tale early signs of frazzled-ness or frustration (car-fever)

    Now's the time for a distraction, a treat, a change in pace. When you see frustration start to mount: point out a funny hat, or a cloud that looks like your cat; try a funny voice or accent...

    And If you feel yourself getting mad...

  4. Try to sidestep, instead of locking horns.

    • reflect what the child is feeling ("You feel really bad because that "bear" got lost!")
    • acknowledge the frustration ("It's so hard to lose a "bear"!")
    • try solving with fantasy ("what if we had a million "bear"?)
    • give the child a chance to find a solution ("We're in a mess. Can we fix this somehow?")

  5. Understand Your Child

    Some kids are easier travelers than others: they can adapt to change readily, go with the flow... For others, the reverse is true.

    An excellent book called The Difficult Child emphasizes nine temperamental traits, including:


    -adaptability: does the child deal well with transitions?

    -sensory threshold. Some children, for example, are really, really bothered by tiny sensations-- like the feeling of the seams in his socks!

    The parent tends to say: "that can't possibly bother you!" But: it does.

If a Tantrum Erupts...

The Difficult Child distinguishes between manipulative tantrums, and tantrums that are a genuine loss of self-control. If the tantrum is manipulative-- the child howls in order to get what he/she wants-- sooner or later you must make clear that this tactic won't work.

On a trip, however, the tantrum may be a real loss of self-control brought on by overtiredness, over-stimulation, too much strangeness...

The task is to help the child regain self-control.

  • Stay physically present, holding the child if he'll permit it.
  • Be calm and reassuring. "I know you're upset, but it will be okay."
  • Don't get into big discussions about what's the matter.
  • Distract if you can.
  • And correct the situation, if possible. (For example, if the child really can't stand the way his jacket feels-- let him take it off.)

Sometimes, unpleasant as it is, all you can do is wait for the bad moment to pass. And though you may feel embarrassed by a tantrum in public: the world will not end. Move on to making good memories.




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