It’s a fact! On average, military families move every 2-3 years. This means establishing themselves in new communities and building new connections and support systems. This also means new schools for children. Military children can expect to “be the new kid” in as many as eight schools before they graduate high school.
Of the 1.2 million military children worldwide, 80% attend public schools, and chances are that one may be sitting next to your child.
As a military family organization, Hope For The Warriors has many former military children on staff. We’ve reflected on our own PCS (Permanent Change of Station) moves and the challenges and triumphs of establishing ourselves in new communities and new schools. We’re excited to share these tips with you to help you this school year!
Tips For Heading Back to School
- Develop Consistent Routines
- Create a morning and afternoon routine, which includes an adequate amount of sleep, a healthy breakfast, a nutritious lunch, and positive conversation before starting a new day. Time after school should be spent “winding down” or getting out energy if they could not do so during the day. Developing and keeping a routine has been proven to ease anxiety, lower blood pressure, and relieve stress in people of all ages. Here are some examples:
▪ Take 20 minutes to pack lunches, pack book bags, and layout school clothes
▪ For younger kiddos, create visual morning and evening visual routine charts
▪ Create a “Drop zone” in your home to hang book bags, place shoes and offload papers taken home.
- Talk About It
- Initiate positive conversation before school starts and after the day has ended. Change can be difficult for anyone. Knowing upcoming changes in responsibilities and expectations for beginning a new school year can help your child transition with a more positive mindset.
- Read books about communication, friendships, and positive interactions with peers and teachers.
- Have open communication. Discuss and listen to your child’s worries and fears. Discuss potential stressful situations that may occur in the classroom or school setting. Form a plan with your child about how to personally deal with stressful situations and who they can reach out to for help and support.
- Connect with Military School Liaisons or Guidance Counselors
- Shop for school supplies together. Allow your child to choose a few notebooks and folders that spark joy. Choosing a new outfit, getting a haircut, and choosing a new backpack are all ways to help your child feel more prepared to meet new people and make friends in their unique environment.
- Do a Practice Run. Request to take a tour of the school, classroom, and bus stop so that your child can become familiar with the new spaces in which they will be spending their time.
- Be Kind
- Going to back to school can be challenging for both the little ones and the family. This is a friendly reminder to be kind to yourself and be kind to others. Also, talk about kindness and ways for your child to practice kindness in the classroom.
- Books about Kindness & Empathy:
▪ Kindness Makes Us Strong | Sophie Beer
▪ The Nice Book | David Ezra Stein
▪ How Kind! | Mary Murphy
▪ Be Kind |Pat Zietlow Miller
▪ Stellaluna | Janell Cannon
- Get Involved
- Explore options for after-school activities, sports and recreation, and clubs available at school or in the community.
- Get involved in your child’s school or extracurricular activities! This is a great way to get connected with other families and to build positive relationships in the community.
With the constant change in schools and routines that military children endure, it’s important to prioritize mental health. Focusing on building and maintaining mental resilience will equip your kids with the tools they need to handle change and the stressful situations that can accompany it. Here are some words of advice.
Mental Health Support for Kids:
- Research mental health support available within the school and community (Facebook groups can be a great resource).
- Make an appointment with the school counselor to discuss any concerns or preventative measures you would like to take for your child.
- Inquire if there is a military social worker on staff (often are available within the county if you are near a military installation).
- Utilize Military One Source to locate military competent counselors for children.
- For additional mental health resources, check out:
- Peer to Peer support (for parents too!)
- “Turning Stress into Strength” Article & Resources
No matter what, you and your military children are strong. You are resilient in the face of change – whether that be a new city, a new school, or an entirely new country. As military families, we understand the value of bravery, and you are brave. You’ve got this. It may be hard, but you’ve gotten through hard things before. We are proud of you. Be kind, and new
Back To School Resources:
As a military family, we recognize that to be successful in this life, we must be resourceful! Our HOPE family put our heads together and developed this vetted resource list to aid you this school year.