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Any Parent remembers those four familiar words kids speak around bedtime. "Tell me a story" is either a reason to hear a favorite tale, or maybe even an excuse to stay up a little bit later than usual. Whatever the reason, these are very important and special times in the Parent/Child relationship. I recall those nights reading my kids' favorite books, changing my voice to create my best voice impressions of their most admired Disney characters, Super Heroes, or that essential book Once Upon A Potty.

Telling the story of why you've decided to leave military service is not so easy. Special care and consideration must be taken for the sake of the children. Let's see how one Navy Family and one Army Family handled this.

USAA Military Spouse Community Manager for PCS Briana Hartzell shared a story from her Friend Taylor Olsen. Taylor is a Navy Spouse and military brat (her father retired as a Captain in the Navy). She in particular remembered distinctly when her father left the military and the struggles she faced. She agreed that leaving the military permanently it is VERY similar to a PCS!

She mentioned her and her three siblings were much more worried about the move that the retirement would cause than the actual retirement. They worried about making new friends and starting at a new school. She appreciated her parents including them in the home search, letting them share their opinions and having a say in which new house they would call a home.

Her parents waited to move the kids until the end of the school year when all of the other children were saying goodbye for the long summer break. This made it easier for them to say good bye to the old friends, but also made it easier to say hello to new friends since everyone would be starting a new school at the same time. They also set up school tours and brought each child in to tour their new school before the new school year started, which she said made the adjustment much easier.

But sometimes the reality of leaving military service presents some unforeseen challenges for kids in Military Families.

Another Military Mom (and Friend of Briana) is dealing with her children being "angry". Angry they have to move houses, angry he has to change schools, angry he is leaving all of his friends. She says the only thing helping things along is keeping her son really involved. He's signed up in activities he loved at their previous location such as Karate.

This group of Military Spouses shared some helpful hints in easing the children's transition. "The resounding advice I got from my peers is to keep open communication with your children, keep them in the loop with planning, and make them involved in the moving process as much as possible." Briana said.

Here are some other tips they shared:

  • let the kids help pick a new home
  • ask their opinions on neighborhoods
  • ask them to pick new activities, sports and clubs to join in their new city
  • encourage them to be pen pals with their old friends
  • Even get them involved in the packing process. Have them choose toys to donate to a local shelter, have them participate in a garage sale and let them keep their earnings to use the new money to do something fun in their new town.

My Friend Charles Cannon, Jr. had a similar story to tell his kids. When Charles considered the idea of retirement as a career Master Sergeant from the U.S. Army, he spoke with his Wife Toni and they set out some courses of action to consider for the family. First, they discussed the possibilities of what life would be like if they decided to stay in for the short-term, second was the option getting out of the military now, and they discussed a third option that involved a longer-term military career option and the possibility of making the rank of Command Sergeant Major (E-9).

They carefully weighed the options on this critical decision based on their boys' input. They discussed how things were during deployment, Charles' career goals in the Army, and the effects on the family. Another major concern involved job prospects and the fact that this would be the only time in his life he would be without a job. Not knowing how long unemployment might be and whether his retirement check would sustain them, he said, "We stepped out on faith and everything has been great!"

The other key to making a smooth transition that could ultimately benefit the entire family was working with people who could help with his resume and interviews. With so many things to consider and take care of, he made sure to prepare and landed a career that was best for everyone. Charles got offers for some exciting positions at several organizations and now enjoys post-military life working as an Instructional Systems Designer at the U.S. Army Inspector General School. His advice to Military Families is this: "It is good to involve the entire family when making a decision such as this. In my case, since I had spent so much time away from my family (on deployments and other assignments), it was one of the best decisions I've made."