Being a military spouse comes with a unique set of challenges, one of which includes frequently moving around. Temporary relocations, a Permanent Change of Station (PCS), transfers, and deployment all mean having to adjust to new living arrangements. To help military families navigate these changes, we compiled tried-and-true advice from military wives who have done it all before. Find inspiration to help kids, pets, and yourself adjust to a new home and make the most of all your military moves below!
Amanda Huffman: “Get Connected”
When it comes to adapting to new situations, Amanda Huffman, creator of Airman to Mom, is a pro. From her previous military career as an Air Force civil engineer to becoming a military wife and mother, she has experienced countless moves and lifestyle transitions. Through it all, she’s relied on meeting people to get settled.
Hosting the Women of the Military Podcast, compiling deployment stories, and running her blog are all ways Huffman stays connected to a larger community across the world, but this doesn’t negate the need to connect locally. “The most important way to make a new place feel like home is to get connected,” she stated. “This requires you to get out of the house and meet people and get involved in your community.”
According to Huffman, meeting new people is also key to helping children with the transition. However, even if you follow all of the military moving tips to make life easier for kids, Huffman says it’s still important for parents to be patient and honest with their kids.
“Another important tip for families is to give your kids grace,” she added. “Often times, unwanted behavior is a sign of a deeper issue. Take time to talk to your kids about how they feel and validate the emotions that they feel. You can also tell them how you feel, too. A positive attitude goes a long way, but stopping to address the hard parts of moving to a new place is so important.”
Rachael Kellogg: “Start Something You Love”
Moving all the time can make finding jobs for military spouses more difficult. But for Rachael Kellogg, traveling the world became the source of inspiration to start her jewelry, accessory, and home decor business, Desert Home Studio.
Taking this leap of faith not only allowed her to pursue her passions, but it has helped her connect with other military spouses across the world as well. If you’re thinking about pursuing a side hustle or business of your own, Kellogg encourages others to “start something that you love and stick with it.”
“I get it. It’s rough because of all the moving and starting fresh, but this can be a constant in your life that you control,” Kellogg said. “This is something fun that I can share with my daughter and my fellow military spouse community. Now, I’m happy doing what I love, and I won’t be stopping anytime soon.”
In addition to starting a business, Kellogg says the best advice she’s received is to be flexible, adaptable, and remember what’s important. “Moving often brings fear, not just of the new base, but also whether your stuff is going to make it in one piece or at all. Often times, items break or go missing during the moving process. This is why it’s important to treasure the little things.”
For Kellogg, furniture is replaceable, but family, friends, and memories are lasting. To ease some of the moving tension, she recommends investing in a small safe to store a hard-drive with pictures and memories, as well as other important documents.
Catherine Edoria-Dela Cruz: “Plan Everything”
A top PCS moving tip from Catherine Edoria-Dela Cruz, creator of Love Always, Catherine, is to get organized early. “When you get orders to PCS, be organized and plan everything,” she advised. “From purging and packing to creating a PCS binder and booking hotels, make sure you have a checklist of everything that will need to be done from start to finish.”
From the forms required to get dental insurance abroad to the proper pet documentation, Edoria-Dela Cruz dives into crucial things to prepare in this PCS checklist she created. But it’s not always just about the logistical planning that needs to take place. Edoria-Dela Cruz says it’s a good idea to speak directly with your children about the move as well.
“Although military children are resilient, they are deeply affected by military life and will need their parent’s reassurance and understanding,” she explained. “Helping your child understand what to expect as a military family and the special opportunities that they will experience as a military child is a good way to help them transition in life.”
Heather Walsh: “Make a Bucket List”
Another great tip for military families about to move is to make a bucket list! Heather Walsh, one of the three women behind Mil Mom Adventures, says she starts by reaching out to friends who have lived there, finds blogs about local activities, and checks the website for the city or town around the area. This can help those new to town discover parks, hikes, the best restaurants, and free local events.
“From these resources, make a bucket list of places you want to see,” Walsh stated. “By creating a list, it puts in black and white what you want to see and accomplish.”
Looking for inspiration? You can find some pre-made bucket lists on the blog ranging from Southern California to Northern Virginia. After you make a list and arrive in your new city, Walsh says to be sure to actually add some of the items to your family calendar.
“Plan a once-a-month adventure,” she said. “This creates a time when the family can come together. Time together can build resiliency that is very needed among military families.”
And while planning fun things to look forward to is a great way to create excitement around a move, Walsh reminds of the necessity of being adaptable. “Be flexible with the bucket list. Things happen—illness, unexpected duty, field exercises. Keep the plan on the calendar and move it around if needed.”
Jennifer Brantley: “Be Open to Change”
The only way to thrive in the midst of so much transition is to embrace the inevitably of change and adapt, according to Jennifer Brantley, creator of More Than a Mrs. As a lawyer, she writes about career sacrifices, the arduous process of getting re-licensed, and ways things could change both legally and with one’s attitude to make frequent moving easier on milspouses.
“I’ve learned to look forward to the uniqueness of each duty station,” Brantley said. “This life is truly an adventure, and I treat it as such. That perception has enabled me to get the most out of it.”
Whether you’re a military spouse looking for a job on base or searching somewhere else in your new city, Brantley adds that it’s crucial to think outside of the box and be willing to be uncomfortable.
Before the last PCS, she was a senior attorney practicing personal injury law. After moving, she took a position as a public information officer with a state government agency. It was radically different and came with a pay cut, but getting her foot in the door allowed her to become the Contract Administrator for the entire agency, and she was practicing law again only six months later.
With an upcoming Outside the Continental United States (OCONUS) move, Brantley plans to have the same confidence and adaptable attitude as last time. In terms of packing tips for an overseas PCS, she recommends starting early and letting go of items that haven’t been used in the last 30 days. If you can’t bring yourself to part with something sentimental, she suggests putting it in storage so it will be there when you get back. “If you want to help things along for the movers, do some of the packing yourself.”
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Noralee Jones: “Value Yourself & Your Needs”
For Noralee Jones, the woman behind Mrs. Navy Mama, making connections is crucial to making a new duty station feel like home. She recommends joining groups online—including the Family Readiness Group and Facebook groups for military spouses—as well as joining clubs and attending activities in person. Just beginning with a coffee meetup or a Facebook comment can be a great start.
“It’s hard, I know, especially if you are introverted, but stretching yourself and finding your tribe as soon as you can is a game-changer for adjusting to a new duty station,” Jones said. “It also helps your children (if applicable) find same-age friends as well, making their transition easier.”
What about when your spouse gets a new assignment, and you’re not able to go with? Jones’ top deployment relationship advice is to set clear expectations on communication with your loved one and create a routine for yourself and family before deployment.
“Not everything is going to be wonderful while your SO is gone, so do not sugarcoat, but focus on the positive aspects of life at home, focus on plans for when they return, and give lots of encouragement while also staying true to yourself and your relationship,” she explained.
Another way Jones takes care of herself after PCS or during a deployment is with self-care. She believes preventative self-care is one of the best ways a military significant other (MILSO) can navigate this life.
“Self-care routines, such as bedtimes and wake-ups, physical exercise, good eating habits, and even the ‘pampering’ kind can help to lower stress, prevent burnouts, and provide structure in such a crazy lifestyle that military life brings,” Jones explained. “Children especially should be taught at an early age the importance of your self-care and self-love. Showing them that you value yourself and your needs gives them the example of self-love.”
Julie Provost: “Have a Budget”
Don’t forget about the monetary aspects of relocating! Saving as much money as you can and more is go-to PCS financial advice for Julie Provost, creator of Soldier’s Wife, Crazy Life. “It’s best to have a budget for when you first get moved because it is way too easy to spend extra money,” she said.
In addition to writing about the truths of money and the military, Provost also offers ideas on how to plan a PCS road trip and make the moving process fun if your spouse gets orders for another base in the U.S. After arriving at your new home, Provost says it’s good to be patient with yourself and your family.
“Give yourself some time to adjust to your new home and city,” she added. “It’s probably not going to happen overnight. You should also make plans to put yourself out there. It is a lot easier to meet others when you are out in the community vs staying at home.”
Wendi Iacobello: “Try Fitness & Volunteering”
While it might not be the first moving tip that comes to mind, finding a fitness center you love can be an awesome resource for military families, according to Wendi Iacobello, creator of Strength 4 Spouses. Iacobello writes about everything from knowing your value to growing through the decades, and she’s found fitness to be a helpful way to sink roots into a new community.
“It creates an avenue to meet new people, and exercise is good for combating stress,” she said. “A good sweat session is not only good for physical health, but it can also work wonders for mental health, too.”
Another way she recommends getting settled in a new city is by finding a cause that’s important to you and start volunteering. “This can provide a valuable experience, allows opportunities for networking, and you’re able to help others,” Iacobello added. In other words, both fitness and volunteering will make you feel good and help you establish yourself in a new community—a win-win!
Rose Choneska: “Plan for Pets Early”
It’s not just spouses and family members who are affected by a move—it’s your four-legged friends, too! Rose Choneska, creator of Unearthed Lifestyle, says military spouses need to first consider if a PCS with a pet is possible. If it is, a top PCS preparation tip for pets is to explore your options early, as the closer the move gets, the more there is to think about.
“I think the most important thing is getting a kennel or a space that you know will be designated for your pet during the move and the costs,” she said. “Depending on how far you move, you might think of options like flying them or having them stay in a pet hotel.”
During the transition, it’s key to remember that your pet might be hypersensitive and anxious. “Keep things that they’re familiar with throughout the process,” Choneska advised. “Whether that be a blanket they use or a toy, make sure [they] have something to help them feel more secure.”
And remember, much like you and your family, it will take time, new routines, and exploration to help your pet adjust to a new city. “We found that walking them and getting them familiar with the area eased them better than any other methods. And it makes sense, your pet needs to know it’s stable in its environment. So definitely get them out of the house and let them have some time to explore!”
Jen Woodhouse: “Don’t Get Too Attached to Things”
Pursuing carpentry has helped Jen Woodhouse, creator of The House of Wood, and her family get settled in each new city after a military move. Woodhouse offers tutorials on everything from making an easy DIY shoe organizer to advanced projects like building a modern entertainment system.
To ease the transition of moving and stay active on her blog, she sets up her workshop almost immediately after a PCS. “Sometimes, it’s a shed. Other times, it’s our two-car garage—I have to be flexible, have everything mobile (on casters), and try to stay as organized as possible.”
While the amount of space she has varies with each move, Woodhouse maximizes her work area by using a pegboard for tools, a lumber rack for wood, tool chests, and shelves. Ultimately, honoring how every space is different, adapting accordingly, and letting go of how things were has helped Woodhouse turn new spaces into a home.
“Since I design and build furniture, I don’t get too attached to the things I make,” she shared. “Whenever we move, it’s rare that all of the furniture will work in the next place, so I typically donate or sell my pieces and build again when we get to our new location.”
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