By Caroline Schafer
Families deal with a number of challenges during a PCS, especially when there are school-aged children in the household. One of them is how to make the transition to a new school as smooth as possible. Family spoke with Jen McDonald, who is the content editor for MilitaryByOwner, which provides advertising for homes located near military bases as well as resources related to real estate, homeownership and military life.
McDonald is also the author of the book You Are Not Alone: Encouragement for the Heart of a Military Spouse and the host of the podcast Milspouse Matters, about ways to ease a children’s transition.
What is your experience and knowledge with this topic?
My husband served in the Air Force for 31 years, retiring in 2017. We raised our four children in the military, moving all around the world. Their ages now range from 21 to 28. We homeschooled, and our kids were enrolled in public school, private school, charter schools, enrichment classes and sports, and homeschooling support groups. We have run the gamut of educational options and walked them through being the “new kids” over and over, both overseas and stateside. I volunteered extensively as a military spouse and was involved with military family issues at the base, NAF and MAJCOM levels of the Air Force. I especially loved serving at events that supported deployed families and military kids.
What’s the best way to prepare a child for a transition to a new school?
It’s important to do what’s best for each individual child, but my main advice would be:
- Stay positive. Parents set the tone for the entire family.
- Be realistic. Your children may be mourning a loss of friends and previous location.
- Listen to your kids. Give them time, grace and understanding.
What resources are available once families PCS?
The Student 2 Student and Youth Sponsor programs are a wonderful way for military kids to have a connection as they arrive at a new base. These programs match a child of the same age (from elementary to teens) with the incoming child, providing them someone to offer info, a familiar face, and to show them around during their first days.
Check with your receiving base prior to arrival for more information. There are also websites with valuable information:
- The Military Child Education Coalition provides many resources for parents and children: militarychild.org/audience/students
- Seasons of my Military Student has an entire section about transition: seasonsofmymilitarystudent.com
- Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission offers help with academic transitions: mic3.net