Teaching my Toddler to Move (PCS)

by Lindsay Swoboda, Uplifting Anchor

“Mommy, I don’t WANT to move. I will miss our house. What about my music class? What about my friends? What about…”

The number of items my daughter is worried about for this PCS astounds me. At only 3 years old, I thought we could blaze through our upcoming move without strife. She seems so little to me- but over the course of a year, she has grown in giant leaps and bounds both emotionally and mentally.

“Mommy, I don’t WANT to move. I will miss our house. What about my music class? What about my friends? What about…” The number of items my daughter is worried about for this PCS astounds me. At only 3 years old, I thought we could blaze through our upcoming move without strife. She seems so little to me- but over the course of a year, she has grown in giant leaps and bounds both emotionally and mentally. #moving #movingwithkids #pcsseason

Just last year we were moving her at age 2. That story was completely different. She had us, and we were her entire world. It was a grand adventure she couldn’t fully grasp. We were moving to Morocco, which she lovingly declared “Rocco.” When our items left, we simply told her not to worry, everything would meet us in Rocco.

The journey to the airport and settling into our new situation was full of wonder; more days than not she lifted me up in her simple joy of discovery. She was fully content playing with toilet paper rolls and twigs until our things arrived. It was pretty easy, thankfully, since adjusting to the country and culture felt tough to me. But this year she has concerns, and we are going to work our way through them.

At first her worry and stress took me off guard. Had we been talking about the move too much in front of her? Too little? Had I passed my anxieties on her? I am a very emotional person, and at times I do not hide it well. I don’t believe in hiding everything from her, but I also don’t believe in putting the responsibility of mommy’s wellness on her little person. Guilt swelled up in me but it was swiftly replaced by courage.

I am a military spouse and mother. This is my 5th move and 4th one as yet another overseas PCS. I know how to transition and so I will teach and guide her through it.

This is a new chapter in our family’s development, and I will to do right by her. What has helped me the most moving forward into each PCS season is taking action. I know what I can control, I do my research, I pray, I respect the process, I take care of myself, and I look to choosing my attitude. I am now implementing these skills daily with our toddler. One day at a time, we’re going to get through this.

Taking Action, Knowing what we can Control & Research

Before the movers come, there are a myriad of positive things we can do. She is helping me sort and get rid of toys, and choose the ones that go via boxes or our luggage. We are looking at photos of the newest country and the exciting things we can look forward to doing there. I’m pulling out maps and we’re tracing our potential travels.

I’m watching my own talk around the house, working to keep it more positive about the upcoming change. When she needs to bemoan the move, I am gathering her onto my lap and listening. I know when I am feeling out of control, sometimes I just need someone to take the time to hear me out, reassure me- we are working to do the same for her.  

Pray & Respect the Process

We are putting God at the forefront of this move, praying together and listening to worship music. God comes with us wherever we go- I find great comfort in that, and we are teaching her to lean into Him in this challenging time too.

A move is always tough. I wish it weren’t, but it is. I think in years past I would go into a PCS thinking, “I’ve done this before- it will be easier this time.” That is an incredible lie to tell myself and her. We may get more used to knowing we have to uproot, but each PCS needs to be handled with care and consideration. It’s a time to slow down and bend to the flow of crazy. Respecting the process means setting zero expectations for how we all should behave or “adjust”. Each day we just need to live through the emotions, and eventually we will discover the adventure of it all.

Taking Care of Myself, and Choosing the my Attitude

One of the best gifts I can give as we are moving is to continue to take care of myself. That sets the best example for her, choosing to be a non-strung out mom that knows she can handle this. For me, this means putting work on hold for a month or so, doing a lot of on-the-road yoga, eating well, packing myself a little creative embroidery project, and going to bed early when I can.

When I’m doing one self-care action a day, it trickles down into my family. It helps me to choose a better attitude. I am the adult, and I choose to handle my stress. This helps me to address her stress more calmly because I have more energy and strength.

I wish I could tell you I make this choice to Namaste and smile every day without flaw. No! I still hit the overdone/worn-out button in the midst of a move, however, I have an awareness about it that helps me to pick up and try again throughout the day!

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All of these careful actions will not still the sting of the move, unfortunately. But they will slowly start to give her the tools to cope instead of suffer through it.

Everyone you talk to about PCS season will have great pieces of advice that worked for their child. Gather these kind words and ideas around you, and then focus on your motherly instinct. You know which ones apply and reach your own child. You are capable, you are strong, and you are also allowed to have a bad day and not know all the answers.

As we teach our child to move, we remember we are masters of moving ourselves. We know that that PCS will be the greatest teacher on living a resilient life, and we will give it the space to do so. Military spouses are extraordinary- our children are as well.

Lindsay is a military spouse, mom, and writer. Her blog Uplifting Anchor encourages mothers and military spouses. As a former professional dancer, you can find her doing pirouettes in the kitchen whilst also flipping pancakes. She finds solace in hearing the sound of her sewing machine and a hot cup of coffee. She’s lived and traveled all over the world but believes there is always more to experience.

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