I lived my entire childhood in one town. Then, I went to college less than 30 minutes away. To say that I feel ill-equipped to help my children transition from place to place during PCS season is an understatement.

Staring down our first PCS with children from South Carolina to Florida felt as scary as the first night I had my oldest home from the hospital. Panic inducing fear. It sounds funny now but looking back, I was so worried I would destroy my baby’s life by moving her away from everything she knew. But I started with a plan to make our PCS a bit easier on her, and this plan still works today.

We called it our PCS Bucket List.

person writing checklists in a notebooksI had my daughter tell me everywhere she loved about where we currently lived and who she would miss. Then, we added each of those places to a calendar (pictures since this was pre-reading stage). When the day with the picture arrived, we would go to that place or visit that person. If it was somewhere touristy or had something that it was known for, we would grab whatever that item was to help us remember; think magnets, mugs, or something to physically help us remember.

The bucket list has evolved as we have added more children (one for every duty station after the first kid, go figure). Each of them gets to tell us three things they want to do, and they agree upon a five-item, family list.

Instead of a bunch of playdates, we attempt to have a party; not a going away party but a “glad we were friends” party. I bring envelopes, and the invited friends print their addresses in the to section so my kids can write them as soon as we get settled. It’s a great way to stay in touch. I can attest to the fact that my oldest still has friends from three duty stations ago that she talks with regularly. We still visit when we’re close enough for it to make sense.

Having a way to process their goodbye to people and places gives my kids some control in a situation that feels out of control for everyone.

It also helps me so that I have something (else) to do and keep myself busy so I don’t spiral down the PCS rabbit hole of what-ifs.

The last part of the plan helps us look forward to the next place.

I conduct research and tell my kids all the cool things that we can do in our new home. We make another bucket list (more like an arrival list), and we figure out where we want to go in between figuring out housing or waiting on our stuff. This gives them something to focus on while staring at empty walls, especially when we PCS in the summer and school is not a distraction. Instead of focusing solely on the goodbyes, we can look forward to the next fun things and places.

So as we dive into another PCS season, you can find us making lists of goodbyes, scheduling last visits, and trying to take a little bit of control back as we await another move. With this tried and tested plan for PCSing with my kids, I can breathe a little bit easier knowing that they have something to look forward to.

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Hey ya’ll! I’m Leslie and I’m a homeschooling mom of 4, a Navy wife, and a doctor when we’re stateside. I’m from South Carolina but we’ve lived in the southeast of the United States for the past 10 years and currently reside in Sasebo, Japan. In case you don’t know, that's near the bottom of Japan. It's a crazy change, but a welcome one. I love books and movies. I’m passionate about mission work and teaching my kids to find their own relationship with Jesus Christ. And I love our military community. Family is what you make it and I have found my village over and over again in other mamas that are traveling this path with me and I’m blessed for it.

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