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5: TRANSITION

We move. A lot.

Family and furniture are about the only things that stay the same in a military family’s life. Military teens like getting to know new people and places, but moving is one of the toughest things about military life. Military children will say goodbye to more significant people by age 18 than the average person will during their lifetime. Children of single service members may have to move in with a grandparent or other relative when their parent deploys.

“Moving made me more adaptable, but sometimes when you move, you leave without saying goodbye to your friends.”

Changing schools and leaving friends behind can pose risks for isolation and affect a teen’s grades and extracurricular activities when college is on the horizon.

These strategies may help them get settled:

  • Find or create activities that bring military parents, teens, teachers, and other community leaders together. You’ll build awareness in the community and show teens they have a support network immediately.     
  • Sports and other extracurricular activities may be the few constants in your military student’s life and a way to make new friends fast. When possible, be lenient with tryout dates and admission cut-offs Give them the chance to thrive in the classes that are most appropriate for them, not just the ones available in the middle of the term.     
  • Find out if your state has adopted the Interstate Compact for Military Children that facilitates the process of children moving from school to school instead of penalizing them. If your state is not a member contact your school district offices to encourage them to get involved.     
  • Help teens focus on their relationships now and not what they’ll lose in a future move. When it’s time to move, get their class, group, or house of worship involved in keeping the relationship going through email and social networking sites.
  • Create relationships with the local military installation or reserve component units through cooperative activities. The military is bursting with professionals using the latest technology and medicine who might be willing to talk about their jobs. When there is a move or deployment, you are connected with this important resource and can get new teens plugged into their military resources right away.
  • Start after-school clubs for kids with deployed parents.
  • Create a student peer support group that matches new arrivals with student mentors who can make sure they learn to navigate their new school and don’t have to eat lunch alone.
  • School counselors should ensure all transcripts from previous schools are current and in the student’s record.

Resources:

Military Teens on the Move—Tips and advice for teens, with stories from teens at www.defenselink.mil/mtom/t4_41.htm.

National Network of Partnership Schools – NNPS provides research-based guidance on engaging parents, schools and community leaders to create student success in schools. NNPS provides technical support for program development to schools serving children from military families as part of the Military Child Initiative at www.partnershipschools.org.

Third Culture Kids World (TCKWORLD) – children who grow up outside their home or parents’ culture are called Third Culture Kids. Read the stories of TCKs at www.tckworld.com.

State Department Information on children in transition from a Foreign Service perspective at www.state.gov/m/dghr/flo/c21995.htm.

Department of Defense sponsored site with sections for teens, parents and educators at www.militarystudent.dod.mil.

Military Child Education Coalition—provides parents and educators with training and resources to ease students’ transitions at www.militarychild.org.