Moving is an inevitable part of military life. In fact, the average military family moves once every three years. All that packing, unpacking, uprooting and re-rooting can take its toll on the entire family.

Whether your move is a PCS (permanent change of station), a TDY (temporary duty) change or an OCONUS (outside the Continental United States) assignment, these tips may help make the transition less stressful.

1. Make sure you’re the one spreading the news

“Make sure that your family members and close friends hear the news from you and that when you give the news you have time to sit with them [distraction free] and talk about it,” advises military wife, mom and blogger Megan Egerton Graham. Remember that your tone and what you say about the move will influence how the news is received, especially with children. “Make the move feel more like an adventure for your kids – set goals for them, challenges, quests to discover information about your new place,” says Graham.

2. Partner with a military-savvy agent

Cyrus Bonney, a real estate agent near Washington’s Joint Base Lewis–McChord, specializes in working with military families. “Tons of agents say they know the [Veterans Affairs loan] program, but things are changing all the time and unless an agent really works to keep up with it, he’s not going to be giving his clients the best, most accurate information,” Bonney says.

Agents who are experienced in working with active-duty service members understand the short time frames these clients have to become familiar with their new duty station and complete a home search. Due to frequent relocations, you also need an agent who understands the importance of strong resale value.

“No one taught me how to buy a house when I was in the military,” says Bonnet, who went through four moves during his own military career. “If I’d known before what I know now, I’d have a lot more equity in my properties.”

When selecting your agent, ask about their VA loan expertise. You may want to work with an agent who has a Military Relocation Professional (MRP) or VA and Military Real Estate Specialist (VAMRES) designation or who is a member of the Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals (VAREP).

3. Share the packing

Emptying cabinets and packing boxes is hard work – especially if your military spouse is deployed and you’re faced with tackling the chore alone. Why not invite some friends over to help? Provide some snacks and music. While your pals help you pack, you can share memories and celebrate friendships. Older children may even want to involve their friends in the process. Still need extra hands? Find cleaning, organizing and packing pros before or after you relocate.

4. Take photos

Get your camera out and start taking photos of your friends and the places you’re going to miss: your house, your favorite restaurant, the park where your kids learned to ride their bikes. Having these photos will help your children remember their stories and keep them connected to their pasts.

Conversely, you’ll also want to take pictures on any house hunting trips you go on. Snap photos of your new home, the local school, mall, sports arenas and more. These photos can help your children begin to build excitement for their new home – even before they get there.

5. Ask for help

All military branches have resources for families to track expenses, find qualified real estate agents, get reimbursed and transition into a new assignment. As soon as you get orders, contact your installation’s relocation office so you can begin to understand military regulations and procedures relating to your move.

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