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Have (Military) Kids, Will Travel (Sanely)

For most military families, moving is a way of life. Saying goodbye to friends, changing jobs, re-establishing connections – all of these things can be hard to manage. When you add children to the equation, it can be even more challenging. And noisy. And messy. The kind of noisy and messy that makes you want to stop the car and throw a little tantrum of your own on the side of the road.

But with a little planning, there’s no need for tantrums from anyone. Here are a few pointers on how to enlist your own troops in making your next move fit-free.

Before the move:

  • Give them responsibility. With a couple of crayons and some paper, they can map out where they want their stuff in their new room. Let them. This will help them start thinking about the new home as their home.
  • Have an open door policy. When it comes to talking about how they feel about moving, hear them out. It’s normal to feel angry, disappointed or anxious about relocating. They need you to listen, even about things that cannot be changed (like, say, the fact that mom’s new duty takes the family to a new place). Older kids may have some serious angst. Stay calm. It will pass.
  • Keep it simple. Seriously. Now is not the time to start potty training, give up the binky or get a new puppy. There’s enough change in their world right now. Don’t add to it if you can help it.
  • Get your road game face on. Sites like or have fantastic ideas for new road trip games, plus they revisit the classics like “the alphabet game” or “license plate bingo.” It’s these kinds of games that keep engaged in the real world, learning about new places, and honest-to-Pete, they really do make the time go by faster.

On the road:

  • Let the kids bring their own bag of age-appropriate entertainment and snacks – more than they think they’ll need.
  • Pack an extra, secret stash of surprises. Hide it up front with you. When they have exhausted their own supplies, and they will, surprise them with one item at a time.
  • Take care of the physical needs. This is exactly what it sounds like. Although it’s tempting to want to power through hunger pangs to make good time, taking fifteen minutes now to let the kids stretch their legs, get a snack or take a bathroom break is far better than an hour of escalating cries and complaints. In close quarters, it doesn’t take much for frustrated kids to spin out of control.
  • Be a master of distraction. If you do sense frazzled nerves in the back seat, point out something random or say something unexpected (perhaps in a funny accent). This can lighten the mood and set little ruffled feathers right.

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