Did your family experience a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) over the summer? If you’re still trying to get settled at your new installation, it’s probably impossible to consider that the kids will return to school in just a few weeks. As you and your family get to know your new surroundings, make sure you take time to prepare for back to school. That way, everyone is better equipped to handle the challenges and changes that come with starting a new school year at a new installation - again.
Whether your school district is planning in-person education, virtual learning, or a hybrid, there will be many changes on the first day of school. And that can lead to a lot of stress. We all already know that military kids have high-stress levels thanks to constant moves, and growing up in the military culture forever sets them apart from other civilian kids. So how can we ensure this upcoming school year is as stress-free as possible?
The answer is doing a little work ahead of time and planning the best course of action for you and your family.
Here are our top tips for helping your mil kid prepare to return to school.
Start new routines as early as possible.
Military life is full of many changes, and starting the school year is no exception. The sooner you start your kids on a school routine, the easier it will be. As summer ends and school is looming on the horizon, make the transition as easy as possible for your kids. To help your child succeed, have an open conversation about what their new routine might look like. This is especially important if you’ve moved this summer and your child will have an all-new routine. Think morning and night as you begin to explore ways to prepare your child for back to school.
School mornings can be stressful, so setting expectations ahead of time can help offset some of that frustration. The most straightforward approach is to give your child a schedule with clearly defined steps and goals. This easy-to-reference schedule allows actively engage your child and helps them become part of the process. Experts also recommend giving specific praise when your child completes each part of the routine. This might help increase your child’s chance of success come the first day of school.
School evenings can be just as stressful, with homework and lessons and practices - they can feel like there’s too much to do and insufficient time. Bedtime after a summer of freedom is a tough transition for many children. Just like having a morning routine is crucial to success, building a successful evening schedule can also be beneficial. Just like in the morning, ensure your child understands what’s expected of them and what tasks they need to complete. Visual reminders can help your child remember the next step, and setting time limits for screen time can help establish boundaries.
Have all of your paperwork in order
Having your mil kid’s paperwork for school in order will save you plenty of headaches. If your child is attending a new school this year, ensure you have all the paperwork required for enrollment. Schools in your local school district might have different rules from Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) schools, so do your homework before heading out.
The Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission’s (MIC3) mission addresses key educational transition issues encountered by children of military families. It is designed to help military families by aiding in eligibility or providing other assistance while placing children in school. Taking full advantage of this program can help ease some of the strain of the back-to-school season.
DoDEA offers online registration for students, but not all local school districts provide that option. No matter where you register your milkid, you will need your child’s birth certificate, social security number, a record of current immunizations, a physical exam report, and proof of residence. You’ll also need report cards from any previous schools your mil kid has attended. If you have multiple children, we recommend creating an online folder for each to keep this important information in digital format. That way, it’s always accessible, even if your household goods haven’t been delivered or are delayed.
Line up your emergency contacts before something happens.
Most schools require you to keep two emergency contacts on file. This might be a challenge if you’ve just moved since you might not know anyone on your new installation. There is no time like the present to get out there and introduce yourself to your neighbors, especially those with children. Directly asking if they might consider being an emergency contact is okay and fully expected in military culture! Offer to be their contact in return, too. Later, you can always swap out for other people when you make friends.
Are they looking for other resources explicitly created for mil kids? Military Kids Connect is an online community for mil kids ages 6-17 and provides access to age-appropriate resources to help children dealing with the unique aspects of military life.