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Back to School Tips for Military Families

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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 are going to be heading back to school in just a few short 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’s sure to be lots of changes come 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 make sure that this upcoming school year is as stress-free as possible? 

The answer: doing a little work ahead of time and planning out the best course of action for you and your family. 

Here are our top tips for helping your mil kid get ready to head back to school. 

Start new routines as early as possible

Military life is full of so 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 comes to a close and school is looming on the horizon, make the transition as easy as possible for your kids. To help your child be successful, have an open conversation with them 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 making sure you set expectations ahead of time can help offset some of that frustration. The easiest approach is to give your child a schedule with clearly defined steps and goals. This easy-to-reference schedule helps 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 not enough time. Bedtime after a summer of freedom is a really hard transition for many children. Just like having a morning routine is key to success, building a successful evening schedule can also be beneficial. Just like in the morning, make sure your child understands exactly 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 be useful in establishing boundaries. 

Looking for templates to help craft your child’s schedule? These free printables might be helpful! 

Have all of your paperwork in order

Having all of your mil kid’s paperwork for school in order is going to save you plenty of headaches down the line. If your child is attending a new school this year, make sure you have all of 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 is to address key educational transition issues encountered by children of military families and 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 offer that option. No matter where you register your milkid, you’re going to 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 to have report cards from any previous schools your mil kid has attended. If you have multiple children, we recommend creating an online folder for each of them 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. No time like the present to get out there and introduce yourself to your neighbors, especially those who have 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 on, you can always swap out for other people when you make friends. 

Looking for other resources created specifically 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.  

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