You know what they say, right? It’s never a “sure thing” until your PCS orders are in hand and your family is en route to your new military installation.
Unfortunately, I forgot that sage wisdom this year.
We had been assured, repeatedly, that our PCS orders were a “sure thing.” Everything had been confirmed and the replacement for my spouse was on his way. We were really just waiting for those web orders to hit.
And, boy, did they ever hit.
Turns out that sure thing PCS to our ideal location magically turned into a PCA (permanent change of assignment) in our general geographic region. Just like that, our plans for the next three years got flipped.
How can military families cope when their PCS orders change suddenly?
Based on online chatter, it seems like we’re not the only military family in this situation. EFMP status, pending promotions or the fickle needs of the military can all cause unofficial orders to turn on a dime.
When The PCS Orders Change: Coping Tips And Strategies For Military Spouses
Take A Step Back
You probably had already started to wrap your mind around it. The hunt for schools, housing and jobs was on! While you may not have been thrilled, you had moved into the acceptance stage of a PCS.
Before you react to the new set of PCS orders, take a minute to truly acknowledge your feelings about this sudden change.
It’s OK to feel upset, blindsided, sad or angry.
Share your feelings, non-confrontationally, with your spouse. Chances are good that they are feeling very similarly. Change is hard!
Find The Good In The New PCS Orders
As sick as we collectively are of “bloom where you’re planted,” the saying does hold some truth. There is something, even a little thing, that is good about every duty station.
It could be proximity to family, the food scene, weather, theme parks, schools or having a milspouse bestie nearby. Try to find your own something good!
For us, we get another year of great travel opportunities, cheap(er) child care and amazing food. Plus, I get another year to figure things out professionally.
Prepare Your Children For The Change
Since we thought that things were 99.9% happening according to the unofficial orders, we had started to prepare the preschooler for the big move.
She was over the moon about moving closer to her grandparents and cousins, even if it meant saying “sayonara” to her friends and school here. Actually, the leaving part didn’t phase her at all. Every single day there was a conversation about what would happen when we lived (relatively) near Grammy and Grampy.
Telling her that we were not going to be moving closer to them was challenging. I have never seen a four year old throw such a tantrum. And she was totally justified.
Try to cushion the blow as much as possible. Explain the changes in words that your child will understand. Then start drawing your kids into your circle of PCS positivity. Research fun things to do at your actual next duty station. See how far it is to get to (pick a tourist attraction, big city or friend/family’s house) from your new duty station.
Remember It’s Temporary
The good thing about the military lifestyle is that every change is temporary.
“Permanent change in station” seems like an oxymoronic term.
At most, you’ll be in your new hometown for a few years. Then you roll the PCS dice again!
By the next time you move, your wants and needs might have shifted. That formerly ideal duty station might not even be on your radar or maybe it’s still your No. 1 choice. Either way, while you’re at your next location, remember to enjoy as many of the moments as you can. Wishing for things to be different or playing the “what if” game can take you away from the present.
Seek out the good, no matter where those new orders send you!