How to Cope With Military PCS Moves

Even if you have the greatest sense of adventure, an unexpected or undesired PCS move can cause extraordinary amounts of stress and anxiety within families. If you’ve grown especially attached to your community or home, the change can feel devastating… not only to you but also to your children and spouse. 

There’s no avoiding it. PCS moves are tough! But there are some things you can do to cope and keep your emotions in check as you journey into a new home and community.

With extensive experience helping military families navigate the challenges of military life and PCS moves, the providers here at Affiliated Medical Group have collaborated to put together a list of the 10 best things your family can do to manage the big changes that come with a PCS move.

1) Realize that your emotions are normal.

Regardless of the reason, any sort of change is emotional and brings with it various unexpected challenges… especially for change that is unwanted. It’s common for many military spouses and children to go through a sort of grieving period amid a PCS move. 

Although your negative feelings may seem unhelpful, it will be even more counter-productive for you to ignore or disregard them. Instead, accept that your emotions are present and very real – it’s the first, unavoidable step of coming to terms with your new situation. 

2) Lean on your family.

Remember, your spouse and your children are likely struggling with the change, too. Although the stress may cause tense moments from time to time, now is the perfect time to lean on one another for support (and lend some extra support yourself).

3) Recognize that it’s a temporary change.

Perhaps this PCS move will last only a few months. Maybe you even have another PCS move or two in your future. But remember, there IS a light at the end of the tunnel! When your (and your family’s) commitment to the military has come to an end, you may very well be able to settle and establish the home and community you’ve been dreaming of. Knowing this can help you view your situation in a more realistic light, freeing you to live in the moment and invest more of your time and energies into your spouse and kids.

4) Be patient… with yourself, your kids, AND your spouse.

Disappointed that you can’t move past some nagging emotions about the move? 

Give yourself a break! It’s unrealistic to expect your emotions to switch instantly from negative to positive on command; you need time to cope. And so do your kids and spouse. Approach every family conversation with plenty of understanding and grace, and treat yourself with the same sort of care you would want to extend to your spouse or children if they were feeling the same way. 

5) Use technology to maintain friendships.

Goodbyes are never easy. But they are at least slightly more bearable with the help of modern technology. Although social media can cause unnecessary stress during a PCS move, you can keep in touch with close friends and family when you move away via text, call, or FaceTime. Though it may require you to develop a new communication habit you’re not accustomed to, these strong relationships can provide precisely the support you need.

6) Remember that life is an adventure.

Think about it… relatively few people experience so many new places and cultures. Although it’s unrealistic to expect yourself to have your positivity turned on at all times, you CAN look for small moments of adventure to relish with your spouse and/or kids. OR just enjoy some exciting me-time.

Even if you weren’t traveling to new, uncharted places, life would surprise you with an entirely unique set of hurdles and challenges that would keep your day-to-day interesting and adventurous. Keeping a positive, open mind about your future home can radiate some excitement into your relocation experience.

7) Find something to get excited about.

Every new place brings a new set of opportunities for you and your family. Amid all the challenges you may dread, try to come up with a small list of a few things that get you excited. Perhaps your new house provides a little extra space for your family. Maybe your home is just a short drive from the beach, some neat national or state parks, or campgrounds. You could even consider adding a new pet to the family (AFTER you have moved). It could be the perfect positive change to add to the mix.

8) Spend the time saving up for your forever home.

If the present isn’t ideal, try spending this time working on your plans. You can use this waiting period to save up some home-buying (or building) funds. As you experience a variety of living conditions, start putting together a list of the non-negotiable features of your future dream home. What climate are you dreaming of? Is there a particular state you particularly enjoy living in? What home features can you NOT live without? 

9) Seek specialized military family counseling.

If you and/or anyone in your family is having an especially tough time with the move, consider finding a counselor who is familiar with the frustrations and mental health challenges faced by military families. An experienced, compassionate psychiatric provider can diagnose behavioral and mental health conditions that have developed because of the move and determine best routes forward – from natural coping mechanisms to medications.

Moving to a new location is difficult enough without added stressors, like finding a

new provider last minute. To ease the stress of obtaining a timely appointment and maintaining your care, we recommend you explore and research local providers in your new community as soon as possible. By proactively reaching out to establish care with a new provider in advance, you can ensure a smooth transition of care between providers without a stressful waiting period for an appointment.

For those moving to a duty station in North Carolina or Florida, Affiliated Medical Group and our providers can promptly schedule new patient appointments! If you move to either of these states or if you are already an established patient, call our office to speak with our friendly staff to set an appointment or to let us know about your move. Our team will be happy to assist you and continue to provide care to you or your family members!

BONUS TIP: If you are currently taking prescribed medications, remember to take extra care to keep track of medications. During the move, you will be off your routine, making it easier for you to lose, misplace, or run out of your medication. Make sure you have enough medication to last you through the transition and keep your medications in a safe location so they are not mistakenly misplaced while moving!

10) Take advantage of PCS resources.

Besides military family counseling, there are a variety of other PCS resources for families just like yours:

  • – Created precisely to assist families during PCS moves, provides a range of practical tools to help smooth out the transition. On the website, you can search for housing reviews, find a PCS real estate agency or lender, calculate BAH rates, and more!
  • Military Family Readiness System – The Department of Defense designed this system to provide a variety of helpful programs and services for military families – for PCS moves and mobility and deployment help, spouse career services, and more!
  • There are often good PCS support systems in place on and around most military bases. And frankly, in-person resources are often the best kind. 
  • And don’t forget to consult with the military friends that you’ve established so far. They may have some invaluable tips, advice, or suggestions to help with your relocation!

Affiliated Medical Group - Military Mental Health Provider

Looking for a specialized military psychiatric health provider? The providers at Affiliated Medical Group have extensive experience with the challenges faced by military families. With locations across North Carolina and Florida, we provide in-person AND virtual health services for military families across the country.

Is your PCS move bringing you to North Carolina or Florida? Whether you are a new patient or an existing patient moving from one state to the other, we can provide the specialized care you need!

Contact us today to learn more.


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