Military Spouse & Family
Moving Abroad With Your Service member
Below is a list of helpful suggestions that you should take into account before you leave the U.S. to go live overseas with your service member:
- Understand what your financial situation may be like overseas.
- Do your homework.
Learn all you can about your new base, its surrounding areas and general information about the country where you will be stationed. Look through guidebooks, encyclopedias and travel websites. Military Homefront has a very informative guide for family members relocating overseas. The CIA World Factbook is a good source for general information on the location you will be moving to.
- Figure out which household items are provided at the installation, which ones are not, and plan accordingly.
You may need to ship extra household items to your new installation and possibly buy voltage transformers so that the appliances can be used. If you are allocated to off-base housing for the length of your tour, you may want to buy appliances in your new country. Buying transformers can be tedious and expensive.
- Consider education for your dependents: Will they attend a Department of Defense Dependent School (DoDDS) or will they attend a private or community school?
DoDDS are usually the preferred option for military children living abroad. They provide free education to authorized dependents of DoD personnel living overseas and rate high in academic performance. To enroll, be sure to provide copies of school, medical and immunization records.
- The military offers a lot of opportunities for military dependents to further their education. Take advantage of them.
- You may have to wait for on-base housing.
- Be aware of what health care benefits you will have while overseas.
You can choose from four health care plans while overseas—TRICARE Prime, TRICARE Standard, TRICARE Global Remote Overseas (in designated remote areas) and TRICARE for Life Overseas. Check out the AllMilitary TRICARE page for more information.
- Consider how you will deal with your privately-owned vehicle (POV). Will you bring it? Can you drive it in your new country?
- Decide what you are going to do with your pet while abroad.
Recognizing and Coping with Relocation Stress as an AdultAn overseas move is one of the most stressful situations servicemembers and their families can encounter. It takes time adjust to a brand-new culture and lifestyle. While these stressors cannot be completely alleviated, they can be managed.
Adjusting to an overseas move can take a long time—anywhere from three to six months before the move and up to six months to a year afterward. Your first step in coping with the changes are realizing you will have distress and also understanding that your relocation is almost certainly the major source of the distress. Before and after your relocation, you may experience a myriad of different reactions, including depression, anxiety, irritability, altered sleeping patterns, appetite disturbances and lowered self-confidence.
Coping With Relocation Stress
The second step in managing the stress of your relocation is to deal with your anxiety head on in a proactive manner. Here is some advice for doing just that.
Money can be one of the worst causes of stress and anxiety. Prepare for you permanent change of station (PCS) move by having your finances in order. Your income and living expenses may change dramatically when you move overseas. Do your research beforehand and make plans to deal with the changes. Furthermore, the average military family spends around $1,300 in nonreimbursable expenses to move. Save up between moves so that these expenses don't blow your budget
While stress can sometimes be unavoidable, remember to refrain from self-medication at all costs. Some of the countries where you may be stationed (especially European ones) have easy ways of obtaining certain medications without a prescription. Don't give in to numbing your discomfort—it will only make the transition more difficult in the long run.
To defeat the stress, vigorous exercise can be a great relief - especially when performed regularly. Try to fit in physical activity at least three times a week.
Recognizing Relocation Stress in ChildrenWhile usually more resilient to change than adults, children can still experience hardships in adjusting to a new life and will react with a myriad of baffling behaviors.
Preschoolers are most likely to fall into regressive behavior patterns—a previously potty-trained child may begin wetting themselves. Children this age also may become whiny, clingy and begin having nightmares.
School-age children may begin having problems with teachers and classmates, complain incessantly, try to avoid school by feigning illness and fight more with siblings.
Teenagers will react to such a change the way adults do, but may also act out, complain and become moody or sullen.
To ease this, spend time with your child researching the place you will be moving to. Find out what their new school will be like, what kind of house you will be living in, where their on-base youth center is, where the local hangouts are, local cultural norms, etc. It will be easier for children to cope if they are as familiar as possible with the new surroundings before the move. If at all possible, take your children to visit the new base before you actually move there.
Try to get younger children out of the house while their things are being packed up. Seeing all their things taken away can be a traumatic experience. They may begin to act out and slow down the moving process. Send them out on a play date or to a relative's or neighbor's house.
You may want to consider throwing a farewell party for your children and their friends. This will help them make a clean, easy break from their friends. It will also be easy to gather their friend's phone numbers and addresses in case they want to keep in touch.
Make your new house feel like home as soon as possible by helping your children make their rooms feel special. Help them decorate the rooms in any way they want.
Get your child a sponsor on the new base. The youth centers on most bases have sponsorship programs where new children can be paired up with a peer who is willing to help them get acclimated.
Do not try to bribe your child into not complaining. You will only send the message that their feelings are not valid and make them more angry or resentful. Let them vent to you about their frustrations and be patient, but don't allow them to misbehave.
Get your children involved in activities or sports that they enjoy as soon after the move as possible. Extracurricular activities introduce children to a group of peers that they can interact with on a regular basis.