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Handling the Emotional Aspects of PCS in the Family

Handling the Emotional Aspects of PCS in the Family


Handling the Emotional Aspects of PCS in the Family


Military families have many unique challenges, including frequent Permanent Changes of Station (PCS). Moving is demanding for any family, but military families move so frequently that the emotional impact is greater. A PCS order is always dreaded, as it could mean packing up not only the house, but the family’s emotions as well, to follow the military career of a service members in the family.

The logistical challenges of frequent moves can be mastered with time. The emotional challenges, however, will always be nerve-wracking. If your family will be receiving a PCS order in the near future, how do you plan on handling the emotional impact, especially for your children?

If you have pushed your own emotions to the back of your mind or ignored your children’s feelings in the past and it made everyone’s transition all the more difficult, know that there is an alternative. You can take the healthy route to a smoother adjustment with counseling.


Packing and Unpacking Your House and Emotions

Every PCS is accompanied by a whirlwind of activities to move your physical belongings swiftly and efficiently. These logistical challenges determine how easy or difficult your transition will be to your new home. A poorly laid out plan and implementation can complicate everything.

Leaving behind the environment you and your family are used to can give your life a 360-degree turn. With your attention focused on the required flurry of activities, you may push your emotions to the deep recesses of your consciousness. You may also overlook your children’s ambivalence, confusion, and fear, and fail to recognize if they are showing signs of anxiety or depression.

While you pack your bags and boxes, you may also be unconsciously packing and stowing away raw emotions as you bid friends, classmates, neighbors, and fellow workers good-bye. This can’t go on forever. All these emotions will come rushing back in due time, maybe as soon as you hang the last garment in the closet or your child leaves for their new school. As the energy of the move wanes, trepidation, confusion, and fear of the unknown can engulf you and your children. Be warned—these emotions can disarm your natural ability to adjust to the changes.


“The Moving Spat”

With most of the tasks and responsibilities in your laps, as the heads of the family, you and your spouse will likely feel the PCS pressure more than anyone. Anxiety and tension mount, and at some point, these feelings may vent themselves like an erupting volcano. This may be called “the moving spat.”

Nonmilitary families may not understand why other families get into these spats in the thick of packing or moving. Military families, however, would swear that during a PCS move, many moms and dads (and even grown-up children) can get into intense arguing and display angry behavior for even long periods of time. Be comforted by the thought that it isn’t your fault—it is a function of the tension straining everyone and all the emotional undercurrents caused by waving good-bye to your friends and, perhaps, a comfortable job or career.


The Unique Challenges Military Children Face

The young members of the family are not exempted from feeling the pressure of a PCS. Moving away from their comfort zone and familiar people and places can confuse them. They may ask why their friends can’t come over to the house anymore to play with them during the weekends. They may feel apprehensive talking to their new classmates, mentors, or coaches. They may struggle and refuse to go to a new school and play or mingle with children they don’t know.

You can only hope that a PCS order will give you enough time to prepare your children for what to expect. According to,It is critical that your children have enough time to say good-bye to the family members and friends they’re leaving behind.” Being emotionally immature, children have a more fragile ability to handle difficulties and challenges. The sudden changes or transitions brought about by moving can traumatize them. Preparing your children with the assistance of a counselor can help everyone make a smoother transition.


Making the Most of a PCS

Moving from one location to another can be an emotional roller coaster, but it doesn’t have to be all “doom and gloom.” With the help of a professional counselor contracted with Carolina Counseling Services — Pinehurst, NC, you can look beyond the challenges to get the most out of the move.

A CCS-contracted counselor can guide you through processing the experience, so you can appreciate and take full advantage of the opportunities and lessons offered by each PCS. Think of the plethora of stories you will collect through the years. Each new experience can make you a stronger, better person. They can contribute to your unhappiness, or they can be a source of inspiration. It is no wonder that military families are among the most resilient people on the planet.

Work on improving the physical aspect of the move to give you a smooth transition, but don’t forget to take care of the emotional aspect too. To pull through, let go, and move forward with success, call Carolina Counseling Services — Pinehurst, NC, for help. Your ability to handle your emotions and help your children with theirs is critical for a successful PCS.  Call now for an appointment.


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Serving Areas: Carolina Counseling Services – Pinehurst, NC

Counties: Moore county, NC, Lee County, Hoke County, Chatham County

Areas: Pinehurst NC, West End NC, Taylortown NC, Seven Lakes NC, Eagle Springs NC, Jackson Springs NC, Foxfire NC, Candor NC, Norman NC, Ellerbe NC, Rockingham NC

Zip Codes: 27281, 27376, 28315, 28347, 28350, 28373, 28374, 28387, 28388, 28394

Kelly ErkenBrack, LCSW

Specializes in: (Ages 3+) Children, Teens, Adults, Couples and Families. Anxiety, Depression, Grief and Loss, Mood Disorders, Trauma, Adjustments and Life Transitions, ADHD, Behavioral Issues, Parenting, Relationship Concerns, Self Esteem
Insurance: BCBSTricare Prime/Select, Medicare and Cash
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Location: Pinehurst, NC

Robin Caswell, MSW, LCSW

Specializes in: (Ages 5+), Individuals, Adults, Anxiety, Depression, Grief, Loss, ADHD, ODD, Trauma/PTSD, LGBTQ, Self-Harm, Military Family Life, Mood Disorders, OCD, Phobias
Insurance: BCBS, Tricare, Medicare and Cash
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Location: Pinehurst, NC

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