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PCS with an EFMP? Stay Calm, Stay Organized

By Tiffany Shedd

We made it! It's finally spring, even if we did get another 3 inches of snow on the office first day.

Spring is a season of new beginnings. While it is definitely a season for trees and plants to blossom, it's also the beginning of another season altogether - PCS season. Moving can be stressful under normal circumstances, but moving with a special needs family member can seem like the end of the world. But maybe it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are few tips to help make your PCS less stressful.

What can make the situation worse is finding out that your service member is going somewhere that your special needs family cannot accompany them. Sadly, if your family is part of the Exceptional Family Member Program, there will be some assignments that will not have the facilities to take care of your loved one. Separation from your service member is hard, anyone that has gone through a deployment or even long TDY knows this. If you’re PCSing and not currently in the EFMP program (and need to be), go immediately to your EFMP office and get started on the process immediately. This will ensure that your family member’s needs will be taken into account when your service member comes up for reassignment (which could mean a change in orders, and we all know this takes time). Here’s a good overview if you need to know about the EFMP program and how to get prepared for a move if you are on orders.

We have all heard the Boy Scout adage, “Always be prepared.” The same goes for a move. There are so many moving parts that have to stay organized during a move that it can feel intimidating, especially if you’re dealing with a special needs family member. If you are a special needs parents/spouse, then you probably already have many systems in place to keep your days on track. This means you are probably more prepared than you realize. Personally, I am a big fan of notes and cell phone calendar alarms. I also took it one step further in January and added a paper calendar on our wall. We were in the process of weaning my son off his epilepsy medicine and only gave it on certain days. Without the calendar, I would have never have remembered which days it was. Figure out what works for you and go with it. If you are a smart phone addict, there are lots of great free apps to help you get organized with lists and calendar reminders. If you’re low-tech, grab a pocketsize notebook and pen and be sure to have them handy. You never know when you’re going to think of something that you need to remember.

I know one of the things that helps me on a daily basis is having a schedule and sticking to it. I think most parents will agree that when things aren’t chaotic their stress levels are lower. This is especially important with special needs kids. Change can be very difficult for all kids, but especially for special needs kids. Moving is so much change in a short period of time, it can be very overwhelming. Start talking to your kids as soon as you get orders. Let them know that you will be moving soon, talk to them about where you’ll go, reassure them that things will be different, but that it will be ok; and while you can, try to keep their schedule as normal as possible. If you’re able to do something special during your PCS, like a side trip to somewhere fun or even to visit family, tell your kids about that. It will give the something to look forward to, instead of just dwelling on the negative aspects of moving.

Because PCS season coincides with spring, it’s a good time to go through boxes (like the ones in the basement that never got unpacked from the last move) and closets. Instead of thinking of it as spring cleaning, think of it as your pre-move purge. It’s time to go through all the kids’ clothes and figure out what fits and what doesn’t fit. Go through your and your partner’s clothes while you’re at it. I have come to actually love doing this and do it several times a year.

Why do I love this seemingly tedious activity? Two words: consignment sales. I have found a way to make some money with minimal effort with clothes that would either be thrown away or donated. That is not to say that donating your old clothes isn’t a worthy cause, but if you can make a little money to help you with your upcoming PCS, why not do it. There is a great website called Consignment Mommies that lists sales by state. It is great. I have found many sales in my area for kids’ clothes and I am working on getting my own clothes ready for a women’s sale. I have been using my consignment sale money to do fun stuff with my family, so you could make that side trip extra special with a little extra cash, and, that’s at least one less suitcase or box you have to unpack when you get to your new installation).

Even if you’re a PCS veteran, every move seems to be different for me. I bet that is true for most of you as well. Our next move will be our first in the EFMP program. I am thankful that there are so many resources available and a simple Google search will return tons of sites with hints and tricks to make that move go smoother, because I seriously hate moving. Anything that makes it easier is awesome in my book. Stay calm and PCS on.

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