Changing schools can be one of the hardest experiences of a kid’s life. Especially for those in military families, who move three times more often than their average civilian counterparts. In fact, military kids are likely to attend between four and 12 different schools during their K-12 education, averaging only two years at each school. Add in the potential of moving overseas, and back-to-school season can be even more stressful than usual.
It’s not easy, but there are a few ways you can start the school year with the strongest chance of success. From getting started early with good preparation, to investigating helpful programs, to giving your kids (and yourself) some grace. Consider these tips for the school year ahead.
Prepare as Best You Can
Some of the pain points related to changing schools can be eased or eliminated with good preparation in a few different areas.
First, be sure to gather all the necessary documents in order to ensure enrollment for your child(ren) will go as smoothly as possible. This may include their birth certificates, social security numbers, vaccination records, proof of residence, and more. When preparing for a PCS move, it’s a good idea to keep these documents handy and with you at all times. It’s so important that this information isn’t misplaced during the moving process.
Once your kids are successfully enrolled, see if it’s possible for them to take a visit to their new school. This can help the kids feel more comfortable, knowing where they’re going on the first day and what to expect. They may even be able to meet their new teachers.
And keep this in mind: Depending on where you are, some teachers or schools may not be very familiar with military families and military kids. Talking to your child’s teacher in advance may help them better understand what it’s like, and it’s important for them to know about any circumstances that may impact your child’s classroom behavior or learning style. Most teachers are eager to learn how they can best teach their students, so providing them with that insight will be much appreciated in many cases.
Consider Programs That Can Offer Help
Unfortunately, one area that is often tough for military families is daycare or after school programs. Daycares often have waiting lists, which sometimes prevents military spouses from looking for work when they arrive at the soldier’s new duty station. Contacting the school liaison prior to arriving at the new duty station can help matters or concerns go more smoothly.
Benefits such as Child and Youth Program (CYP) and the Army Child and Youth Services (CYS) provide offerings based on eligibility and family income, respectively.
All members of the United States Military, should look into eligibility of Department of Defense child care fee assistance. Service Members may receive help paying for child care providers in the community where they live if they are unable to obtain care on their post.
If serving in the Army, the Family Child Care (FCC) program may provide the solution. The Army FCC Program is a child care option where authorized Military Family members and qualified civilians provide in home, on post coverage.
What If My Child Has Additional Needs?
One of the best programs the military has to offer families with children that have special needs is through Army Community Service. The Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP). EFMP is a mandatory enrollment program that works with other military and civilian agencies to provide comprehensive and coordinated community support, housing, educational, medical, and personnel services to Families with special needs.
Enrollment in the EFMP is mandatory for active duty Service Members who have dependent family members with ongoing medical, mental health, or special educational needs.
The EFMP provides comprehensive support to Family members with special needs. EFMP takes an all-inclusive approach to coordinate military and civilian community, educational, medical, housing, and personnel services to help Soldiers and their Families with special needs.
The entire application process can take three weeks to three months, from completing the required forms and family EFMP screenings (and enrollments if needed) to the review of your completed application.
Who should enroll in the EFMP program?
- Those who require special medical services for a chronic condition such as asthma, attention deficit disorder, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, etc.
- Those who receive ongoing services from a medical specialist.
- Those who have significant behavioral health concerns.
Give Your Kids -- and Yourself -- Some Grace
Changing schools isn’t easy. Especially when you’ve done it over and over again, or when it’s your first time moving after staying in the same place for your whole life. Especially when you’re a kid, and you don’t have any control, and you’re not sure how to handle all of your emotions.
There are a few things you can do to get the kids excited -- let them pick out some new clothes and their own backpacks. (Remember to check if the store offers a Military discount.) Even simple actions like this can help them go into the new school year with some confidence. But remember that there are going to be snags along the way, good days and bad days, and no matter how much you try, things aren’t going to be perfect. Expect some tears and some hard days at school.
The good days will come. Be patient with your kids, and don’t be too hard on yourself, either. It’s a hard situation, but with a little bit of time and patience, things are sure to improve.
Armed Forces Bank Is Here for Military Families
At Armed Forces Bank, we want to be your trusted banking partner for all your financial needs. But we also want our valued Service Members and their families to know that they’re not alone. Serving the military community is our personal mission, and we’re here to support you as you achieve your financial goals.