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Making Connections as a Military Family

Building connections following a move to a new city can be daunting for most of us, but for military families who frequently relocate, it’s simply a way of life. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, military families move about every two to four years – sometimes even more frequently. While these families know it can be part of life, the frequent moves that come with orders to relocate to a new city, state or country can come at a moment’s notice, and can present a unique set of challenges, particularly when it comes to fostering meaningful friendships and establishing a sense of belonging in unfamiliar communities.

It is for this reason that it is not uncommon for some military spouses or children to have second thoughts about building connections. You may find yourself saying things like ‘we’re just going to move again in a year, what’s the point?’ While the thought of starting over isn’t easy, Danette Fessler, Clinical Care Coordinator of Centerstone’s Military Services offers the following perspective, “Just remember that you’re not alone in military life, and there is another family going through something similar who is looking for friends, too.”

Though moves for military families tend to be temporary, it is still important for military spouses and children to form connections where they live. Navigating this lifestyle requires resilience, adaptability, and a proactive approach to building relationships.

Fessler says, “the well-being of a military spouse can have a tremendous impact on their emotional health and family environment. Social connectedness is an essential part of all our lives but often times, for military spouses, connections are our lifelines when we need support from someone who knows what we’re going through.” Having a network of military spouses and friends can help you make the most out of the experience and provide needed support.

There are a few ideas that may be helpful for military spouses to consider when making friends in a new place:

  • Reach out to others as soon as you know your new location – it can be helpful to make connections prior to the move.
  • Join online groups in your new area for communities you might be interested in, such as places of worship, the gym, or a playgroup for the kids.
  • Look for places to volunteer and get involved in the community.

“Parents can influence their children’s adaptability by maintaining a positive attitude to help their children view their move as a new adventure,” adds Fessler. Here are some tips for parents to help their children find a community:

  • Sign them up for their favorite activities as soon as you arrive in your new location to get them involved as quickly as possible.
  • Take them to play at local parks where they can make a new friend.

When it comes to schools, Fessler recommends that parents seek out schools that have one or more of the following:  

  •  Purple Star Schools Recognition: These schools have programs in place to offer extra assistance to military children adapting to a new community.
  • A buddy program for new students to connect with other students.
  • Military Family Life Counselor (MFLC), who can offer groups for military-connected students.

A great way to maintain these friendships after relocation is to stay connected online. It can be helpful for parents to exchange contact information so that they, and the children, may stay connected via video chat, messaging, or online gaming. While consistent relocation can be intimidating and stressful, there are ways to help make the transition smoother and build a community while doing so.

If you are looking for support in navigating stressors during any phase of your military journey or are unsure where to start, Centerstone’s Military Services has a network of trained mental health providers, who specialize in providing support for service members, veterans and their families. Call us at (866) 726-4560 or visit our military services page to get started.

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