Being away from extended family long term starts to wear on you. If you’re from a close-knit family like I am, yes it does. I’ve missed weddings and funerals and other occasions I never dreamed I’d miss. Keeping in touch as best you can, as well as lowering your expectations and extending grace when you are together, will go a long way towards alleviating some of this. Remember that their lives have had to go on, too, and things will not be exactly as they were when you last saw them.
Side note–I would also encourage you not to make every vacation a trip “back home.” Finding the right balance between visiting extended family and personal vacations is not a military family-only issue, as evidenced by all the National Lampoon movies! And hey, guess what? The roads and planes run both ways!
If you stay in long enough, you’ll start to leave your older kids behind. I will admit, this has been one of the most difficult aspects of military life for me: facing a move with the knowledge that we’d leave our older kids behind for college or jobs. I’m not certain I can prepare you for this at all other than to say, brace yourself for a storm of emotions and hang in there. I can only promise you’ll get through it. Or I can offer some tough love like one friend did when I started getting teary every time I talked about our upcoming overseas to overseas move and dropping our oldest in the states for college: “Suck it up! I can’t go there with you right now!” (with tears in her eyes…she’d just been through the same thing the year before.) Your resilient military kid will be just fine.
Moving so often is really hard on the kids. Our kids have run the gamut of reactions to moving, with each of our children moving several times in their high school years alone. Obviously, each child handles challenges differently and what sets one child back for months on end is just a blip for another child. Since I have the benefit of three grown children’s experiences and a little bit of hindsight to draw from, I’ll tell you this. Do whatever you need to do to help your kids get through the transition, whether it’s seeking out counseling or special programs as they come into a new assignment, such as the Youth Sponsorship Program, or simply giving them some time and space to adapt and not pushing them. Let them lead the way on what sort of help they need. (And please, if you’re going to comment that your kids are just fine and if you’re positive, they’ll be positive, I’ll say good for you but not every child bounces back that easily).