PCS’ing WITH Your Older Children


Last summer, we were surprised with short-term orders to move from our beloved and much-too-short-for-my-liking Hawaii assignment in the small matter of 6 weeks’ time. Our oldest child was already married, in the military, and off on his own. The youngest was still in high school, so there was no question there what she would do, but our two middle children, both graduated, were faced with a decision. One son, entering his third year of college in Hawaii, opted to stay put in an area he loved in order to finish school, while our newly graduated daughter had her whole world and short-term plans thrown for a loop in an instant. She chose to PCS with us.

If your family stays associated with the military long enough, there will likely come a point when your older children will need to think about what they’ll do when they graduate from high school if you’re still moving around the world, following the whims of Uncle Sam in his PCS orders. While some will go the “typical” route of shipping off to college and returning to wherever in the world their family is currently stationed for vacations, others make the decision to continue moving with their parents.

The cost of living, difficulties finding a job, and later marriages than in past generations have given rise to a higher number of adults aged 18-24 living with their parents. And if your young adult child has not flown the coop yet, you’re not alone. A recent Pew Report shows that 53% of young adults this age live with their parents. Personally, our family has had no issue with graduated children continuing to live at home for a while if they choose, as long as they’re working, going to school, or both. (Plus, we kind of like them!) Our four kids have known that’s one option to weigh along with other choices, as they can save money on rent, expenses, and even the cost of college tuition/board.

While adult children living at home is not a unique scenario to military families, there are some differences and challenges. Observing friends work through these issues helped me think ahead a bit when our kids were younger. Each of our children has handled stepping into adulthood individually, as has best befit their particular situation. And as with most things parenting related, there is simply no “one size fits all”!

So why would a military kid who’s now a young adult choose to continue moving with their parents through a PCS if they don’t have to?

Lack of local support. A young adult may not be financially ready to support themselves without family nearby. There will be no home to visit on the weekends to run a load of laundry or grab a quick meal. Not to mention, choosing to stay on your own as an 18-year-old while the rest of your family moves half a world away may not be appealing.

They’re accustomed to change. Some military kids enjoy the travel and frequent moves that can be a part of long-term military service. As military retirement looms ever closer for our family, we realize that none of us will continue relocating at the pace we’ve become accustomed to, so a young adult may find embarking on one last moving adventure appealing. (And…they’re also extraordinarily helpful when it comes to unpacking and moving boxes!)

Once your grown child has made the decision to continue living at home for a time, there will be some areas to consider.

Ground rules. Will they have a portion of the house to themselves that they’re responsible for? What will be the expectations regarding rent (if any), help with expenses, vehicles, friends coming over, groceries, etc.? How much participation in household chores will be expected? Clearly communicating expectations and boundaries is important.

Finances. What practical steps is your young adult taking to build his credit record? Does she have a job? Will they need help with expenses for a time? Your child may desire your help in planning a simple budget or setting short- and long-term educational and career goals. Charging a small amount for room and board or asking for contributions for household expenses will help them learn to manage their money when they’re on their own.

Embracing different roles. You’re in a new phase of the parent/child relationship, so do your best to avoid the tug of war for control. As much as you may hate to admit it, active parenting is technically over. While your adult child may want or even ask for your advice, they likely don’t want your opinion on every matter under the sun. Hopefully this is a phase in your relationship that you’ve grown into as they’ve gotten older. It’s a tricky balancing act, however; while they are still living under your roof, they need take responsibility for their own life choices.

There are as many different situations and ways of dealing with them as there are sons and daughters. One of the best lessons we’ve learned through decades of military life is flexibility and the knack for adapting to whatever life throws our way. It’s not surprising that our children have done the same. And we’ve also learned the fine art of appreciating small moments. When our oldest moved back home temporarily the year before he was married, I was distinctly aware that this time with him was a gift and treasured the new memories we were making.

Each child will find his or her own way, in time. Some are ready to fly the nest the moment they’re given wings. Others prefer the home base for a little longer, even if home remains a fluid location through PCS.

Whatever your older children decide—whether they move away, stay, leave and come back again—enjoy every moment you have together!

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Source: Pew Report, The Boomerang Generation

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