Dealing with the distance. With our oldest stateside and us in Hawaii, we simply couldn’t afford for him to fly home for every break. We saw him at Christmas and during the summer, but I hated the thought of him alone on long weekends or Thanksgiving break when the college closed the dorms. (More on that in a minute). Also, my dream of my child driving home for a weekend, ready for a home-cooked dinner, laundry in tow, was just that—only a dream that I’ve had to relinquish.
Finding local support. Thankfully, several local families “adopted” some of the college kids and invited them into their homes for meals or short breaks. We also had military friends stationed in the area who gave our son a birthday cake, checked on him from time to time, and helped with some medical issues that cropped up. The benefit of our military “extended family” was clearly visible during those years and continues to this day, as I have several good friends in the area where our second son now lives who regularly check on him and let him know they are there if he needs anything.
Not really coming “home.” One thing I didn’t think about was that, as we moved and left kids, their first time coming to see us at the new assignment wasn’t a homecoming for them in the true sense of the word. They’d never lived there, so everything was new. It was important for us give them space to do what they wanted and meet or not meet people as they saw fit. Their main priority was seeing us.
Setting them up for independence. Military kids are awesome. They typically grow into quite resilient, capable adults. But before you move across the country or around the world and leave them on their own, cover some basics with them like banking, budgeting and dealing with bills, whether or not to get a credit card, auto maintenance, and basic personal safety skills. Do they know who to call in an emergency? Do they have their sponsor’s SSN memorized if they need to make a military appointment? Even if they know it all already, tell them to bear with you while you tell them again because it will make you feel better!
They will change; you will change. While you won’t ever be able to go back to “the way it was,” moving forward into a new relationship with your older children, even if they’re not in as close proximity as you’d prefer, is a truly amazing thing.