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PCSing and starting at a new school

F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. -- Every summer around the world, at every base from every military service, there are changes that are felt due to permanent change of station season. This is the time of year when new families with children move in, get settled, learn new jobs and spouses find new work. The children also have to find new friends and learn new schools. It's a daunting task and to do it once every two or three years is even more daunting. If you've ever had friends move in and out of your lives growing up, then you'll know what I'm talking about.

I grew up in Huntsville, Ala., when my father retired from the U.S. Army. Although I didn't move around as a military brat, I become one of the "left behinds." Schoolmates would come and stay a few years and then leave. It was always fun to ask where the new kids came from and where they lived. You get a feeling of the bigger world. I grew up very social and tried to include the new kids on playing and being a part of the neighborhood and school.

Fast forward to the present and my two kids are the ones going in and out of the lives of their friends from our previous duty stations. It's interesting to see how open and social my kids are and I just wonder if part of it is because of moving and having to get to know other people in a relatively short time. Either that or they can only tolerate so much playing with each other.

Where we had a house at the last two assignments, there were minimal military families nearby. The flux of kids changing is our neighborhood wasn't as much as it would be if it had a large military population.

When my son, John, moved from Kindergarten to first grade in Nebraska, I asked him about new kids in the grade and encouraged him to have the same involvement with the new kids that I remember doing a long time ago. It's a great way to make them feel welcome and you make new friends.

When we first moved here last summer, we asked John about his new friends and I think it helped him to get to know them faster. This year will be our second year at Freedom Elementary and I'll be sure to ask him about the new kids in his third grade class to welcome those who arrived this summer.

This strategy of engagement can span the full spectrum of back to school preparation for any grade. Engagement at middle school could be finding out which teachers are best for algebra, science or english. Engagement at high school could be finding a club or sport that you're interested in and trying out.

Moving between tenth and eleventh grades is tough, but coaches understand that parent's jobs may cause them to move often. You may think that you have to prove yourself all over with a new team, but that's what life is about and you become a stronger person by having to do so. The coaches are always eager to have new people try out and be a team player. You'll never make the team if you don't even try.

As you prepare for going back to school during the next few weeks, remember to think about the new friends you'll make and the stories you'll hear about where they've been.

These are the life lessons that textbooks won't teach you. The social interaction that makes us human instead of staring at a TV is important. I encourage you to get out, interact and make new friends, and above all, welcome back to school.