Military Spouse and Mother of 3 Military Kids
1. Tell us about yourself and your family.
I am an active-duty Army spouse of almost 15 years, currently stationed in Colorado. My husband and I are high school sweethearts and are originally from Dallas/Ft. Worth area in Texas.
I have a master’s in Psychology with a specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy, but I am currently a stay-at-home mom to my 9, 7, and 5 year old. Throughout our time in the military, our family moved 13 times over 13 years- 11 PCS and 13 homes and we full DITY every time. A few of those PCS moves came with a deployment upon arrival or a move within weeks of a redeployment. I moved pregnant 3 times and I’ve moved twice with a newborn and toddlers. Moving frequently isn’t uncommon in the military community but what makes our experience unique is that we have done full DITY/PPM moves every single move. So far that is 13 full DITY/PPM moves in less than 15 years.
2. How did DITY Mama on Instagram start?
My husband had just gotten home from a deployment and I had our 3rd baby shortly after his homecoming. I was busy packing up our home for a PCS with a new baby and 2 toddlers. I had several friends call and ask me questions about DITY moves and there were days I felt I was answering the same questions over and over again. At the time, there wasn’t a place dedicated just to DITY moving. There were websites and information out there but there wasn’t a place where people could go to watch a family do it including both the good and the hard. I thought I should do something like that one day. The next year we were preparing for another DITY move and I was helping a few friends again and I just made a decision to put it all out there. It was spontaneous and I had no idea what I was doing (I’m still learning!). I never thought it would turn into anything more than just a few friends watching! I saw it as an opportunity to provide a place where others can see it go down in hopes to encourage and build confidence in their own DITY moves. Moving is hard either way and I wanted to share my experiences, my tips, my mistakes, and what I learned along the way to help those who were interested or being forced to DITY. I also think this space has allowed me to do something I am passionate about- which is helping families. With my master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, this platform gave me a way to fulfill that part of me in this season of my life. I never thought I would be doing something like this, but it has been such a rewarding opportunity.
3. What do you like the most about your Instagram community?
The opportunity to help and encourage other military families through hard seasons, especially moving. I love connecting with others and this brought the sweetest friendships into my life.
4. In general, What are the biggest challenges of military life? What are the biggest challenges of military life for your children?
The biggest challenges have been deployments (we’ve done 4 with kids) and moving almost every year since they were born. As our kids get older, saying goodbye became harder and harder. They are more aware of what is happening and working through those questions and big emotions can be challenging as a parent. They didn’t choose this life and it is not easy. These hard circumstances give me a chance to connect with my kids in a different way and help them build skills and resilience.
5. Do you have any experiences to share about your children and PCSing, relocation, or struggles of military life?
Preparing our kids and helping them process a big move can be so hard. Every kid is different and will have a different response based on their age and personality. They will react and express emotions differently, and we have to help them navigate it all. It can be heartbreaking and exhausting, especially when we are struggling too. I have a PCS resource for younger kids to help them prepare, process as a family, and find closure.
a. Prepare for hard emotions. Boxes come out, the house is getting packed up, goodbyes are coming, and no matter the age, our kids' emotions will be at an all-time high.
b. Create a calendar for your kids with important dates so they know what to expect and when. Include them by asking them to think of dates they feel are important too!
c. Build a checklist. I have my kids fill out 3 checklists! The checklists include things they want to do before they move (realistic of course!), friends to say goodbye to, and things they can help pack. This helps prepare them and gives them a sense of control and closure. It opens the lines of communication so you know what/who is important to them and how they want to be involved in the packing.
d. Print out a map (or a map puzzle) and talk with them about where you currently live, where you are moving, and where family and friends live in relation to your new home. You can add places you will visit on the way to your new location!
e. Make it fun! Talk about your new location, the road trip, things you’d like to do as a family, and the excitement of new memories to be made. There are great books out there too!
f. Keep your routine and schedule as best you can.
g. Be positive! It’s okay to express empathy and say you’re feeling sad, upset, etc. but check your attitude…they will adopt our negativity.
h. Set realistic expectations. This isn't easy, emotions are high, and your whole family will be trying to process and navigate the change occurring. Don't set unrealistic expectations for yourself or for your kids. Give grace to your kids AND to yourself!
6. What do THEY think of military life?
They don’t know any different! It’s definitely not easy and they struggle with their daddy being gone, being far from our extended family, and moving more frequently than their peers. They are younger, but they do express how “fun” it is to move to different places and travel. I know that will change as they continue to grow up and build stronger friendships. The hardest part has been navigating deployments during different seasons of their childhood. When they were younger they didn’t really understand or have a concept of time, but now that they are older the deployments become more challenging with their behavior and emotions.
7. What are your thoughts on the resilience of military kids?
We love to talk about how strong and resilient our military kids are, but we don’t really talk about helping BUILD resilience in military kids. Labeling military kids (or kids in general) as resilient doesn’t automatically make them resilient. I’m not saying they aren’t or can’t be inherently tough-minded BUT resiliency is a skill crafted over time and kids need help/direction building those habits. Resiliency is developed and learned through experience, it’s not automatic. We are doing kids a disservice when we label them as resilient without teaching them to work through hard situations first. As parents we have to teach resilience to our kids, not just assume or expect it. Labeling our kids as resilient can be used as an excuse to avoid hard conversations and uncomfortable emotions. It’s also important to add that resilience isn’t the absence of challenge or adversity. Resilience doesn’t mean kids are okay no matter the circumstance! You can be resilient and still struggle. Kids can be resilient but it doesn’t mean they always are in every situation. They may display resilience,but it doesn’t mean they aren’t also trying to figure out how to cope with the emotions they are feeling. Resilience is built continuously throughout a lifetime, and it’s not something we can label our kids and just then leave it as that. When parents label kids as resilient and consistently tell them they are “fine” or “okay,” we easily dismiss what they might be struggling with. I think it makes us feel better as parents when we say our kids are resilient. Parents have to understand it’s a high expectation to place on our kids.
8. Why is it important for you to explain this?
There is a misconception that just because our kids have experienced hard and difficult things that they are automatically resilient because they are “okay” and made it through a difficult time. Resilience is an ongoing skill that needs to continue to be developed and learned.
9. What can people say instead of comments such as "they will be fine, they are resilient, it will be ok"? How can we support military kids?
I know it’s usually coming from a good place but in my mind it minimizes my kids’ struggles and it isn’t helpful. Acknowledging the situation and the difficulty is a good start. Communication, modeling coping skills, empathy, and especially strong relationships are key to doing this. So, if you’re a parent, family member, friend of a military kid in your life go step further…love them, support them, encourage them, teach healthy coping skills, be a listening ear, validate them, thank them, navigate them through the difficulty, and help them build the resilience these brave heroes are known for.
10. How do you think kids become resilient?
Resilience is learned through adversity. We have to teach them how to face challenges and how to see them as opportunities to learn and grow. We need to prepare them by helping them develop the skills they’ll need to handle military life.
We all want our kids to be strong and resilient. Although military life is hard, whether it be a move, deployment, a loss, a change in routine, a new addition to the family, or even a worldwide pandemic, times like these help them build resilience.