Child Caring

About-to-be deployed mom weighs school options

Dear Barbara,

Our family is going through a huge transition right now. My husband and I are both in the Air Force. He recently left for his deployment for a year to Afghanistan and should return next summer. I too, will be deploying at the end of October for 4 months. The issue we are having is deciding what to do with regarding kids' changing schools. I need your advice on how changing schools will affect my 7-year old daughter and 4 year-old son. Please note that while I am deployed, my kids will stay with their grandparents in a different state. Below our options we have:

1. Enroll my kids in school and start the beginning of the year where grandparents live. They will stay there until I return from my deployment in Feb 2014. They will switch schools after 3rd quarter. The downside is my kids will be away from me Aug 13 Feb 14. I can fly to see them on weekends.

2. Have my kids start school and stay with me until October and after first quarter pull them out of school. They will go to grandparents to start school 2nd Quarter. The benefit is that they are with me. When I return from my deployment, switch schools after 3rd quarter and come back home with me. Downside is they will be switching schools twice.

3. Have my kids start school and stay with me until October and after first quarter pull them out of school. They will go to grandparents to start school 2nd Quarter and finish up school year. Downside they will be away from me from Oct 13- Jun 14 .

4. Enroll my kids in school and start at the beginning of the year where grandparents live. They will stay enrolled for the entire school year. Positive = they will not change schools, negative, they will be away from me from Aug -13 to Jun 14.

Please note that grandparents are retired and can dedicate 100% of their time to my children. My daughter stated that she wanted to stay with me until October because she wants to see her old friends again. She is okay with starting a new school and meeting new friends. The school where grandparents live is private and much better than the one at home. My daughter is very outgoing and can adapt to change. She is independent and likes to take the lead. My son, on the other hand, is totally opposite, reserved and shy.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my story. Any advice will be very much appreciated.

From: Danielle, Colorado Springs.

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Dear Danielle,

Let's start with this: Kids don't like change. Some like it less than others. Kids also are far more resilient that we tend to realize.

Which brings me to this: there is no right or wrong way to handle your situation. Each option you offer could work, depending on your ability to handle it (see more below). My preference? #1, with a modification: They both begin school in Sept at the gp's but with an open end date. When you get home, see how everyone, including the grandparents and especially you, are doing. More than anything, that may help determine where they finish out the school year. Maybe your daughter will want to finish out there but your son will do better coming home with you.

There are some concrete skills than can help them over the hump but you are the single biggest factor. How will you feel being at home after your deployment without them? If you are miserable anticipating their departure, they will be, too, and it won't matter how many transitions you spare them. Once you make your decision, don't waffle or second-guess yourself. Since your daughter has already expressed a wish to start at her current school, tell her respectfully that you have taken her opinion into consideration but that this decision is for the adults to make.

You can also ease the transition if you:

Visit before the actual move ,if possible. Take them to see the school, play in the playground, meet the headmaster if not the teacher.

Arrange through the school for them to have a playdate or two with a future classmate (or two).

Set up the room(s) they will sleep in and just generally re-acquaint them with grandma and grandpa's house. Draw a map of the house while you're there so when you go back home, you can remind the 4 yo exactly where everything is, especially the bathroom.

Make a book for each of them about your family -- where you and daddy will each be and the job you will be doing; where they will be and their jobs (going to school). Keep it simple, use lots of family photos, and end with the family reunion. Talk about how much you love grandma and grandpa and what fun things they will be doing together. Include something about your own childhood that relates to them. Tell them you'll be thinking about them (as opposed to missing them).

Be careful what you promise. Don't tell her, "You'll love your new school!" You don't know that. Read more suggestions here for making the transition.