5 ways to help your PCSing friends
“Summertime, and the livin’ is easy,” croons Ella Fitzgerald.
School’s out, the days are longer, grills are hot, and that long-anticipated vacation is finally right around the corner. For many military families, however, the summer months mean packing up household goods, saying good-bye to a familiar duty station and starting over someplace new.
If, like me, you often find yourself wanting to lend a hand, but aren’t sure where to start, consider this list of five ways to help your PCSing friends make it through one of the most stressful experiences of military life.
1. Volunteer to watch their children
If your friends have little ones, one of the best things you could offer to do is to get the kiddos out of the house for a few hours of fun and distraction. The seemingly endless barrage of out-processing appointments, errands and last-minute to-dos — not to mention the dreaded household goods packing and pick up days — can be particularly painful for families with infants and toddlers. Boredom naturally leads to tears and mischief, which only adds to the mounting stress levels of everyone involved.
2. Take them a warm meal
Whether it’s something you spent hours in the kitchen making from scratch or a hot-and-ready pizza you picked up on your way over, your friends will appreciate the fact that they have one less decision (and mess) to make that day. If you’re willing to go the extra mile, bring along a package of paper plates and plastic cutlery.
3. Help them shape up their empty house
Round up your crew, compile your cleaning products, tools and paint supplies, and throw a laid-back house cleaning party — complete with snacks and a playlist of the best sports/dance tunes from the ‘80s and ‘90s to keep you pumped up (or not). Divide the rooms, split up the work, and you’ll have the house looking spotless in a fraction of the time it would’ve taken your friends to accomplish it on their own. Or … skip the party, altogether, and present them with a gift certificate for a professional house cleaning service.
4. Make them a “PCS Survival Kit”
Fill a gift basket with small items like healthy snacks (fresh fruit, homemade trail mix, assorted nuts, etc.), bottled water, hand sanitizer, bandages, baby wipes, travel-size toiletries, tissues, a roll of toilet paper (you just never know), hard candy, coloring or activity books with crayons, paper plates and plastic silverware. For a little something extra, include a small book or calendar filled with inspirational quotes or jokes to help keep morale high, a journal for jotting down lists and purging cluttered thoughts and emotions, or a gift card to the Base Exchange (BX) or Commissary. Also, take the time to write your friends a personal note of encouragement for the transition ahead.
5. Put yourself in their shoes
Above all, empathize with them and try to anticipate their needs.
Every servicemember, spouse and child processes the PCS experience in his or her own way. For many, it’s a time of necessary emotional withdrawal as they try to let go of a place they have become attached to so they can allow themselves to look forward to settling in at a new duty station. If your friends suddenly seem detached and turn down your invitations to spend time together, try to understand.
Consider how you might be feeling if you were in their circumstance. Allow them to vent, listen well, and make yourself available to be there to help out with anything they might come to you with. Sometimes, the best thing we can do in times of stress and adversity is simply being there for our neighbors.
Because, in the words of The Beatles, “[we] get by with a little help from [our] friends.”