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Stay Or Go? The High School Balancing Act

Less than 20 percent of active duty military kids are around high school age, but the issues they face due to moving are often more complex then younger children when it comes to their education. Transferring credits to a new school can create worry about classes that won’t count toward graduation. Then there is the issue of wanting stability for a military kid who may have moved their whole life before they head out into the world.

What are the pros and cons of staying at a duty station versus moving when orders come during the high school years?

The geographically separated parent is nothing new for military families but choosing to do it is different from HAVING to do it. There may be a certain amount of guilt associated with making the decision to keep a child at school until graduation. But there is also the guilt of pulling them out of a school when they want to finish at least their last few years in one place.

No one decision is going to be perfect for everyone. And the decision one family makes may not be the best one for another family. But here are a few tips on making this big decision:

* Let everyone be heard. Sit down and let each person have their say about the situation. Let everyone have a chance to talk without being cut-off. A child should feel as if they can tell why they want to stay at a school or if they prefer to move. Parents may want to talk about their feelings with each other in private as not to influence their child’s input or make them feel guilty once a decision is made.

* Get the facts. Spouses should consider making a pros and cons list prior to talking with each other so they can enter the conversation with a solid understanding of what the advantages and disadvantages are of each decision instead of a general feel for which way they are leaning.

* Find someone who has been in your situation. Talk to other military parents who have decided to stay at a duty station and also those who have moved. Prepare a list of specific questions. While each situation is different, the answers you get should help you to understand, in general, how each situation could play out.

* Don’t discount the emotions involved in your decision. While it is important to understand the pros and cons and solid facts, the emotions of each person who is impacted by the end result cannot be discounted. A child who is truly devastated over having to move during these years or the spouse who feels strongly about staying together can both be powerful reasons to stay or go.

* Be transparent. Be upfront about how a decision is going to be made.

We’re going to listen to how everyone feels, we’re going to gather some solid information, and then mom and dad will make a decision. Once a decision is made, make it known why it was made so a child doesn’t feel as if his feelings were not considered.

Get creative. The final decision should not end with “go” or “stay.” Think of ways to mitigate the impact of either decision on the party who may be disappointed when told what is going to happen. Discuss how you will remain close if a parent must move and the family stays at a duty station. Talk about what you can do to help a child who will have to move yet worries about graduating.

The high school years are bittersweet for many military families. While they are proud to send their child out into the world, they may want to capture those last years as “picture perfect” in what may have been a life full of change, moves, and deployments. 

What has worked for your family when it comes to navigating the high school years as a military family?

Extra Tip: Don’t make your child ride the roller coaster of emotions when it comes to transferring to a new high school. While you may face a battle to get credits counted or finding a way to help them graduate on time, the anxiety of starting at a new school is enough for your child to have to face without having to handle the worry of the process of getting there.

1 Comment

  1. Stephanie on May 13, 2015 at 8:02 pm

    We are currently in a state that has fairly strict high school credit guidelines. How my son’s credits would transfer was definitely a major concern for us as we were supposed to PCS this summer, right before his senior year. We began discussions of requesting senior stabilization as we were driving here, but in a family meeting, decided to reassess the situation the following summer after we had lived here a year to see how everyone was coping with our state’s extreme weather. In the mean time, we did what this article suggested. It was an open conversation between us parents and with all three of our children because this decision would affect everyone. Though two of us wanted to leave (I will admit I am one of them because I really suffer with allergies here to the point I had surgery a few months ago), we decided it was in the best interest of our family to support our student and stay if senior stabilization was approved. It was approved (which is sometimes cringe-worthy for me) and I have a student excited to finish his high school years where he began them. It isnt so much that he has a ton of friends, but rather he has that familiarity with his surroundings and the sports in which he participates, his scout family will root him on, and he will still have some connections to this place.