August is typically a month filled with fun summer festivities and back-to-school shopping, but for military kids who just underwent a PCS move, it can be a time of anxiety as they prepare to start their new school. The Kimball family understands the growing pains of adjusting to a new area well, and they have advice for military families as they prepare for the start of a new school year.
In June, Joe Kimball retired from a long career in the Coast Guard. He served as an officer and military aviator for the past 28 years, as well as Chief of Aviation Forces for the past three years. He and his wife Shelley also have two children, Joe, 15, and Grace, 13. While the moves presented obstacles over the years, the Kimballs successfully completed six PCS moves.
PCS moves can pose challenges for all members of a military family, but the Kimballs excel at adapting and overcoming problems. For example, when Shelley had left her tenured teaching position at the University of South Alabama to relocate to Miami, Florida, where Joe was Commanding Officer of Air Station Miami, she struggled to find a teaching opportunity in the area. Instead of teaching, Shelley decided to focus on her other passions: military families and research. As a result, Shelley became the Director of Research at the Military Family Advisory Network.
While she admits that it was hard to take a leap of faith and put her teaching career on hold, she explains, “that path has led me to places I never would have dreamed.”
Now that the Kimballs are in Washington D.C., Shelley is still the Director of Research at the Military Family Advisory Network, but she is also able to pursue her teaching dreams as a media law professor at George Washington University in addition to teaching online with the University of Florida. Shelley’s ability to think outside the box and reinvent herself is something that the Kimballs have taught their children as well. As a result, the Kimball kids are pros at adjusting to new schools after a PCS move.
Adjusting to a new school
Shelley, who grew up as an Air Force kid, now has experience transitioning to a new school district both has a mother and as a kid herself. This perspective allows her to connect with her own children and help them through tough transitions like this.
One thing that Shelley and Joe try to do when their kids are starting a new school is to focus on the adventure. Shelley notes that “adventure comes with scary days too, but you’re stronger for every time you try something new.” The Kimballs do their best to get Grace and Joe excited about the transition by focusing on the opportunities that the new school provides. This outlook has helped shape the way that Grace and Joe adapt to new situations.
Their son Joe, a sophomore in high school this fall, has a passion for broadcasting. Shelley explains that Joe’s first school had a broadcast station, so he’s been involved in it since kindergarten, and luckily, each of his six schools have had a broadcasting club. Having an interest to pursue at each location helped him adjust every PCS move.
Similarly, Grace, who starts eighth grade this fall, has been able to pursue music at each of her four different schools. She loves musical theatre in addition to playing the violin, flute, and guitar. At each of her schools, she has had the opportunity to pursue her love of music which has helped her acclimate to each place.
Shelley says, “my kids are really brave and outgoing in ways I never was and I am awed by how well they start new things.”
Even kids who are returning to the same school they’ve been in for a few years can be anxious about the start of a new school year, and Shelley stresses that “everybody needs a friend.”
Making friends in middle school is notoriously challenging, but Grace has advice for true friends. She encourages kids not to try to act like the popular kids just to fit in. Instead, she advises new kids to stay true to themselves. Grace explains, “you’ll find people that welcome you for you. You will find friends that you can relate to, so don’t try to be someone you’re not when it comes to this.”
As a high schooler, Joe also looks for friends he can be his true self around. He says, “I always find a group of people to join with — that’s how I fit in, that’s how I calm myself when I am starting a new school.” He explains that the first step to making friends is just going up to someone and saying hello.
Returning to the same school
While the Kimball kids are no strangers to being the new kids, they also have experience returning to the same school in the fall. Since the Kimballs are used to being the new kids, they realize the importance of reaching out to new kids every school year, whether they are returning students or not.
Joe encourages military kids returning to the same school to reach out to any new kid and ask them about their history. Joe explains that he always tries to make the new kids feel comfortable.
Grace adds, “if you see a new face, don’t hesitate to walk up to them and introduce yourself because that will make them feel that much more welcome. Try to become friends with them — it will make their day much better just knowing there is someone who is there for them.”
Heading back to school in the fall often comes with a set of challenges. However, despite the stress accompanying a new school year, Shelley explains it’s a clean slate for everyone, even those that aren’t starting a new school, and that should be exciting.Read comments