When my husband and I moved into our first home, a 1970’s lake cottage near Fort Hood, Texas, two people knocked on our door amid the mayhem of strewn cardboard boxes. Wally and Bunnie Montgomery—angels sent from above who taught us what it looks like to show up, to welcome a new family, and to genuinely care about strangers.
After 12 moves in 14 years, I have gained many lessons (through experiencing the hospitality of others) on what it looks like to welcome a new family. And like me, you’ve probably also experienced what it feels like not to be welcomed by anyone—a massive challenge during COVID.
Whether you are a seasoned military spouse or this is your first year married to a service member, you have the ability to help another family feel cared for during the turmoil and upheaval that comes with a PCS. Here are 10 ways you can practically welcome a new family.
1. Introduce yourselfThis one is simple. When you know a new family is set to arrive, send a text message, call them on the phone, make a video message, or best of all, meet in person! Likely, incoming families don’t know anyone in the area, so make it a point to be their first connection.
2. Offer babysitting and/or petsittingMoving into a new house with kids and pets is a major operation. Help ease this burden by offering to play with the kids and/or pets in the yard, at the park, or at your house.
3. Take the spouse on a tour of the post or cityBoth practical and relational, offer the spouse a tour of their new town. Show them your favorite spots and the places they need to know about. Stop at a pretty park for a walk together or sample the goods at a local coffee shop you love.
4. Provide a mealMaking a meal feels next to impossible in the middle of unopened boxes, empty refrigerators, and haphazardly covered counters. Offer to bring a new family dinner and extend some options. Maybe they would like to join you at your house to escape from the chaos, meet you at your favorite local restaurant, or they might prefer a meal dropped off while they power through unpacking.
5. Invite them to do something fun in the local communitySometimes you just need a break from the stress of moving. Invite the new spouse or family to a local attraction to help them destress and have some much-needed fun. This is also a great opportunity to get to know them personally and start a new relationship.
6. Ask them what they need (and offer ideas)When met with the question, “What can I do to help you?” the new family might be tempted to say, “Nothing, we’re fine.” Don’t let that be the final answer. We all need help after a PCS. Give them some options you are willing to provide and then follow through.
7. Bring an ice cream party to their doorOne of my friends said this was the most welcoming gift ever, especially for her four kids. A woman showed up at the door with a whole ice cream party for the new family to enjoy. What a sweet surprise!
8. Offer to be the emergency contactWe live in a unique community that often requires us to list practical strangers as our emergency contact on our kids’ school and activity forms. Ease the awkwardness by providing your contact information before they have to wonder who to possibly ask.
9. Invite them to your churchPlugging into the local church is a fantastic way to get connected and feel supported during this transition phase. Provide the new family with a list of churches people love or better yet, invite them to meet you at your church.
10. Deliver a housewarming giftDelivering a housewarming gift is simple and always appreciated. Show up with a little potted plant, an arrangement of flowers, a basket of healthy snacks, a plate of baked goods, a scented candle, a new doormat, a wreath, or a box of activities to keep the kids entertained.
We have all been the new ones in town. We know how it feels to come rolling in completely frazzled and unfamiliar. Let’s pull together as loving military spouses and go out of our way to intentionally welcome the new people (who, as we all know, will soon become family).