Good-byes are never easy, especially when you live overseas. In many ways it is like death. You say your good-byes not knowing if you’ll ever see the person again here on earth. You depart. You cry. You see old photos. You cry some more. Then time passes and life goes on. You keep in touch with Facebook, email, and possibly even Skype, but most of the time you don’t.
It is hard, but what about our kids? Third Culture Kids grow up saying good-bye to friends every year. It is normal for them. Either they are the ones moving or a friend is leaving. It is just the way of expat life.
In a few days we will have to say good-bye to a couple of dear friends. We leave for the summer to visit family and when we return they will be gone. They are close friends of mine and their kids are close to my kids. So, how do we, as parents, help our TCKs deal with the coming and goings of people in their life? I’m not sure I have all the answers, but here is what I am trying to do this week.
1. *Talk about it. I have been talking to my kids about their friends leaving this year. We’ve talked about where they are going, how they feel about it, and to some extent what to expect next fall. For my oldest, he understands and has gone through this too many times for his ten years. As for my youngest, I don’t think she gets it. This will be the first time really for her to experience it. I’m expecting tears.
2. Listen. Stop talking and just listen to what your kids have to say about the situation. When my son was four, I cried with him when his friend returned to South Korea. Now I listen to my daughter tell me where her friend is going next. And I will sit and cry with her when reality hits.
3. Photos. Take photos of them together with their friends. Even if you have to force one from your older kids, they will be thankful later when they see it. This has been great for my whole family. We have photo albums of friends we’ve met along this expat journey. Make these photos visible if your children want that. Let them make a photo album of their own with memories of their friend(s) that are leaving.
4. Say Good-bye. Make sure they get the chance to say good-bye. Even if you need to drive a half hour to do so, just do it. Kids need that part of closure. Even better, offer to take the kids for ice-cream, swimming pool, or to the park. I’m sure the parents would appreciate the extra uninterrupted time to finish packing plus it is a great memory for both children. Another idea is to have them make cards for their friend leaving and be sure to exchange contact info with the family if you don’t already have that.
5. Listen. After the friends have long boarded the plane and are gone, listen again. It maybe a month later, but listen. Sometimes kids just need you to be there to cry with them. To know that it is painful and that you care about them. And then again, maybe they don’t want you around. Be flexible – don’t hover, but be available to listen. It’s a balance act that I can’t say I have mastered, but trying to fine tune it.
Saying Good-bye is never going to be easy, but I think we can help our kids make the transition by being there.
*I just read this article today by Julia Simens about transitions. I really like the idea of teaching my children that transitions happen ALL the time no matter if you are TCK being “left behind” or if you are in elementary school going into middle school. Transitions are a part of life, but I do believe that we need to help our kids through them. As you know,some transitions are a whole lot more fun than watching your best friend pull away in the car loaded with suitcases.
Your Turn: Got any tips on helping TCKs say “Good-bye” in a healthy way? Did you read Julia’s article? What are your thoughts? Please share in the comments below.
- Book Review: “Home Keeps Moving” by Heidi Sand-Hart (raisingtcks.com)
- Global-Minded Children. (raisingtcks.com)
- Are You Raising Messed Up Kids? (drieculturen.blogspot.com)