In this two part series, I’ve talked (emailed) two families about how they have prepared their children for the move back to the parent’s home country. Notice I didn’t just write home country, as we all know our TCKs don’t always feel it is their home country. This first post is from a family with younger children and the other is from a family that has older children.
I’ve been digitally following this family for over a year now. I enjoy Kim’s writing style and her photos capture the moments. I’ve known Kim for….we’ll just say many years. I think I was a newlywed and she one of the cool single teachers that let me hang-out with them. We have quite a few things in common. We both met the love of our life in Tianjin, China. We both taught grade 5. And we both have three kids all born in China. Her kids are younger than mine, but they follow the pattern: boy, girl, girl (and the third child is also adopted from China).
Kim and her husband, Patrick, just repatriated to the US almost six months ago. She blogged about her experience with the move and some about what she did to help her kids (ages 6.5, 5, and 3) with the transition. I knew I wanted to interview her about it because she just has wisdom pouring out from her. And don’t we all want to hear from people like that?
“We got a lot of advice. We knew about two years in advance that a relocation was coming up, but that such young kids did not need to know so far in advance.”
The key is to balance two needs…
Kim and Patrick asked adult TCKs and early childhood specialists about how they should explain this move to their children. The consensus seemed to be within six months. Kim explains that the key is to balance two needs: 1) As small children, too much time with news of a big move was too abstract to be of any real benefit however 2) waiting too long to tell them increased the risk of them hearing it from someone else.
“Six months allowed for openness within our community for an appropriate amount of time, but did not burden our little ones with a hard-to-grasp impending move for too long.”
Lasts, Losses, and Logistics…
As the community and the children all knew of the move, Kim and her husband began talking with their children about lasts, losses, and logistics. They made lists with their kids what they wanted to do one more time, or as Kim called it their “Tianjin bucket list”. Some ideas were fun places in the city they loved like the TV Tower, but many were typical day things they did like play-dates with specific friends or even certain foods from the local market. From this list, Kim and Patrick calculated around sixty days before departure and marked the items on the calendar. They were intentional to make sure that the kids got to celebrate the “lasts” that they wanted. I believe this is important because it gives the children a chance to say good-bye not only to people, but also to places.
Tip from Kim: Towards the end, limit the activities to only a few a day. They limited the kids to one activity/day. They allowed each other a few more, but then took turns watching the kids at home. I think this is great as it helps the kids to feel stable, especially as time gets closer to the end.
Losses are part of lasts, but still need to be talked about. Kim talked with her children about what they were going to miss: people, pets, places and possessions. She knew that this was important – even if it seemed silly, like the blender that stopped working right before the move, but apparently her oldest is a kitchen fan. Check out this post on saying good-bye to the zhou-maker.
Kim and Patrick also talked about logistics with their kids; from packing, shipping and flights. Kim said that the question, “How will that be different in Texas?” brought up all kinds of talks about what to expect in the new location. And her “Moving Book” she made helped with the transition for her youngest. If you don’t check out any of the other links, this one you just must look at. Seriously, a great tool to make for your kids.
“Preparing our family for repatriation was a huge job…one that we did with lots of help and advice, and one that we did imperfectly. Like any parenting endeavor, it is impossible to fully anticipate and fully meet the needs of every child.”
Kim, thanks for sharing your experience and your wisdom with us. And though you may feel like it was “imperfect”, I do believe you did it with grace and wisdom.