Today I have a guest writer. I sort of met Christa in college *ahem* years ago, then re-met while living and working at the same school. She is from the US, but married an Auzzie, and is living there now. I asked her to share a tool that she uses when working with TCKs as they transition from one place to another. I know you will LOVE this idea. It’s simple, brings out conversation, and turns out beautiful.
Four years ago when our family was moving from China to Australia we went to a departure seminar led for all of the team members who were moving. We were very fortunate to have a culture in our team of giving those who were leaving a weekend away with caring facilitators to think through the leaving process and to plan our goodbyes.
We were also very fortunate that departure activities were thoughtfully chosen and prepared for our two boys. All weekend long they took part in facilitated activities that led them through a process of grieving and thinking through their departure.
Well I can say I am very thankful for the time our children had at that seminar and the lessons they took part in. There was one lesson in particular that was so special I have used it each time I am asked to debrief or talk with a TCK now. When I lead children through this activity I use scrapbook paper and photos but it was originally done with my children using fabric to make a pillow. The activity is so perfect because it is easily adaptable to using whatever materials you are comfortable with.
First, I ask parents to work with children to choose or print off four photos of their time in the host country they have recently moved from. I bring with me a large selection of scrapbook materials and paper. I asked children to choose a background colour and then explain for the next step we will choose two pieces of paper we really like and two pieces we don’t. While we are doing this I ask children to recall two things they really miss and they love about their host county and two things or memories they don’t like about their host country. We each share these memories with each other and it is often surprising even to the siblings what each child shares. Once we are finished sharing our memories we cut out frames for the four photos using the two pieces of paper we liked and two pieces we didn’t. We place our photos in the frames and onto the background.
After that is finished they use the other materials I have provided to decorate the page. I then ask the children to step back and look at the page. Do they like it? What do all the photos look like? Are there individual things they like and don’t like about the page they created? During this time I intentionally compliment different aspects of the page and I also draw out more discussion and details about their time in the host country. We finish up by discussing that even though we might not like some individual things about the pages they are beautiful as a whole and in that way they are just like our time in our host country. God has used the not so beautiful times, (referring to things they share that they didn’t like), and the beautiful times to create something gorgeous and unique in our lives.
The pictures shown here are of this activity which I recently did with our boys after returning from a visit to China. There were so many emotions during and after the visit I felt it would be good to work through our time by doing this activity. There are also pictures of the original pillow they created at the departure seminar four year ago. The leader did the actual sewing for all the children. What a dedicated leader! Our children still take these on every flight.
I hope this activity can be as useful to you as it has been to me when helping kids talk through their feelings. It will always be a continuing process and no one activity or weekend will work through all of their feelings but it has been a huge help to us and helped us to remember all the colours of our time in China in a positive and realistic way.
Christa and her husband lived in China for 12 years. She met her husband, Darren, in China and they married there. Both of their two boys were born in China and lived there until 4 years ago. They moved to Australia, her husband’s home country, in 2010. She has been working with TCKs and other expats since moving to Australia. She is also the China promotions manager for Stacey College and Director of Student Services for Sheridan College. As part of her work she assists students in coming to Australia to study. You can visit her blog at staceycollege.com.