The time of year has come for the expat communities of the world – that time of ebb and flow of suitcases, boxes and RAFT building. At times it may feel more like emotional waves crashing, letting go of a child who graduates can be specially daunting.
As a mom of a son who will soon begin his year of “lasts”, this has been on my heart: how will I let him go with grace and peace?
This week I am guest writing for Multicultural Kid Blogs about how to let our kids go as they prepare to leave “home”. Click here to read more.
Yesterday I wrote about building your RAFT during the moving transition. It really is important to take time to do it and to be intentional to help your TCKs build their own. Children are not mature enough to understand all that they are feeling about this impending move. Maybe they didn’t have any say in whether the move was going to happen or not. Maybe they did, but their vote didn’t count – or at least that is how they feel. Either way, it is always good to talk about it with them – or at least try.
Ask open ended questions – not ones they can answer with a “yes” or “no”. Ideas could be “How do you feel about….” or “What do you think about…” Whatever questions you ask, the point is to get them to talk about the moving process.
Listen, Listen, Listen – After you ask the questions, listen and take mental notes. You might be surprised what they tell you. Your child might tell you about an argument she was in with her best friend. Or maybe he/she might mention a favorite place they will miss that you had no idea was such a big deal to them. You might hear about the fears, the anger, and the grief that your child is going through.
Plan Good-Byes – Sit with your child and make a friend’s list, then plan what they would like to do to say good-bye. Maybe they want a sleep-over, tea and cake party, or even going out and doing something – remember though to do what your child likes to do, not what you love to do. Oh, and take pictures – lots of pictures. Another idea is to have your TCKs write letters telling their special friends good-bye. It will help them process and give them the opportunity to say “Good-bye”.
Note Memories – Do something with the photos you’ve taken. Either make an album or allow your child to make their own album. My friend, Shelley, made her daughter a photo album when they went back “home” on furlough last year. She put in photos of her child’s home, desk, bedroom, favorite activities, and friends. I just took my daughter bowling with a group of her good friends. I took many photos, of course. I had a notebook that I had each girl write in. They could write a memory or whatever they wanted to tell Mei Mei. I told them to leave a page free and as soon as I develop the photos, I’ll put them in. Later after we move, I’ll give Mei Mei her book. Now, my son doesn’t want his friends to write anything – but we’ll still take photos of their upcoming campout and I’ll make some sort of album for him because I know he’ll go back and remember the good memories.
Use a Calendar – Remember to say good-bye to places and things. This could be favorite restaurants, night market stalls, tea shops, parks, swings, even a climbing tree or hiking trail. With all the good-bye parties and end of the school year activities time will run out if you don’t plan. Use a calendar to mark out dates to go and see whatever your children (and yourself) want to go to one last time. Again, TAKE photos. Seriously, after a few years – or even months – you’ll forget and wish you could remember.
Read books about TCKs – This one you could do anytime, but right now I’m holding a giveaway party with Valérie Basenceney, author of B at Home: Emma Moves Again. She has agreed to give one signed copy of her book about a TCK moving to one of you! Here is your chance to get a book for your child. You still have time to register – so click here and here (extra points). Other books that I’ve reviewed can be found by either clicking here or clicking on the tab labeled “Book Review”. It’s always good for kids to read about others to know they are not alone in how they feel, especially when it comes to moving.
These are just a few ideas, but I think the most important is communication. Remember that communication involves listening, not just talking. Sometimes I think as a parent it is easier to do all the talking and we forget to listen – or maybe it is just me.
Remember, only one day left for the giveaway. May 30th is the deadline, so go and enter the giveaway. It costs you absolutely nothing.
When I wrote this post a few years ago we were in a middle of a move. No move this summer, but I have a son graduating. He has a big move ahead of him. With him building his RAFT and with the pandemic going on this year, I thought I’d add a few more thoughts.
This time of year is bittersweet for expats and their children. The excitement of summer coming means slower mornings – the breakfast rush of passing out pieces of bread to eat on the way to school is almost over. We know that we’ll get a few months break to recharge before starting back up in the fall. The crazy thing is that after a few days we miss rushing the kids off so they have something to do besides telling us they are bored. For me, though, this summer will be about the beach, a nice large cup of cold tea (I’m so addicted to these Taiwan teas), and it’s looking like packing boxes.
Yep, we are moving – just not sure when. Yeah, that is hard, but will save that for another post as I’m still processing the unknowns. Being married to a TCK, I’ve learned a few tricks from my husband in assisting my kids in this process called moving. My husband and I both really believe in building RAFTs, and this time we are being more intentional in helping our now older kids build their own.
Are we building a boat? No, not literally. RAFT is an acronym that the late David C Pollock developed to help people transition. This process of moving can take up to six months or more. Below is the simple form of this model. If you have the opportunity to go to a seminar or workshop – GO! Seriously, it will change the way you do the move – and I’m not talking about a dance step.
R = Reconciliation
Reconciliation is just that: reconciling with people, making the relationship right. Just because you leave a place doesn’t mean the problem goes away. It doesn’t – instead it goes with you. Research has been done on health related issues due to unforgiveness. Just google it and see for yourself.
A = Affirmation
Is there anyone you are super thankful for? Anyone who has helped you greatly while living in that city? Tell them. Let them know how much you appreciate them and what they did for you, for your kids, for your family. Awkward? Write a letter to tell them – but just tell them. You have the opportunity to make someone feel appreciated – and you’ll feel great that you did it.
F = Farewell
This is the not so fun part; saying good-bye. You immediately think of all the people you want to tell good-bye. An article I just read on this topic stated to rank your friends, which sounds harsh, but I do think is a good idea. Don’t forget to say “Good-bye” to places and things as well. This may sound strange, but it really helps to bring closure. This one is important for kids as well. Plan these “events” on a calendar so you get them in. I’ll write more on this later this week…so much you can do to help your kids here.
T = Think Destination
It’s just that – think about the next place. How will it be different from where you are now? How will it be the same? Go through this dialogue with your kids as well. It will help them in the process as well. Look up on the internet and read about the new place. Check it out on Google Maps. Reminder: It’s okay to feel excited about the new destination as you say good-bye to all the old things. It’s normal.
With the pandemic that rocked the world and seemed to turn it upside down this year, many people had to leave quickly without having a chance to build a proper RAFT. What can be done about that? How do you go day to day feeling incomplete or missing something? I’ve talked with a few friends who are in that situation. And you can Zoom, Face Time, or Skype in with people to tell them what you need to tell them. You can enter Google Earth to “visit” some of the places you couldn’t go and see. But, it’s not the same. I’m not sure there is an answer that wraps up the ugly, messy feelings in a nice red bow. In time things become normal. In time, you may get to return to say good-bye, but you can’t be sure everyone or everything will be there. You may find that you need to talk to a professional because the loss is traumatic and great. And as you are trying to figure it all out, you need to be mindful of your kids and help them process it as well. You are grieving as a family, which requires a good amount of grace and wisdom.