This is the time of year when nearly everyone at an International school will be touched by goodbyes. I had been writing a piece about how to prepare your kids to leave well when I stumbled across some old photos.
They feature my then 5 year old daughter in each of the empty rooms of our home that we were about to leave. Sounds sad doesn’t it? Except it wasn’t, instead it captures a ridiculously funny 10 minutes in the life of an erstwhile organised mother.
My daughter had decided that a different crazy pose was required for each room and as I had left it late on moving day…we dashed, giggling from room to room, completely focused on our last minute goal. Unlike the photos from the bon voyage party and the family farewell gatherings, I hadn’t printed or displayed them, so they seemed like lost treasure. When she (now 12) saw them she said “aah I LOVED doing that Mum”. “How come?” I asked. “Because you were silly too!” she replied.
An interesting reminder for me. We know as parents that our children crave for those times when we are truly lost in the moment with them. We also know how hard that is to give when we’re in the middle of an International move, but it’s worth letting your own inner child out to play for short bursts.
For the sensible, organised parent side of you, it’s really helpful to your child if you can also hand over some control about the leaving process. For their goodbyes, encourage them to:-
Make a list of WHO - be prepared for surprises!
Have ideas about HOW - big party, small get togethers, sleep overs etc.
Work out WHERE - special places to visit, favourite beach, cafe, park etc.
Your role is to listen, not second guess and then facilitate what seems reasonable. You’re in charge of:-
Logistics - selecting achievable options and scheduling preparation time to make it happen.
Recording - either directly or helping them with photos, videos, journals, memory books etc.
Care - adding in periods of quite time to prevent overwhelm. This is the most important but the one most likely to get squeezed out.
Saying farewell is vitally important for all children at International schools, as they experience more goodbyes during their school years than most adults do during the course of a lifetime. Ideally with a each goodbye, they can feel the loss, acknowledge what’s been good and be supported by people who care about them.
This can be very hard for children and parents alike but it’s proven to be better than glossing over it and ‘putting on a brave face’. From my professional standpoint, I’d recommend starting the planning phase with your kids in the Easter holidays but as June is nearly upon us, it’s time to switch to a pragmatic approach. So, listen to your children and incorporate as many of their ideas as you can, insist on some quite periods and allow yourself to be spontaneous - all of these will really help you connect with them at this difficult time. For me, finding those ‘lost treasure’, silly leaving photos reminded me that a genuine and good-enough approach beats a perfectly planned and executed one every time. What a relief!
If you’d like some more information about this topic, I’ve put together a FREE course called 'Help your kids leave well’ which has advice, tips and worksheets for families about to relocate.