August is here and that means that many families in the IMF community are packing their things and beginning to say goodbye to loved ones. The process is not always easy, even if the next move will be a great adventure. Parents may be managing mixed emotions about leaving while worrying about how well the children will transition through this next move.
The most important thing a family can do in the leaving process is to communicate. Expressing yourselves, active listening and seeking to understand each other will reduce stress for all concerned. Julia Simens, the author of Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child, and the parent of two global nomad college students, tells us that, “emotions are the glue that binds people together. Conversely, emotions are also what drive people apart. As your children head off to the next move, prepare them well by being honest with your own emotions and letting them see how to express these emotions.”
Here are some suggestions get the communication going:
Have a family meeting: Create intentional time together. Ask questions that are specific but open ended. For example, ask “What are you most looking forward to?” “What are you most nervous about?” “What do you need from me before we leave?”
Create a family scrapbook: Collect memories of the place you are leaving. Take pictures of the people and places you love and will miss. As the entire family is building the book together, have each person pick five items they want in the book and share why they chose those items.
30 day countdown: Conduct a countdown to the last day before your move. Each day, each family member lists one thing they will miss and one thing they look forward to.
Use pictures and cues: If you have younger children, check out these games and resources that can help the whole family talk about how they feel about the upcoming move. (http://www.scholastic.com/parents/resources/free-printable/reading-printables/minibook-feelings-and-faces) Show them pictures of what their new home will look like, what their new school and its students looks like, etc.
While you are doing these activities keep these pointers in mind:
- Make sure every family member shares their feelings, including parents. After all, communication is a two way street. This will help your child understand that this is a process for you, too, and that you are in this together.
- Be sure to remind your children what traits and skills they have that will help them find success through this next transition
- Listen well. Put your phone down, make eye contact, be aware of the triggers that upset you and/or your child. Repeat back what you hear and ask for clarification. Allow for silences as it can take children and even teenagers some time to articulate how they are feeling.
- Don’t shy away from anger or the silent treatment: both are tactics used to protect from the possible pain of a goodbye.
If you are looking for further support in managing the social and emotional parts of moving, the IMFFA will be holding workshops in the fall for teenagers and for parents with community partner, Sea Change Mentoring. You can also check out our new resource section on the IMFFA website for additional reading.
This is the first article in a three part series for families on the move, created in collaboration with our partner, Sea Change Mentoring. Whether you are leaving, staying, or arriving, check in with us for more insight and resources to support your family through global transition or sign up to attend related workshops in the fall. Dates and location TBD.