Helping kids cope with goodbyes

02 Feb

Following on from Christina’s post about processing goodbyes, the Beijing Kids magazine website posted a lovely article last month about coping with goodbyes – a constant part of life in expat communities, and part of the fabric of a TCK‘s life. I’m having difficulty pulling out a few “best bits” to share with you – it’s definitely worth reading in its entirety.

It’s always a struggle, especially when you have children, accepting that people move and others come to take their space – but not their place – in our lives. During this change, we all feel a sense of abandonment or disappointment or lack of control, just maybe not in the same way.

The thing I most appreciate is that Charlotte, the author, is writing from a dual perspective – as an expat losing friends, and as a mother helping her children to process the loss of their own friends.

One of my daughters has more “I want to go home” meltdowns as these times of year approach. It’s then that she learns who is leaving and when. It’s then that she claims someone as her “best friend ever” and is devastated to lose her. While in the midst of helping her understand that she can keep in touch with her friends, and that other new kids arriving will need lots of friendship support so that they can fit in, inside I cry for her loss.

I love that she has picked out a particular struggle expressed a certain way in one child particularly. All kids (all people) deal with loss in different ways. Expat transitions push different buttons in different people, and they express their emotions differently. It’s important for youth workers to learn to recognise different expressions of grief.
I think one of the biggest challenges for me as a youth worker is to effectively come alongside kids who have very different personalities and temperaments to me. Asking questions, paying attention to the responses others have, helps me be more attentive to what’s bubbling beneath the surface.

I’m an adult, so I should be able to handle these moves a bit more easily…Some cycles hit home more than others. And some you just refuse to accept. I share these feelings with my daughters. It’s important that they see me go through the same emotions that they do when someone dear to them moves on. It’s almost a grieving process of sorts, and support needs to be provided to those of us left behind, even if that means just being able to share your sadness with one other person. One day it will be us moving. It’ll be a different kind of difficulty for us then, but we’ll be leaving others behind who will miss us dearly.

I love that Charlotte says this. It can be easy for kids, especially teens, to feel as though their situation is something no one else can understand, or that they are “weak” for being so affected by the losses they experience. Sharing the grieving process with kids/teens helps them acknowledge their feelings and process the grief, while knowing that things will change.

I’ll leave you with Charlotte’s beautiful ending:

If friends are leaving, we say zaijian and truly wish to keep in touch as much as we say we will. If we are the ones going, we shed a tear and embark on a new adventure. Life goes on.

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Posted by on February 2, 2011 in Expat Life, TCKs


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