Expat life is full of goodbyes, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy.
The city that we are lucky enough to call home (albeit temporarily for some) is full of momentum and change. And as expats, we must learn to manage and adapt to the changes that happen around us in order to cope. One of the hardest things about living in the 852 (when you’re from somewhere else) is the feeling that we are perpetually saying goodbye to our friends and neighbours.
It was hard enough when we left our friends and family back home. And once we said farewell to the family and made the move, we had to come to grips with the seemingly frequent departure of friends and loved ones here in Hong Kong.
Saying goodbye is hard enough as an adult, but for children it can be a confusing and lonely time. So what can we do to help our little ones understand and cope with their feelings when they need to say goodbye to their family or when their friends move on?
According to Dr. Susan Linn, a founding director of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood from 2000 to 2015and lecturer at Harvard Business School, helping our children to cope with change is all about laying a solid foundation in which they can confidently express their feelings. Being listened to and empathised with is key.
“Helping children successfully manage the separations that inevitably occur is a good way to help them develop lifelong strategies for managing loss,”says Dr Linn. “Let your child know that you hear what she/he is saying. Feeling unheard compounds a child’s sense of isolation.”
Experts at Bright Horizons, an international provider of early education that focuses on nurturing each child’s unique potential, believe saying goodbye is a lifelong process that does not necessary have to be negative.
“Children may react to change with excitement and enthusiasm, or crying, sulking and even using aggression,” says one expert at Bright Horizons. “Talk to your child about the positive things. Too much talk about how hard it is to say goodbye can sometimes make our children more upset. While we should never ignore our children’s feelings, it’s also important to be encouraging.”
If your kids are older – say, in middle school – sometimes the move can be exciting for them. But, says Linn, “those two feelings don’t cancel each other out.” The trick is to address both of those emotions by asking what they are excited about as well as what they will miss. Doing so lets your child know that both of those emotions are normal and acceptable.
With high school children, farewells are often more personal and difficult to address. Many teenagers prefer to suffer in silence, and most kids don’t talk to their parents about what they’re feeling. What should parents do? According to Linn, give them confidence. Tell them, “I know this is going to be hard. But I believe you can do this.”
Frequently having to say goodbye is one of the more difficult ramifications of being an expat. But using these simple techniques can help you and your child develop coping strategies that will have lifelong benefits.
This article was originally published on Sassy Mama Dubai.