The end of the school year, especially in the international school environment, is marked by goodbyes. Besides saying goodbye to classroom teachers and the group children have been with for a whole year, there is the extra challenge of preparing to move if your family is relocating someplace else, or preparing to say goodbye to friends that are moving away.
It is not an easy task and I doubt it is anyone’s favourite thing to do, but these goodbyes are very important parts of the transition and the adaptation to the new circumstances. Children, just like us adults, can try very hard to avoid dealing with the pain and even deny the experience. Ambiguous feelings are the norm, and we just do not like feeling confused!
Below you can find some tips for helping your children (and yourself!) cope with changes and transitions related to saying goodbye.
It is important to take the time to honour the friendships and the good memories built together. Sometimes it is helpful to build something concrete that can be worked on such as a picture book, letter, poem, or meaningful small gift that can be given to the person you are saying goodbye to (either staying or leaving). Know that this is not at all about the material value, but it is about representing the importance of the person in your life.
Although it is tempting, do not avoid talking about the move or missing their friend once he/she is gone. Allow your child to miss the friend and acknowledge it. It is a normal part of life. Don’t bring it up all the time, but be open to talk about it if your child wants to. They might also just respond by feeling sad, angry, irritable, and not make the direct connection to the situation.
Encourage new or reinforce existing relationships; not in the sense of replacing a friend, but increasing the confidence in their ability to nurture relationships just like before – every friendship needs some time and effort to begin and flourish. As I always say, we only add and multiply friends, and never lose the true ones we have met in our paths. Things change, of course, but this can be a wonderful opportunity to learn, be flexible and develop social and emotional intelligence.
It is sad to say goodbye, but only because you had the joy of meeting special people. To the ones leaving, I wish you all the best and please do keep in touch! For the returning families, I will be happy to see you next year, and we will go through all the changes and adaptations together. But it is not time for goodbyes yet! Let’s cherish the last weeks of school and make it the best for the children!
For more ideas, please check:
When Friends Have to Say Goodbye
Helping Children Say Goodbye to Teachers and Friends
How to Help Your Kids Say Goodbye
DOs and DON’Ts of Being the “Expat Left Behind”