The majority of people reading this are from another country. We become ‘expats’ to provide for our families, see different parts of the world and introduce our children to the wide array of cultures that are around us every day.
By introducing our children as well as ourselves to new people, we have the opportunity for forge ties that can last a lifetime.
But, there is also the time when many of those people, make a choice to move on, either back to their home countries, a new school, a new country, etc.
For adults, we understand it. We may not like it but we understand it. We understand that even though we have made some good friendships, people will eventually move on and we may or may not keep in touch. For our children, it can be very different regardless of age.
Children can sometimes live in that bubble. Everything revolves around them. You remember when you were growing up and going out with your friends and playing until dark and to this day, you are still friends with them. They were important and pivotal relationships growing up.
But when a child knows their best friend ‘BFF’ is leaving the country, it can be a real blow to them.
Here are a few ideas to help them cope with this often difficult situation. Take note that this also applies to our local friends who, unfortunately, have to see many of us leave the country as well.
Introduce your children to as many other children as possible
Get them working the social circle as quickly as possible. The more friends the merrier. Arrange play dates and study buddies. Some may only want one friend, but having many allows for more variety in their relationship building.
Discuss why we live where we live.
Have regular discussions with your children about the choice made to live where we live. Why it is interesting, culturally rich, adventurous, full of so many opportunities to meet people from all walks of life.
Talk about the value of friendship.
Keep open lines of communication with your children. Ask about their friends, what they are doing, the exciting things they talk about. Discuss how important their ‘friendship network’ is and how to make it mutually beneficial.
When a move happens.
Whether it is your own family that moves away or your friends who leave, it’s important to do one thing – LISTEN. They will have questions, they will be emotional, they may be angry. These are all normal and there is no way to solve the situation other than by just simply listening to them and empathising. Bring your own feelings in if you are also losing the parents who are friends to the move, too.
Make a Plan
We are lucky enough to be in a tech age where we can communicate via email and the various social media platforms. We are one swipe away from shortening that distance for our kids.
Work with the parents to start off with emails or other social communication options once per week at least. Then they can continue to communicate together. Give them the options to talk on the phone periodically to catch up. Why not use ‘snail mail’? It was always exciting getting a ‘real’ letter. This will make the transition much easier on them and also on you.
We are very fortunate to meet different people every day. And, if those relationships last a lifetime, we are lucky. If they don’t, it certainly made a difference for the time we had.
These messages are important to convey to our children. Keep them going!