Carte blanche: Moving is inevitable, but there is a way to lessen the stress on your kids, says Barbara Gorges-Wagner.
With the end of the academic year, and as is the nature of life in Luxembourg, many students and their families will move away over the summer. This can be a particularly stressful time for your child, whether they are leaving friends behind or in fact staying but waving goodbye.
Where we live, our community of friends is as much a part of our identity as our family or where we come from. This is especially true for older children and teenagers. Leaving friends and moving home can be devastating to them and can lead to a breakdown in communication in the family and even depression.
Good endings help us to move on
This is often connected to their feelings of powerlessness, because they feel as though they have no choice in the necessity to move. In reality this is a fact of life, but as parents we can acknowledge and validate these feelings. We can also be proactive in supporting them in planning and preparing for goodbyes, because good endings help us to move on.
The most important way we can support our families and ourselves in this process is to allow time to talk, and actively listen. This means finding someone who can be trusted inside the family, a friend or an outside person who will listen non-judgmentally to how each member of the family is really feeling about moving and losing contact with close friends.
Excitement and sadness
In the international community, close networks of support are often created by families and when they move adults and children can be affected. Feelings of excitement about a new start may be mingled with sadness and even grief about leaving. At the same time friends that are staying may even have feelings of abandonment.
If you are leaving, preparing for good endings can include organising a goodbye party to celebrate your time and the friendships in Luxembourg. For older children and teenagers this can be a significant event, which includes a chance to take photos or videos, exchange presents with special friends and make plans to keep in contact.
For a very special friend, like the one your child has grown up with, you might want to create a book of memories including pictures of shared events. Exchanging gifts like these can be helpful as transition tools, and if both leavers and stayers contribute they are all the more significant.
Although you may intend to keep in touch, it is important to still mark this time as an ending because relationships change over long distances. This is a valuable lesson for your children to learn and a good time to model how to say goodbye. If you can, talk freely about how you feel and encourage them to do the same.
You or your child may have had to say “goodbye” to several homes and friends already along the way, but do not underestimate how important this process is. Grief is cumulative and if it not expressed, it can cause problems later in life.