Our Relocation with Kids Tips series continues. We already discussed how you can prepare your kids for a relocation and what you should research before the move. Now let's talk about things you can do with your kids before moving to a new home, which can help them say goodbye to the old one.
I suppose, 'last days' ritual is pretty similar for many expats. I'll describe here what we usually do before the move with our kids (and we had 3 of those so far, getting ready for the 4th one) and I will be happy to hear your suggestions and tips on this matter!
1. Re-visit all the favourite places.
Playgrounds, parks, places of interest - everything that your kids loved the most at your current location. Taking photos and making videos, taking it all in and enjoying. We would, probably, never come back to this place again, but we would keep good memories of it with us for the rest of our lives and that makes it easier to say goodbye.
2. Saying goodbye to friends.
We arranged a farewell party for our older daughter in her kindergarten, making sure that she could say goodbye to her friends, but also remember this day in a positive way. You can arrange seperate play dates with best friends, take them out somewhere nice. Make this a special occassion that children would enjoy.
3. Keeping in touch.
We always take contacts of all the families and kids that our daughter gets close to. I can reach their mothers via facebook or email, but we also have their postal addresses. Whenever my daughter remembers her friends and feels sad about not seeing them, we can sit down together and make a handmade postcard, which she would decorate herself. Sending real letter by post is an interesting activity for kids and gives them something real to connect with. My daughter has penpals in Japan, Turkey and Russia and it makes her feel that, although, those friends are far away, they're still in her life.
4. Discuss the replacements.
Whenever you kids show that they're sad about leaving something behind (a favourite playground? their room?), discuss what they will be getting instead. As we were getting furniture for our new home in UK, we sat down to choose a bed for my older daughter together. She cannot wait now to get to her new room and sleep in her pink princess bed - the one we'll be leaving behind does not seem that appealing anymore :) Not being able to go to a kids farm? I already found something similar in our new home town online and we browsed the photos, planning a visit. Wishing to join a local hockey team? Apparently, there's one in our UK town as well. Find alternatives that would sell the new home to them, making it easier to leave the old home behind.
5. Collect souvenirs.
Is there something specific to your country of residence that your children might like to take with them? For example, we bought several books with a little mole character - the most popular cartoon character in Czech Republic. Reading these books in UK would bring back the memories of the Czech home.
6. Talk about your feelings with your kids.
Let them know how you deal with this change. Help them understand that the move is not the end of the world - things are changing, but there will be plenty of positive things coming with this change. I am telling my daughter how I keep in touch with my friends, who live all over the world. Thank God for the wonder of internet!
7. Listen to them.
Even if you think that they worry about silly little things, those things are not little to them! Leaving behind a favourite play group for them is the same as for you to leave your social circle. Show them that you understand their worries, that it's ok to feel sad about it - you feel sad sometimes as well! Sometimes, just knowing that someone understands you is already a great help.
8. Be positive!
Can't stress that enough! Children are mirrowing parents in a lot of ways. If you can be positive about the move, they can be as well!
Of course, no matter how much advice you can find online, your situation is always unique and requires a unique approach. I hope that at least some of the points above can help you and your kids with a relocation :)
Yuliya, author of Expat Kids blog on Easy Expat, is also the author of TinyExpats.com, writing about expat life and travels of their nomadic family, sharing their journey with two tiny expats.