Leaving friends and family is not easy for children to process - what more if your child is a third culture kid, for whom relocating is almost a certainty…
Goodbyes are never easy, not when you’re leaving family and friends whom you’ve known for most of your life. Leaving is challenging for us adults, imagine how much harder it must be for children when they’re told they’ll have to say goodbye to their friends and move to a whole new place?
This is a familiar situation for most families with children in international schools. For these children – most of whom are probably third culture kids – relocating and leaving is pretty much an inevitable part of growing up. Hence, it’s super important for us as parents to prepare our children and talk about leaving in advance to help them cope with their feelings when the time comes to relocate.
We spoke to Kevin Dunk, XCL World Academy (XWA) Secondary Years Counsellor, to find out how parents can help their children prepare for the relocation. Leaving a school, community and/or country can be a stressful and disrupting time for students and their families; however, there are a number of things that can turn ‘leaving’ into a positive experience.
For starters, don’t wait until the last minute to tell them about relocating
While some parents may think that breaking the news to the kids too early will affect them negatively, this may not always be the case. According to David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken, authors of a great book called Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds, it’s best to tell your kid about the move the moment “it is ok for it to be public knowledge in the community”. When you feel comfortable enough to break the news to close family and friends, it’s also time to let your child know. Doing this will give your child the time they need to process their feelings, bid goodbye to the current chapter of their lives, and get ready to welcome the next.
Next, help your child build a “RAFT” to their future home and school
So you’ve told your child that the whole family will be moving soon, what next? Kevin suggests using the concept of “building a RAFT” to help children make the transition to their new environment easier. Here’s how you build a “RAFT”:
R for Reconciliation
It’s never good to leave on bad terms, so the first thing to do is help your child resolve any conflicts or unhappy situations they may have. A conflict could be anything from a trivial fight at the playground; or something as major as broken trust in a friendship. It’s best to talk to your child and help them mend and resolve these conflicts if possible. Otherwise, it’s still good to talk them through it and teach them how to process these unhappy feelings.
A for Affirmation
Encourage your child to think about the positive experiences they’ve been through in their current environment, especially memories with family members and friends they have at school. Together with reconciliation, both steps will help your child have fond memories of their current home, which paves the way for a happier transition to their new environment.
F for Farewell
It goes without saying that bidding farewell is the focus in the process of moving away. Talk to your child about “last”, e.g. the last time to see their friends, the last day in their current school, the last visit to their favourite playground. This ensures that the leaving process doesn’t feel too abrupt and that your child will have time to properly bid their favourite people and places goodbye.
T for Think destination
Finally, prepare your child for their future home and school by encouraging them to think about the new destination. You can do this by virtually exploring your new neighbourhood and city: show them the fun places you can hang out at as a family, let them know what their new school looks like, or show them a map of the city and let them pick out the places they want to explore. This way, your child can have something to look forward to while being mentally prepared to be in a new environment.
Pro tip: Speak to your child’s future school to find out how they can help with the transition process
Your child’s school will be one of the places that they’ll be spending most of their time at, which is why you’ll need to find one that can assist your family with your child’s transition to a new place. While you may be able to find a school that teaches the same curriculum as your child’s current school, they will still need time to adjust to the new physical environment. If you’ve yet to choose a new school, spend some time speaking to the Admissions team of the shortlisted schools to find out what they can do to help your child settle in.
From the initial school tours to eventual enrolment, XCL World Academy (XWA) aims to ensure that they “know their learners” – your children. They try to find out as much as they can about their students before their first day at school – interests, strengths, and areas for improvement. This information assists in the decisions about class placements, selecting a transition buddy and like-minded students to support your child’s arrival and help them find their way at XWA.
Your child will also receive social-emotional support from their respective Heads of Grade and Pastoral Leaders, all of whom will ensure the school provides a safe learning and growing space for your child. Their open-door policy encourages any parent to meet with a teacher, counsellor or administrator to discuss their child’s progress.
You can also visit your preferred schools once your family has settled into their new home. This allows you and your child a peek into what school life will be like and helps them get mentally prepared for it. XWA offers customised private school tours for interested families, where you’ll be able to meet members of staff, as well as see teaching and learning in action.
The key to starting a new chapter well is to leave the last one well
To quote the authors of Third Culture Kids, “leaving right is the key to entering right”. Being informed about the impact of transition, and having support along the journey, goes a long way towards helping you and your child have a successful move.
This post is in partnership with XCL World Academy