With the start of the school year, the summer comes to an end. Often, it’s a time for goodbyes. Whether it’s a grandparent going back home, or a friend moving away, or a teacher finding another job – goodbyes are inevitable. Children who get easily attached are more affected than others; all we can do is cushion the blow.
I remind my kids of the departure the day before. We usually make a goodbye card for the person leaving and/or wrap a simple, meaningful gift – it could be a framed picture of the two together or a book that they both enjoyed. During the activity, I explain why the person is leaving, and where they are going. We talk about all the memories and I encourage them to express their feelings. We talk about if and when they will see them again and ways in which they can stay in touch if that’s a possibility. If not, I tell them that they will always have the happy memories of the time spent together. This process provides a sense of closure for the kids and prepares them for the farewell. When the time comes to say goodbye, the children having already processed their feelings are able to separate easily with limited tears and without beseeching the person to stay.
I plan an activity that the children enjoy—a trip to the park or a play date—right after the goodbye so that the children’s focus shifts away from the sadness to excitement.
I also make a concerted effort to stay connected with the people they are attached to so that if they ask for them, they can talk to them over the phone or Skype, or even visit if possible. It provides security in that the children don’t feel abandoned.
Even if children seem unaffected by it, it’s still a good idea to talk to them briefly about the person leaving. Children, especially the younger ones, aren’t able to verbalize their feelings and might find it confusing. It’s safer to explain it than to ignore it. “The most painful goodbyes are the ones that are never said and never explained.”
Note: This is the final part of the series, “Parenting in Public.” As a parent of two little boys, I have tried and tested the techniques shared in this blog and I hope you were able to find some of these ideas helpful. Thank you all for reading! Until next time…
Sara Zaidi is a child therapist and the creator of Building Healthy Minds and Happy Families. With advanced degrees in psychology and mental health and over ten years of clinical experience, Sara helps parents navigate through the challenging early stages of their children’s lives by explaining the cognitive, emotional and social development of children from a neurological and behavioral perspective. Read her parenting blog at www.sara-zaidi.com/parenting-blog and visit www.sara-zaidi.com to learn more about her work.