Preparing for a relocation – When to tell the Kids?

The last months before summer is that time when many people in the international community are preparing for a move. Perhaps this article for which I  was interviewed 2 years ago can give you some insights to help your children make the transition.

In addition to the timing aspect of when to tell your children about an upcoming move I would like to add that it is a very personal question. You want to avoid telling your (young) children at the latest moment. They too need time to prepare and to say goodbye. At the same time, knowing about a move too far in advance may confuse them and bring insecurity in their lives. The author of the article writes I suggested that 4-5 year olds need a 2-3 weeks advance notice before an international move. Although I can’t remember what I said at the time of the interview, I have the feeling the numbers should have been the other way around (2-3 year olds can be prepared 4-5 weeks in advance).

Here are some questions that may help you decide when to tell your children about an upcoming move:

– Is my child someone who needs plenty of preparation to feel safe, or do they generally accept smaller and bigger changes easily?

– How do you as parents feel about the impending move? If you are someone who wants to prepare every detail before your move and feel worried that there is not enough time, your child is likely to notice ‘something is up’ and it might be helpful for them to understand what it is.

– How certainare you about the move? If you know that you will be moving next year, are already looking at a new home in the new location, etc. then it could help to include your child already at an early stage. However, not knowing if, when and where to you will move can provide feelings of insecurity, for you and for your child too. In this case it can be better to wait telling your child or to consider carefully what and how you will tell your child.

Also consider how you will tell your young child; young children may not understand the language we use to explain about a move (moving is quite an abstract concept). Consider using books and other visual input to help your child understand.


Jet Sichterman – 04 May 2017

Do you want to know more about how to prepare your children for an international move?
Perhaps our parent support sessions can be helpful.

How Isabela coped with her friends’ move

This is the story of Isabela. Isabela is 9 years old. Isabela’s parents are expats but they have been living in The Netherlands for a long time and Isabela was born here. Isabela was enjoying school. She got good grades, got along well with the teachers and her peers, and she had two best friends to play with. Her best friends even lived close to her home so that Isabela could have playdates almost every other day. There was not much that her parents needed to worry about, except maybe the occasional sibling rivalry between her and her twin brother Lucas. The two could fight over every little thing, but they could also play well together during other moments. When Isabela did not have a play date she could often join Lucas to his, and when Lucas did not have play dates, he could often join Isabela.

Summer was approaching
Although Isabela’s life was stable and her parents decided to stay in the Netherlands at least until Isabela and Lucas had finished primary school, they were attending an international school, and so change was a constant factor in their lives. The school year was coming to an end and for Isabela, the worst thing she could imagine happened; both of her best friends were moving away.

Isabela’s parents guided Isabela well. They helped her prepare gifts for the departing friends and made sure those last moments of goodbye were special and worthy. They also agreed with the friends’ parents that Isabela could talk with her friends regularly on Skype.  Summer came and the family went on holiday and family visits. Isabela appeared to be doing well, she met her friends on Skype as agreed and was happy to have vacation the rest of the time.

A new school year
But as the new school year started, Isabela had to face the facts. When she came to school, her best friends were no longer there. Although she had always gotten along well with her peers, they were not her friends. Isabela tried to find support with her brother Lucas and his friends. Unfortunately, Lucas and his friends felt that they should no longer play with girls. Each time Isabel tried to join in with them, she faced rejection. Isabela felt very lonely. She often fought with her brother. The sibling rivalry was at an all-time high at home, but now at school too they were regularly found fighting. Isabela even had to be sent to the principal once because she could not contain her anger. In the mornings, Isabela started complaining she did not want to go to school.

Yet with a little help…
Isabela’s parents and teachers had heard about Social Skills 4 Kids and wondered if this program could help Isabela. She joined a group halfway through the school year. Isabela was a bit worried to join, she feared she would be singled out by going to such a group. Although the children in her group had joined for a variety of reasons, Isabela was relieved to find that they had one thing in common; they all were struggling with something and they all were very normal children. During the course, Isabela was challenged to show initiative to join in with other groups and she learned about things she could do when she was feeling very angry. A few weeks into the program, Isabela’s parents reported that she was no longer complaining in the mornings to go to school. Isabela learned to take a break when she noticed her anger was rising high and she learned about ‘helping thoughts’ which she could use during such moments. The fights with her brother diminished and after some weeks, Isabela even found that she was better off now that she could no longer join in with the boys, because she had made new (girl) friends of her own.


Social Skills 4 Kids


Social Skills 4 Kids is a 7 week group course for English speaking children between 7 and 12 years old. New groups are starting 2-3 times per school year at Expat Child Psychology.

Learn more about Social Skills 4 Kids!

* Expat Child Psychology respects the privacy of their clients. Isabela is a fictional character whose story is inspired by several children who followed the course.

4 Myths about raising international children

Nowadays it is easy to find information about any topic on the internet. Unfortunately, there is also a lot of false information out there, for example about living abroad with your family. We at Expat Child Psychology regularly hear about assumptions international families hold or advice they have been given that is not helpful in the long run. Here are 4 often heard myths about raising international children:

1. Children who learn multiple languages develop speech delay.
Parents should only speak the majority language.
This myth is often heard when children start talking later than their peers or know fewer words in the majority language than their peers. However, there is ample evidence suggesting that although it might seem like children who grow up bi- or multilingually have speech delay in each of the languages individually, they are able to express as many (or more) words across their languages as their peers who grow up with one language are able to express in that one language. Additionally, the cognitive and social benefits of growing up with multiple languages are well reported too. Furthermore, advising parents to speak to their child in a language that they do not fully master themselves is a bad idea; this actually might lead to speech delays and it might lead to problems in the connection between parents and child, as the parent may be unable to express their affection or give words to the child’s experienced to the same extend as they would in their native language.

This is not to say that language delays or speech and language problems do not exist among children who grow up with two or more languages. They do. Usually with multilingual children, speech and language problems are not confined to just one language, they are apparent in all the child’s languages and developing a speech and language problem is not related to the fact that the child is learning multiple languages. Another problem that might occur is that a child who is raised multilingually masters only one, or even none, of the language fully. A clear language plan might help ensure the needed exposure to all the languages.

2. Children are very flexible and resilient, an international move is only beneficial for them.
This myth is a tenacious one. Yes it is true that generally speaking children are very flexible and resilient and that growing up internationally can have many benefits for them. However, an international move IS a big step for all of the family. Even young children can and do struggle with international moves. Imagine being a toddler who is just getting to know and understand the world around them, and then being taken in a totally new environment where only your parents and siblings are familiar. In a way you would have to start all over again, trying to make sense of the world. Or imagine being a teenager, in the process of forming your identity and separating from your parents. Now you are taken to another country where you do not know anybody, might not even know the language. You have no friends here and are totally reliant on your parents. What does that say about who you are? A good preparation for the international move and continuous support during the transition can go a long way to help your child face the challenges ahead.

3. Going back home is easy!
Many people believe going back home will be the easy part of an international assignment, and so they might not give much thought to how it will be for their kids. After all, they know the home language so that should not be a problem. They have been in touch with their family at home every big vacation and every week or so through skype, so what could possibly go wrong?

Well, let’s go back to that very first sentence; ‘…going back home will be the easy part…’. Whether this part of an international assignment will be the easy part for any person involved depends on a number of things; How long have you been away from home? How different was the country you were relocated to from your home country? How well did you keep in touch with your friends and family at home during this time? How much do they understand about the psychological aspects of living in another country (how much do they understand and support you?), etc. It is not unusual for internationals to return back home and find that the reverse culture shock is as ‘shocking’ as the first culture shock when moving abroad; the ‘home’ you remember might not be the same; the country and your network have changed just as much as you have while you were away. For your child, it might be even harder. Even though they might speak the language and call the country ‘home’ because you do, they might not have lived in the country before or not remember much of this time. So when they go ‘home’ expecting that they will fit in immediately, they are bound to be disappointed to find they have no friends of their own, they do not know the ins and outs of the slang their peers use, of the subcultures in the schools. Again, a good preparation and ongoing support can help your child face the challenges they might find on their way while moving back.

4. If my children are happy, I can be happy.
This myth we often hear from the international parents who spend the most time with the children. When they arrive in the new country, they might show a tendency to wait for their children to be happy in their new home, school, sports clubs, etc. before they would even consider doing something that will help themselves feel more grounded in the new place. They believe that their time to get to know the country, make new friendships, learn the language or find a meaningful way to spend some of their time through a job or volunteer work, will come once the children are all well settled.

Children look to their parents for guidance, when they see that one of their parents is home all the time, does not make effort to meet new people or to do something they like doing, the children are missing an opportunity to see how their parent would do the things they might find hard themselves (such as approaching a classmate, inviting them to their home). Furthermore, when parents and children are too much focused on each other, they tend to see each other’s negative behaviors or emotions as more problematic, possibly leading to a negative spiral where the child is unhappy because the parent is unhappy and waiting for the child to be happy. Our advice to parents who are in this position is to turn this belief around: when you make efforts to get settled and ‘be happy’ in this new place, it will be more easy for your children to do the same. Try to take time for yourself, find at least one activity away from the children, and try to make other efforts to build up a network for your family here in this new place.

What other myths have you believed in or heard about before your relocation? What bad advice has been given to your family? Share in the comments below or on the facebook page!

SOS! December is here… (how to help your children stay grounded)

By Jet Sichterman

You may have noticed by the cold weather outside, by the frosting on your car in the morning, by the full trains or extensive traffic jams in rush hour, by the advertisements in your mailbox or by the big to do list waiting for you at home and at work. Or, you may have noticed by the volume of your children’s voices as they are busy doing anything they are not supposed to do while you frantically try to set things straight but they simply won’t let you.

Yes, indeed, December is here.

December seems to have a special influence on children. All that was normal is suddenly not so normal. All that was routine suddenly does not apply or has been forgotten. Anticipation and nerves are building up for the holidays… And while you have no tools at your disposal to contain or express these emotions in appropriate, adult ways, this is exactly what the adults around you appear to be expecting of you.  All of this can lead to more loud, active and possibly oppositional behavior (and the flu!) in the weeks before the New Year.

So what does your child really need from you in this time?

Your child needs you to:
– Stick as much as possible to the normal rules and routines:
The more ‘normal’ things can stay, the more normal your child will be able to go through the month of December. Of course it is often hard to stay on track with regular routines with holidays here and there, events for you at work or with your friend group, you needing to do Christmas shopping, etc.

When things cannot remain the same, it will help your child to stick (as much as possible) to regular bed times and routines during the week so they can be well rested. It will also help them to know that exceptions are going to be made; your child wants to know how, when and why these exceptions are taking place.

– Be proactive
Instead of waiting for the trouble to start, your child needs you to be proactive about things. Provide for extra preparation and support for usual and not-so-usual tasks, allow extra time for usual tasks and routines to be completed, or actively decide to let some of the demands placed on your child go – and get back to them in January.

– Create a safe space when your child is experiencing a meltdown
Your child needs you to understand and accept that he/she feels emotions more intensely this season than others. He/she needs you to allow him/her to express these emotions now and then, and to be there for him/her when this happens.

Your child also very much needs you to understand that your own emotions might be more intense too, or that you might feel more stressed than usual. Your emotional experience directly and indirectly influences your child’s emotions.

Your child also needs you to remember that experiencing emotions is part of being human.

– Stay patient and calm, if you can
This might be the hardest step of all, but it will certainly help.

For example, parents who feel stressed about everything they still need to do before Christmas are likely to respond less patient when their child misbehave. And when this happens, the child who resonates with the parent’s feelings will be more likely to show oppositional behavior. It then becomes very easy for the child and the parent to enter a negative spiral from which a small thing eventually ends up in a big shouting match.

Remember, it will only be one month before things start getting back to normal!

Expat Child Psychology wishes you a happy holiday season
and best wishes for 2017!


 

Are you ready for a good start of the New Year? Our parent support sessions can help you set up to succeed!
Get in touch to explore the options!

Practicing Non-Verbal Skills through games

By Sara Mansson

We have talked about social skills before, see for example this post on negotiating, this one about stimulating your child’s emotional development or this one about saying goodbye.

There are several ways of communicating with others, many of which go far beyond our words. In fact, some would estimate that as much as 90% of social success is dependent on non-verbal skills rather than verbal ones. Although these numbers are debated by others, non-verbal communication is an important part of everyday communications and without it we (and our children) would often miss opportunities of true connection.

Although most children will learn these skills just fine by themselves, today we will explore which fun games may help your child feel more confident and comfortable using several  non-verbal skills that are fundamental to being socially successful.

Eye contact
Eye contact can tell us much about our interaction with someone else. It serves the purpose of being a channel of emotional communication: “are you really angry or are you only joking?”; of romantic interest; of power in terms of dominance and submission; and of communicating attention, and more. One of the most prominent functions of eye contact when having a conversation is to show that one is listening.

Simon Says
Simon says normally goes like this: the game leader (‘Simon’) determines what will happen. He/she will ask others to do an action like walking, jumping, turning, etc. by saying ‘Simon says walk’. But he/she will also try to fool the others by saying only ‘walk’. When the game leader does not start by saying ‘Simon Says …’ the others are not supposed to do it.
In this version of the game, the Simon has to blink exaggeratedly when the others are supposed to do the action, instead of saying “Simon Says” out loud.

Wink murder
Another game that helps children feel more comfortable with eye contact is wink murderer. In this game,  a detective has to find out who in the group is “killing” other group members by winking at them.

Body language & posture
We show much of what we are feeling and thinking with our body. Think about your child’s posture when he is feeling proud of an achievement as opposed to when he is feeling ashamed about accidentally breaking a glass. Noticing others’ body postures is one way of getting a glimpse into what others are feeling without actually having to ask them.

Charades
emotion-conesYou can teach your child the importance of paying attention to others’ body language by playing games like charades where body language and posture are central parts to figuring out the correct answer (think of answers like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Sleeping Beauty, The Hungry Caterpillar for charades with book titles). It will be a fun way to engage the whole family in reading body language without drawing attention to the learning aspect.

Exploring Posture
The players are asked to walk around the room. Every half a minute or so, the game leader suggests a posture the players have to take on. For example, they could ‘walk as a turtle’ or ‘stand like a tree’. Ask the players to pay attention to how the different postures make them feel. Afterwards, reflect on the postures by asking questions like: ‘which posture made you feel very scared?’ or ‘which one made you feel the most powerful?’ etc.

Facial expressions & emotion recognition
Our facial expressions often reveal much about what we’re thinking and feeling (even involuntarily!), so they’re useful to be able to read and express correctly. Research has even found that children who are skilled at reading others’ faces are more likely to be considered as popular.

school-busThe Emotion Bus
The Emotion Bus is a fun game for a small group of children. One child or adult is the bus driver and sits in front of the imaginary bus (the bus can be defined by chairs, pillows, hoops, cloths, or something else). The bus driver picks up all the passengers (other players) one by one. Each passenger that comes in, buys a ticket and takes place in the bus is experiencing a new emotion and everyone in the bus, including the driver, mimic the emotion. For example, if a new passenger comes in crying, all passengers on the bus will begin to cry. When all passengers are picked up, they could be dropped off one by one showing an emotion while they get off the bus too.

Guess my emotion
To teach your child about reading facial expressions, you could together create flashcards with the most basic emotions: happiness, sadness, anger, fear, disgust, surprise. You could then play a game in which one person has to think of a scenario in which a person feels this emotion, and the other player can get points by correctly mimicking the emotion on their face. For example, for the card that reads disgust, player one could say “Someone who just stepped in dog mess.” and then player two has to correctly guess that it is disgust by pulling a disgusted face. Once your child has learned these basic emotions, you could make the game more challenging by adding more complex emotions, such as jealousy, confusion, pride, and such.


If you find that your child struggles with making friends, negative thoughts, negotiating, bullying and teasing, or just interacting with others, you may contact Expat Child Psychology to learn more about how your child could benefit from one of our Social Skills 4 Kids courses, starting this fall!

Four Tips on Stimulating Emotional Development

We all want our children to grow up to be healthy, well-adjusted adults. The ability to understand their own emotions and to express them in accordance with the local culture and social norms is an important step towards becoming that. We know that young children need our help to express and manage their emotions.  Yet when children grow older we sometimes expect them to ‘behave’ and tend to forget that learning how to manage our emotions is a life-long process, something not even all adults have mastered well.

Emotional Development - Expat Child PsychologySo what can you do to make sure you won’t expect more of your children than they can offer in the heat of the moment? Here are four suggestions that will help you stimulate your child’s emotional development:

1) Name the feeling
The first step of managing emotions is to identify the emotions. Your child may be experiencing all kinds of bodily sensations without knowing where they come from or what they mean. As a parent, you will often know that the situation your child is facing would lead to an angry feeling, a happy, a sad or a scary one, or perhaps even a combination of several feelings at once (it does require a bit of perspective-taking from your end). By naming those feelings your child will learn which bodily sensation and type of situation corresponds to which emotion.

Instead of:
‘STOP! NAGGING! You are NOT getting another cookie!’

Say:
‘I see that you are very disappointed about not getting another cookie.’

2) Validate the feeling
Let your child know you understand they feel this way, for example by mirroring the facial expression and using a soothing tone of voice. This validation of the emotion will help your child feel understood and gain some control over their sensations. It also tells your child that it is okay to experience (this) emotion.

Instead of:
‘There is no need to cry!’

Say:
‘I understand you feel this way, I would be so sad too if I could not get what I wanted.’

3) Give feedback on negative behaviors
Even though your child may not yet have learned how to control their emotions or how to express them appropriately, some expressions are simply harmful or unacceptable. You have to tell your child about this.

Instead of:
‘Stop screaming!’

Say:
‘It is not helpful to scream so loud, it hurts my ears and it hurts your voice.’

4) Provide alternative ways to express
Now that your child knows it is okay to experience the emotion and that it is not okay to express those emotions in specific ways. However, your child does not know what to do instead. Therefore, it is helpful to provide an alternative.

Instead of:
‘Stop screaming!

Say:
‘Instead of screaming, you could try ….’

Alternative options (depending on the age & your own preference):
– A verbal response: saying ‘I don’t like this’ or ‘It makes me feel angry’, etc.
– A physical response: punching a boxing ball or pillow, running a distance, squeezing a stress ball, etc.
– A cognitive response: count to 10, distract yourself, etc.

Getting back to Normal

Getting back to normal - family routine

The last months of the year can be a bit overwhelming for parents and children alike. There is so much to do, so much to see, hear and experience. First came fall break. Then Halloween. If you’re living in the north of the Netherlands you may have celebrated Sint Maarten, and less than a few days later Sinterklaas arrived. He barely got back to Spain before your child’s classroom was decorated for the Christmas celebrations. Then winter break came all it’s festivities…

A time which can be unsettling; the normal routines become more flexible, both in school and at home. Children can become more restless, jumpy and disobedient. And nervous; ‘what presents will I get this year?’.

Getting back to Normal - New Year 2016
But now it’s all passed us, and it will take almost 5 weeks before the next festivity. Phew! Time to get back to normal!

 

Here are some suggestions that may help you getting back to normal:

  • Review the rules and routines in your home; are they still relevant in the New Year? Is there still a good reason for having the rule or routine the way it is? Does your partner agree with you?
    When you have a good reason for having a rule or routine, it will be easier to convince yourself and your child to stick to it.
  • Reflect on the last year, what went well – parenting wise – and what would you like to change?
    If you have made any parenting resolutions for the New Year, ask yourself if you can implement the change in the form of a routine or rule – that way it will be easier to remember them, preventing them from becoming a resolution again next year.

    When implementing a new rule or routine, be clear to your child about your new expectations and consider using visuals to remind yourself and your child. Visual methods have the extra benefit of not being personal – so you cannot be blamed for being a strict / stupid / boring / etc. parent if it is not you but the visual that reminds your child to do something.
  • Take it easy
    It is still winter time, it is dark early and you do not feel like going out in the cold anymore. Neither does your child. After all the excitement and stress of the last months, it is ok to slow down and spend more time at home the first month of the year. And it will help you get back to normal!
  • Expect some pushback
    After all these fun times with more flexible routines; staying up later than normal, getting presents, not having to go to school or elsewhere, and enjoying time with family, getting back into the routines of daily life can be disappointing and is certainly less fun than not having the routines. As a result, there may (will) be some pushback when you first start to reinstall normal life. Remember that in the end, ‘normal’ will be better for your child’s development and overall wellbeing, their feeling of safety, and – not unimportantly – your own sanity.

Need some help getting back to normal? Let us know if you just want to talk things over or if you would like to get some in debt suggestions!

Can’t you two just get along?

Guestpost by Sara Mansson

Last time, we talked about some day to day examples of things you can do to help your children learn good negotiation skills. One thing that helps children learn this is experiencing problems that need solving. One of our tips then was to wait and step back when your child lands in a discussion to allow them to solve it by themselves. But sometimes heated arguments break out even amongst the most skilled negotiators and when strong emotions, shouting and aggression start to play a role it might be better to step in. How can you help your children in the heat of the moment?

Upset negotiation fightCool down. When you notice the emotions running high and want to prevent a full escalation, or when a fight is already taking place, ask your children to take some time to breathe in and out, cool down, and count to ten. Following this, you can let each child state their points in a calm manner while the other has to listen.

Remind. When a negotiation involves an emotionally laden topic, emotions can run high, which in turn means negotiation skills drop. It can then be helpful to ask your children to take a step back and reflect on what their goal of the negotiation is, and reminding them to keep the tone of their voice as calm as possible when they have decided what to say. You can then give your child reminders on the tips you previously discussed regarding the mastering of their new negotiation skills.

Siblings negotiateSuggest. Sometimes children do not know how to solve the problem, which options other than ‘my way’ or ‘their way’ are available? Usually there are three more options: a mix of the two (first this, then the other), something else entirely (not A or B, but C) or nothing at all (agreeing to disagree, not playing with each other for now).

Obtaining the ability to successfully negotiate is a very important life skill for your children. Not only will it give you a calmer home environment, but it will also give your child insight into how to make their own wishes heard in a composed, mature manner but also how to listen to and consider their siblings’ views. Successful negotiation in which both parties are happy will leave your children feeling independent and confident.


 

Expat Child Psychology offers Social Skills 4 Kids group courses for children aged 9 to 12 which helps, among other things, to improve their problem solving skills.

Teaching your Child the Art of Negotiation

Guestpost by Sara Mansson

Sometimes arguments break out between our children and we wish we knew how to prevent them. Can’t they just listen to each other and compromise? The art of successful negotiation is a skill which is important to social situations throughout life; going far beyond agreeing on a movie to watch with the whole family. Negotiation involves abilities such as listening to others, expressing empathy, and to coming to a good compromise. Children practice these skills early in life such as by deciding what game to play with their friends or by coming to an agreement with their sibling about who should get to play with which new toy. Oftentimes this practicing is accompanied by loud arguments and even aggression between siblings or peers. How can you help them to learn peaceful negotiation skills?

Involve. The easiest way to introduce correct negotiation techniques to your child is to involve them. Good moments to involve your child in a negotiation could be when discussing what activities you should do for your family outing the upcoming weekend, or when discussing the family schedule to see if it is possible for your child to start karate classes like they asked to. The more exposure your child receives to useful methods, the more likely they are to remember and use them in the future! Involve your children in role-playing; allowing them to try debating from both sides of the negotiation.

Slower or faster - negotiation skillsExplain. When your child is involved in a family debate or is trying to reach a compromise with a sibling, it’s important that they are able to listen to the other’s point of view. Explain to your child that it is important to show that they have listened to and understood the other sibling. Give your child examples of how they can show this, such as by summarizing what the other has said or by asking relevant questions.

Agreeing vs. Arguing. Another point which is important to keep in mind about negotiation is teaching your child that they are trying to find common ground to agree on. This means that it is not a matter of winning or losing a battle – it’s a matter of bargaining and hearing both sides.

Parents fighting not negotiatingSet a good example. Examples are much more important for the learning of social skills than any of our best teaching methods will ever be. As a parent, you have to negotiate too sometimes. Perhaps with your children, but maybe with others; teachers, grandparents, shop keepers, your boss… When your child is near, they will observe and take in ‘how it is done’. Show your children how to negotiate by setting the right example for them.

Wait. While your children or your child and their friends start negotiating, try to step back and allow them to try and solve the problem amongst themselves. We all learn by trial and error, stepping in too soon might prevent your child from learning important lessons.

So what can you do when things do start getting out of hand? Read about it in our next blog!


 

Expat Child Psychology offers Social Skills 4 Kids group courses for children aged 9 to 12 which helps, among other things, to improve their problem solving skills.

Saying goodbye to (best) friends

Saying goodbye is inherent to the international lifestyle. But even if a family decides to stay in one place for a while, as long as one is part of an international community the goodbyes continue. Children in international schools run a higher risk of seeing their best friends leave. When that happens, the goodbye might be as challenging for them as when they would be the ones leaving – except now the child might not have so much to look forwards to.

How can you help your child cope when their best friend is leaving?

  • Help your child prepare for the goodbye
    Give your child time and space to explore and experience the feelings associated with their best friend moving. Talk about how this might affect them now and later (next school year), as well as about how the friends will stay in touch. Also consider and plan how your child would like to say goodbye, perhaps by giving a gift, making something for their friend or throwing a farewell party?
  • Support your child’s friendship
    When children (or adults) learn that they will be separated from people they care about , it hurts, and children who are hurting sometimes respond by lashing out to their friend. Two best friends might pick a fight in order to try to relieve their own hurting. Sadly this is not helpful at all and there might not be a chance to make up when it is time for your child’s friend to say goodbye.You can help your child by talking about the hurt, the emotions they feel when thinking of their friend leaving and giving them space to feel this and explore this in a safe environment. Both friends can also be engaged in an exploration of their emotions together. Furthermore, you can help your child understand that if they feel hurt the reason is because they love their friend so much and will miss them (and picking fights won’t help really). You can also help your child understand that when their friend says something nasty, it might be because they will miss your child too much.
  • Say goodbye
    Set a clear date and time when the goodbye will be said. Make sure your child understands that this is the last time they will see their friend before their move. Talk with the moving family to find out which time would suit them best as they will probably be busy packing.
  • Help your child feel and express their emotions
    After the move, continue to take time for your child to explore his or her emotions regarding the move. This is a great moment to stimulate the emotional intelligence of your child; help your child find the right words for their emotions and find proper ways to express them. Shortly after the move you can initiate these talks every day. Later, initiate the talks when you know your child needs it or take time when your child is the initiator.
  • Moving forwards
    After an event like the departure of a best friend, there is time for grieving and time for moving forwards. Every child grieves the departure of a best friend differently, but after a week or two your child should experience more positive feelings than negative ones during the day. If your child has been very close to their best friend and not so close with the other children, it can be difficult for him/her to participate in social activities and join with other children. You can help your child by exploring their fears and setting small challenges: why don’t you ask to join in with A and B at recess today?

Is your child struggling to move forwards after the departure of a best friend? Perhaps the Social Skills 4 Kids course can help.
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