Bod Post Card6 klein

With only weeks to go until the end of the long school year most children are looking forward to the Summer break, but for some children especially in the International community, this will mean a ‘break up ‘ of a different kind.

 

In Luxembourg where there is so much mobility this pattern of making and possibly losing friends is often cyclical. The longer you stay the more likely that you will lose a very good friend or two along the way. This goes for adults as well as children, because families often build up very strong social networks when they are far away from extended family or their country of origin. Understanding the ways this affects children, adolescents and families is an important part of supporting them through this process and helping them to integrate the feelings instead of denying or diminishing them. The process of saying ‘goodbye’ positively is skill that we all need to learn because it helps us grow in our ability to cope with life and the inevitable endings we will have to face.

The two things that can ease this process are time and planning. In the past it may have been considered a good idea to avoid talking about friends leaving and the possible feelings that could arise. But today it is generally believed that children and adults cope better when change is openly discussed and they are encouraged to explore their feelings. One way of facilitating this is to take the time to plan how your children or family are going to say ‘goodbye’ to friends before the Summer. It may seem strange to talk about how we say ‘goodbye’ but actually there is more to it than just the words and final parting. Depending on the age of your children you might want to consider making the time for a family meeting or a one to one discussion about how they are be feeling. Some questions you might like to ask during this discussion are checking in on how your family members are feeling about moving; or the end of the school year and friends leaving; as well as how they would like to say goodbye. This will again depend on the age of your child. They may want to host a leaving party, go on a special excursion or simply do some of the things they have enjoyed doing with their friends for the last time. It is worth taking the time to plan these events as typically agendas get filled up very quickly towards the holidays. On these occasions encourage your children to take photos, swap addresses and possibly set up ways in which they can remain in contact. Preparing a going away photobook for all the children involved can be a lovely gift and a great reminder that friendship can last even if people we love are no longer near us. If you haven’t already done this, why not investigate the best way of using social media or digital devices to keep in touch. Although you might want to consider setting boundaries in advance or your child may become overly dependant on this form of contact. Even younger children can be affected by this process, so exchanging hand made pictures or postcards can help.

Most importantly though is the time you take to allow each other to talk about feelings and try and draw on the strengths your child has already shown in making friends in the past. This can create hope in the future. The changing relationships we have in childhood, growing up and especially in adolescence can be just as significant as the long -term relationships we have as adults, and hopefully will form a few. In this way even though they may not have known each other for long it can feel devastating when someone has to leave or stay behind. Teenagers who are often more attached to their peer group may find talking to their parents about this transition particularly difficult. As a parent you might consider suggesting that they talk to another trusted adult or the KJT Online Help Service. Children and Young People can contact the service through the website at www.kjt.lu For parents who are concerned about themselves or their family there is the KJT Online Help service for Parents. These services are free, anonymous and confidential. You and your family are not alone .