I mentioned in Saying Goodbye: A Process about making sure that my kids’ needs were met when they said goodbye to Africa. With our TCKs being so little–Bub 3 years and Honey-Bear 20 months–I didn’t know how much they would remember, but I wanted to make sure they had every opportunity to have full closure. So we did four things that I think helped them process goodbyes and make leaving Africa a reality for them.
It is amazing how many toys you accumulate in a year and half. It helped that we were given hand-me-downs from several family. So when it came time to get rid of things, I wanted to use the opportunity to help my kids learn (1) how they can bless people by giving and (2) how they can be blessed by giving.
So week by week, I asked them what toys they wanted to give away. Some weeks they would choose two toys and other weeks they would choose ten toys, but it was always their decisions. After choosing the toys, we would decide who to give them to.
For their closer friends, they gave specific and special toys to. And the gift exchange made a sad goodbye experience turn into a happy goodbye…most of the time.
For Bub, specifically, speaking the word “goodbye” was an extremely emotional thing to do. Even FaceTiming with family back home, he would get so upset when it was time to say goodbye and refuse to say the word. After a while, he could say, “See you later,” but hardly ever a full, “Goodbye.”
Knowing this struggle of his, we started a couple months before we left Africa talking to him about how important it is for his heart and others’ hearts to speak the word “goodbye.” When we started giving toys away with saying goodbye, it turned his negative emotional experiences into happy, fun experiences.
When he gave his dinosaurs to his best friend, Si was so happy to get new toys that Bub go really excited too. In their happiness, they hugged and said goodbye with no negative emotions. It was a blessing to Si, which in turn blessed Bub with a happy heart and happy goodbye.
Talking with Honey-Bear
At some point in the leaving process, I realized that we were talking a lot about goodbyes with Bub but not with Honey-Bear. She was the same age Bub was when we left America and we talked a lot with him about goodbyes. So I was more intentional with talking about goodbyes with her. And I know it helped her realize the reality of leaving, and when the day came a good final goodbye (read that story here). She did great with speaking, “Goodbye,” giving hugs and kisses.
Bub’s Party at School
And to solidify their goodbyes, they needed to end well in all areas of their lives and that included Bub’s school. He went to a Preschool/Daycare 5-days a week in the mornings. He attended for ten of the twelve months we lived in Work City. So these kids were his friends. Knowing my son, bad at goodbyes and loves to have fun, I wanted him to have a great goodbye with his class…so we had a party. I called his teacher two weeks before we left and asked if we could have a party to say goodbye to Bub and she was thrilled.
The morning of the party we came with snacks and a gift. Bub had chosen to give his Noah’s Ark set of boat and animals to his classmates to remember him. We had a lot of fun! We explained we were leaving. Bub passed out snacks and drinks to all his classmates. Then he showed them his Noah’s Ark set and presented it to the class. Then 20 some kids 5 and under ran around like crazy, having fun!
It was a blessing to my heart to see him interacting with his friends and teachers. It was a blessing to him because he was recognized and got to serve and love his class through snacks and a gift. His teacher snuck out and came back with gifts for Bub, which was so sweet of her!
As we left, he cried and I cried and the teacher cried. And it was good.
Having fun goodbyes made a big difference for Bub and Honey-bear as we sought full closure for this chapter of their lives. Being intentional in using “goodbye” words and knowing your kids can make all the difference in ending well.