Saying “Goodbye” with My TCKs

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.

Giving Toys

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.

Speaking ‘Goodbye’

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.

Saying goodbye to Si
Saying goodbye to Si

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!

Bub's Party at School
Bub and his BFF, Maria

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.


Saying Goodbye: A Process

This past January 1, 2016, I started our 90-day count down in leaving Africa to return to the States.  I’m not much of a last-minute-person and I like to avoid as much stress as possible.  So I started my 90-day count down of what I would pack and when; when I needed to make certain arrangements in the States; and when I would start saying goodbye to whom.

We have been through a lot of cross-cultural trainings and one phrase I’ve heard over and over is,

“In order to arrive well, you need to leave well.”

And I wanted to do BOTH well, so I put a lot of deep thought into how we could “leave well.”  I thought about our family’s needs: My Love’s need for a low-stress environment; my need for deep relationship-connectedness; and our kids’ needs for expressing their emotions during transition.

After evaluating those needs I decided (1) I would slowing start downsizing our possessions, but not start packing essentials till the very end as to keep our environment low-stress for My Love. (2) I would make sure that as we downsized, our kids would be a part of deciding what toys to get rid of each week and where they would go. (3) We would intentionally spend weekly times with friends and then keep our last two weeks free to be with our best friends.

A couple practical ways we practiced “leaving well” were by giving things away, last meals, and writing letters.

Giving things Away–

So…it is amazing what you collect over a year of life even with a minimalist mentality.  And it is amazing what wont fit into just 5 check bags and 2 carry ons.  We had a lot of possessions to go through: clothes we brought in the beginning that we never worn or didn’t fit anymore; replacement clothes; kitchen items; toys; random electronics; and ‘office supply’ types of things.  So I divided my apartment into categories, and week by week went through that ‘area of the apartment’ to downsize–keeping all essentials till the last week.

I had a basket in our bedroom I would toss ‘give away’ items in, then once it was full I would give to a friend.  (The community aspect of African culture is amazing.  And what they didn’t use from me, they passed on to the next person till it all found a home.)

With our kids’ possessions, week by week I would ask them what toys they wanted to give away or were all done playing with.  Some weeks it would be two toys, others it would be 10 toys–it was their decision.  I wanted them to practice making the choices to downsize to experience the feelings in leaving, and to help them realize the reality of,  “We are leaving Africa.”

The second step we took with our kids was prompting them to give their toys aways to their friends and people of choice.  This also helped them ‘leave’ and created for them relational connections.  So Bub chose specific toys to give to specific friends.  He gave his TiLung leopard to Z to ‘take care of for him’ while he was in America. This was a special toy to Bub, but for some reason he didn’t want to take it to America so we gave it to an older girl friend to ‘take care of’ while we are gone.

He gave his Noah’s Ark boat and animal set to his class on his last day of school.  He did it so they could remember him when they played with it.  🙂  It amazed this momma’s heart how thought full and deep children’s hearts can be at such a young age–Bub is 3!  Though he struggled with saying the word, “goodbye,” this helped him.  His friends were happy with the new toys, so goodbye wasn’t a sad thing any more. Honey-Bear was great at speaking goodbyes and did her own give aways with a bit more direction from us.

Last Meals–

Having family meals is such an important part of African culture: a great to way to love, respect, and honor to the people you eat with.  We came to love meal times with other families and value them! So tried to have last meals with our closest friends and their families.

Of course, our friends wanted to host and give us their best recipes, so we enjoyed ourselves.  The honor they showed us was humbling.  The conversations we shared we so rich and meaningful.  These times were so precious and moments I hold dear in my heart.  And after 5-10 minutes of hugs, tears and goodbyes, we walked away sad but with a feeling of wholeness.  I found myself thinking, “If leaving people we’ve known for less than a year is this hard…we did something right!”

And though leaving them was hard and heart-breaking, the wholeness feeling we felt was from saying goodbye really well.  And each time after leaving their homes, we felt our hearts emotionally closing that door behind us, which made us ready to open the doors that were before us in arriving.

Writing Letters–

Writing letters is a practice I used when we left the States in 2014.  I’m a letter girl! I love to receive a letter that I can read over and over again–it helps the love ‘last’ longer–and it is deeply personal and intimate.  I’m also not a quick thinker and usually I leave a conversations and remember 10 minutes later, “Oh, that’s what I wanted to say.”  So…I again decided to write letters to my Africa friends I was leaving to say my goodbyes.

Through my letters, I was able to pour out my heart and say all the things I wa

nted to say.  I asked my language teacher to help me in this process.  So I ended up writing my letters in English, then she would re-write them in the national language.  With her help (because there are still many things I couldn’t say in their language), I was able to express my heart 100% to my friends. And my heart felt closure from that.

Since then, each friend I wrote to has messaged me saying how personally touched they were by my words.  And though I wasn’t looking for responses, it was an even deeper, more whole feeling to know they understood my heart, it blessed their hearts, and it made our relationships deeper.

So if you haven’t heard it yet, let me say it again,

“In order to arrive well, you need to leave well.”


What is a TCK? Meet ours!

A TCK is a Third Culture Kid. They are kids who do not grow up in their parents’ culture, yet they are not fully from the culture they are living in.Bub and Honey-Bear will be TCKs. They are American, but they will also be part African. So they make their own ‘Third Culture.’

Knowing we wanted to live cross-culturally in college, we spent year with Internationals students and TCKs. We watched their lives. Listened to their stories of what their parents did well and what they could have done better. We took many mental notes because we wanted to do parenting right.

In one class we read Dave C. Pollock’s “Third Culture Kids” which has a new edition out on Amazon.com. Check it out! My Love reread it when we were in Lang City, because it truly applies to our lives now that we have our own TCKs. One of the main thought he came away with was that we, as parents, cannot assume that the way we were raised (foods, traditions, etc.) is best or will even fit for our kids. One example: He thinks of childhood as playing at the playground, riding bikes on the sidewalk to school, playing is grass. But those things aren’t in Africa. That doesn’t make our kids’ childhood doomed; it just means that they will have their own entirely different version of childhood.

A second main thought from Pollock’s book is that parenting a TCK isn’t just ‘one more obstacle’ in parenting. No, it makes parenting your TCK a whole other dimension. Rather than simply adding to your child’s character, being a TCK redefines their whole being, heart & mind. Which is a fantastic thing! So our parenting to our TCKs is going to be totally different than if we had stayed in America.

Enough about that stuff—meet our TCKs!!
Our TCKs at first


>>>Here are Bub and Honey-Bear before coming. He was 21 months old and she was 2 months when we came to Africa.

Our TCKs in Sept 2015





<<< Here they are a year later! Big kids
brushing their teeth!




They are GREAT!  And we can already see their lives molding into TCKs.  They have been to five countries, lived in three homes, slept in 15 different houses all in one year.  They are speaking both English and the national language, with a tribal word thrown in here and there from Bub.  We love watching them grow and learn.  They are great learners, travelers, and most importantly love people!!

We are blessed beyond belief to have them journey with us through live and Africa!