By Mooney Niu, Mental Health Counselor
with Ronni Rowland, Writer

It’s that time of year again when we’ll be saying good-bye. Some friends are preparing for repatriation. Or perhaps you’re the one moving home – or traveling on to a new country.

Mooney Niu, Mental Health Counselor for the Essential Learning Group (ELG) notes that “Saying goodbye is never easy; but there are many fun and creative activities that parents and teachers can share with children of all ages to ease the transition.”

Here are a few strategies to use at home and in the classroom to help children cope with the loss of a friend – or a move of their own.

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Strategies for Home

  • Connect regularly (for children of all ages)
    Schedule time to talk to family and friends back home and with those who are moving on. Skype and other video calling platforms can help you stay in touch no matter how far away you are.
  • Quilt or collage of memories (for primary through secondary grades)
    Collecting t-shirts from school events and other travel adventures can be fantastic for creating a “memory quilt”. Cut out fabric squares of logos and images from the t-shirts to make wonderful gifts for friends and family when it’s time to say goodbye.

    Alternatively, create a “memory scrapbook” featuring a collection of photos,
    ticket stubs and travel trinkets.

Classroom Activities

  • Tree of reflection (for primary through to secondary grade students)
    “This is a positive activity to share before a personal transition or the loss of a good friend,” says Mooney. Create the trunk and branches of a tree on a wall or white board. Keep a supply of blank construction paper “leaves” near the tree and invite students to write a word or sentence on the “leaf” about a favorite memory, friend or place. The students can then stick the leaves on the tree, filling it with beautiful artwork and messages, which are associated with happy memories and goodbyes.
  • Bucket of emotions (for graduates)
    Graduation is a life event that is full of mixed emotions and possibilities. It may entail returning to your home country for university, moving to a new country, fulfilling military requirements or embarking on a “gap year” experience.Give students an anonymous way to express their emotions prior to graduation. As part of a “morning circle time” or assembly, distribute note cards and invite students to write down or draw how they feel about graduating and leaving high school. After they finish, students drop the note cards into a large, colorful bucket. A teacher or student will then draw a card from the “bucket of emotions” and open the discussion. “This activity is a great way to share emotions in a non-judgmental and safe environment,” says Mooney.

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Gone…but not forgotten!

Plan now for how to ease the pain of “goodbye.” By creating meaningful keepsakes and speaking openly about feelings related to loss, you can provide comfort and relief to your children and students. Remember, it’s not “goodbye” but “see you later!”

Learn more strategies to help your children and students cope with loss on Thursday, April 20, 2017 at Mooney’s free workshop, “Grief and Growth”. Click here to RSVP.

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