Learning How to Say Goodbye - Helping Your Kids Say Goodbye Well

Learning How to Say Goodbye

If there is something expats learn how to do very well, it is how to say goodbye.

We have said goodbye so often over the past few years. Sad goodbyes. Hard goodbyes. Really teary awful goodbyes.

Yet, as a family, we are trying to help our girls learn to say goodbye well, in healthy ways.

Ways that will provide closure and good endings and happy moments within the heart-ripping pain.

How do we do that?

How to say goodbye

1} Stay busy. We kept busy right up until the day we left. We want the girls to know that their whole world doesn’t stop because we are in transition. We wanted them to know that we can still have fun and enjoy life in transition. There are always things to do and always adventures to find!

2} Recognize each “last” thing. And say goodbye. Talk about it. This picture was our last walk to the train station as a family. On this last walk, we saw the school where they had art and woodworking classes. We saw the post office. We saw the patisserie with their favorite treats. We said goodbye and made sure to look one last time. We told stories and marked the moment with a pause.

Learning How to Say Goodbye - Helping Your Kids Say Goodbye Well

3} Make plenty of family time. Through every transition, home is where our family is together. That means family stays. Family remains. Make the a HUGE priority when transition is taking place. With lots of goodbyes, kids need to know the constants of life. Family. Their relationship with Jesus. Those things last through every single transition. Every goodbye.

Learning How to Say Goodbye - Helping Your Kids Say Goodbye Well

4} Be still. Yes… this contradicts everything I’ve said so far. But make sure you find time to stay healthy and rested so that you have what you need to lead your family through this time. Be still. Let God lead your time. It is SO easy to get caught up in the minute details of the move, the transition, the travel, the crazy. Be still. Keep your devotional time going. Sit and have coffee with your husband. Rest. Rest. Rest. Because transition is exhausting. Draining. Goodbyes are painful for everyone. So be still. Think. Rest. For more on this, read my letter to Moms in Transition


5} Visit favorite places. This goes with saying goodbye to places… make sure you revisit places that you might want to see one last time. I don’t know that we will ever be in Paris again as a family. So, we asked the girls what they would like to do one last time. And of course, visiting the Eiffel Tower was on their list! So we did. One last time. We got hot chocolate from Angelina’s and drank one last Starbucks. We sat and waited for the sun to set and the tower to start blinking. It was a wonderful memory in the midst of more painful goodbyes. You can see more of how we do this in my Days Before we Flew post from last summer when we left the states.


6} Remember why… walk your kids through WHY. Let them ask questions. Let them reminisce and even whine and maybe even cry. Let them experience emotions. Watch Inside Out and then… then remember why you are going through all of this. And remember the One who is carrying you through it all.


7} Carry things with you. Oh dear betsy. Luggage and stuff. I detest it. But it is necessary. Little things to remember each place, each person. Small souvenirs, keepsakes, pictures… things that help your kids remember. Our girls say goodbye so often but yet they have so many wonderful things in their rooms to help them remember… a picture of their Bible club or PK retreat or blankets from grandma or notes from friends glued in a picture book. A postcard of this place and so on. It all travels with us to help them remember.

8} Stay in touch. Voxer, facetime, imessage, facebook, instagram… on and on! There is NO END to ways of staying in touch with friends. Make sure they have a notebook to get email addresses and phone numbers and whatever else they need to stay in touch with their method of choice. Snail mail can be so much fun for them! And, goodbyes are not forever in this technical world!

9} Remind them of God’s faithfulness. He has provided friends before… He WILL provide friends again. They may say goodbye but God will not leave them stranded. He will be faithful to bring along new people, new places, new joys, new loves in whatever country or home he settles us in. Trust Him. Trust His faithfulness.

10} Begin making new memories right away in your new place. Find a new restaurant or a new park or a new path to walk. Make memories. Meet people. Experience fun things. Plant roots, build relationships, jump in with both feet… God has something amazing in store!


What are some ways you walk your family through the goodbyes of life? How to say goodbye well?

Learning How to Say Goodbye - Helping Your Kids Say Goodbye Well



  1. Hi Jenelee,
    We are in a transition to go back to Holland again, being on the missionfield in Albania. I had the thought to use this article and, translate it into Dutch, add some personal experiences and publish it on our blog (www.huizeph.nl) Is that oke to you?! Hope to hear from you soon.

  2. Jenilee – I love the way you articulate 10. and I’m planning to do some of those things just as soon as we get to the UK. God bless you in the next few days before you leave Senegal.
    We miss your girls at school, and tell Abby I’m going to keep singing “99 bottles of coke…..”
    love Fiona

    1. Praying for you in your transition as well. Hoping to see everyone quick on Friday after school when we bring Zander over. See you then!

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