Over many years working with international college students, I have had to say “goodbye” a lot.
In more recent years, I’ve become friends with international wives, couples & families. We share time together at monthly events, through English conversation groups, over meals and coffee, and on hikes and walks. We’ve experienced many rich moments together.
Most of them move on to another location within a year or two. Saying goodbye isn’t easy, even with social media to keep us connected in most instances. Still, here are some strategies I use to say goodbye well:
5 Ways To Leverage Your Goodbye For Continuing Relationship
- Be intentional – make some time to spend one-on-one with your friend.
- Find a small, but meaningful, gift, one that is easy to pack, to help them remember you and their time living in your city. A photo of the two of you together in a small frame is a good choice.
- Take the time to write a card telling your friend what you appreciate about him/her.
- Make sure you exchange multiple ways you might keep in touch. In other words, don’t just rely on one platform like Facebook; conditions in his/her country may change and you may no longer be able to keep contact. Consider WhatsApp, WeChat (China), Skype or other means as well. Don’t forget email and, if possible, a real physical address. Dropping them a postcard from your hometown later can be a powerful way to let them know they’re still on your mind.
- Keep your friend on your Facebook, Instagram and other radars even when they leave. Like their posts. Make comments. Continue the interest.
Putting This Into Action
Here’s an example of how the saying-goodbye process went with my friend, Yuliana, from Indonesia.
Yuliana was quite upbeat about the move back home when I met with her not long before she’d be leaving. The mother of a vivacious almost three-year-old girl, her experience as a new mom in the U.S. had been filled with discovery.
When I first met her at a local French Bakery, I was impressed with her poise, excellent English and palpable intelligence. Her daughter Livia, though not yet two at the time, was communicating in clear English with me. She wasn’t shy; she even initiated conversation with this “stranger” adult.
Fast forward many months later. We were sitting at the bakery, this time without Livia, just the two of us.
Asking about Future Plans
“So what do you hope to do when you return?” I questioned.
“Well, I’ve learned so much here, especially about caring for young kids.” She went on to tell me her experiences at a local children’s program. I had also been involved in that same program long ago when my children were little. This special place brings parents of infants through three-year-olds together to learn, play and grow.
“It may seem simple, you know,” she went on. “But back in my country, we don’t have anything like it. I want to start very small, locally, and grow it to become widespread in my country.”
Wow. I suddenly realized I was sitting with an entrepreneur with a vision to bring something entirely new to her people. And here I was, hearing about it first.
Ascertaining the Why
Then I asked Yuliana about her why.
“I think we need the parents more involved in the raising of their own children and I want to fight for this to happen in my country. Now, many parents are too busy trying to make money. They give the job of raising their children to somebody else."
She continued. "But through my experiences here, I’ve seen parents can learn and become more involved in their children's lives. Because if they have better resources, they become empowered. I want to help my people develop this.”
“So, do you think there is more disconnect in families in your country nowadays?” I questioned.
“Oh yes, definitely.” Yuliana went on to tell me about how the divorce rate is increasing and how more and more children are born out of wedlock in spite of the underlying Islamic values in her country.
“There are many reasons,” she continued. “But I think, like everywhere, the pace of life is increasing and becoming more complex. This adds stress to the families. Parents need to work. And kids often don’t get the attention they need.”
Finding Out How They Feel
I looked at my young friend. She was aglow with enthusiasm. And then I asked her, “How are you feeling as you return? Is there anything you’re worried about?”
As I did, I could see her face stiffen just a bit.
“Well, maybe it’s not a big deal. But we will need to live with my parents for the first few months when we get back home. We need to renovate our apartment needs, so we will stay with them. It wouldn’t be such a big deal, but I have not lived with them since I was 14, when I went off to boarding school.”
Yes, that would be a big adjustment.
We spoke about the fine points of that challenge – several generations living under the same roof, all analyzing their parenting of little Livia. Expectations. New definitions of their relationship.
I took a moment to pray for her. I passed on a little gift and card. We gave our final hugs and promised to keep in touch.
Saying goodbye well keeps doors open and gives both parties a sense of being valued.
I will miss Yuliana, but I also hope we’ll see each other again.
(Postscript: Provided all goes well. we will get an opportunity to visit Yuliana and Livia this summer while we’re traveling in Indonesia.)
What things are important for you when you’re saying goodbye?