Your domestic helper, who has taken care of your child since he was a baby, is heading home to get married. Of course you’re delighted for her, but you’re also worried about the effect of her departure on your kid.
After all, he regards Auntie almost as a second mother. He has known her all his life, so he may have temporary difficulties adjusting to the loss of this loving adult. But you can help him cope with the change.
Tell your child in advance. Don’t leave it until the day before your helper’s flight home is due, as that won’t give him time to adjust to the idea of Auntie’s departure. It certainly won’t give him time to say goodbye properly.
You should probably tell him no later than two to three weeks before the helper is due to leave.
If you alert him much earlier, he may become unsettled by the wait. And if you tell him much later, that only allows a short period for him to adapt.
When you do break the news, make sure he understands that his carer is leaving for positive reasons – that her marriage is something you should all celebrate.
You’d be surprised at the sort of thoughts that might go through your little one’s mind. For example, he might think Auntie’s leaving because he has done something wrong that annoyed her, or that she doesn’t like him any more.
That’s why it’s important that you spell out the real reason behind your helper’s move. It’d probably ease the potential shock if both you and the helper explained this to him together.
Don’t be disappointed if your kid simply shrugs his shoulders, tells you it’s okay, and then turns back to his game. Some children cope with transitions better. So if yours shows a reasonably calm reaction, count yourself lucky.
On the other hand, if your child does become upset and tearful, gives him lots of cuddles and reassurances that he’ll be fine after the helper leaves.
You should also explain that although he loves Auntie and that they’re very close, now that he’s a “big boy” who attends preschool, he doesn’t need to depend on her as much.
However, be careful in the way you present this, in case he feels he should have stayed a baby in order to keep the helper with him.
Time to say goodbye
When you arrange a farewell party for your helper, involve your child in the preparations. He can help make the cake, buy a card and wrap the present. That will make him feel better.
Your little one will have great fun taking part in the planning and arrangements. True, he’ll be sad at times, but if you have a positive attitude, he’s more likely to have an optimistic outlook, too.
When the actual moment of departure comes, make it reasonably brief. Long, lingering goodbyes will be difficult for him. You and your helper should try to smile at that point, too, despite any inner feelings of sadness.
The separation will be so much easier for your child if you’ve already made arrangements for him to contact his former caregiver within, say, a week by phone, text or e-mail.
That will keep their connection going even though they live in different countries now.