It’s not just any day you get to tell your kids you’re moving to a foreign country for 3-5 years. Not just any foreign country, by the way, freaking CHINA. This conversation is going to be memorable no matter what you say, but it can very easily be made memorably worse by following a few simple guidelines:
1. Start with a joke
My father doesn’t handle uncomfortable situations gracefully. When we were at the animal hospital waiting to put my dog down, he thought the best thing to do was make jokes. It was not the best thing to do in that situation. It was also not the best thing to do when he told me they were moving to China. I mean, don’t act like someone died, but for Pete’s sake, this is serious! Since my dad started the conversation off with a joke, he had to spend the next ten minutes trying to convince me that no, we’re not kidding, we’re actually moving to China. Hilarious, right?
2. Break down sobbing
Listen, you’ve kind of had your moment to freak out. This is your kid’s turn. She may not be proud of it, but she’ll probably start crying really unattractively. And if you start crying too, that just really sucks and everyone looks ugly. No one wants that. Her world just temporarily fell apart (if she likes you, if not that’s a whole other issue), try your best to assure her this is all just a new, awesome adventure (saying something like that isn’t very convincing when you’re sobbing).
3. Tell them over a text
Come on now, you’re better than that. My parents went with the FaceTime route. Which was great because they could really see the shock and denial play out on my face. My parents were also kind enough to wait until I got back from my honeymoon… So you’re correct for assuming they ditched me right after marrying me off (JK. JK.). Anyway, these are your kids! Even if it isn’t your favorite kid, they deserve to hear this news as close to in person as you can get.
4. Remind them of all the things you’re going to miss
I swear your kids will be traumatized enough without you reminding them of all the holidays and special occasions you’ll miss. Think about all that depressing stuff on your own time. If your kids start bringing it up, just kind of tune them out and think of something happy, like puppies or a pizza you don’t have to share with anyone else. Try to sneak in a few exciting things instead like, “When you visit, you can experience terrible air pollution and people staring at you all the time!” You know, exciting things like that.
5. Forget to tell them
Probably not the best idea to wait until you’re already in China to tell your kids the news. Or just reconnect after 3-5 years. Believe it or not, your kids need you more than you realize. You need to give him/her/them plenty of time to prepare. She’ll need time to figure out who they’re going to call when they’ve locked their keys in their car. She’ll need time to figure out how the heck to make a doctor’s appointment and figure out what insurance is. She’ll need to figure out who she can call up randomly when she feels like she’s gained five pounds or she’s stressed or sad or completely lost. she’ll need time to wrap her head around that her younger brothers will do a whole lot of growing up without her. She’ll need time to process that when they come back, they’ll be totally different people. She’ll need time to have a few tearful breakdowns and she’ll need time to figure out how she’ll keep her other brother alive through his college years without their parents there to keep him in line. She’ll need time to accept that this is honestly what’s best for her family and although she’ll miss them every day, she knows this is an adventure they were called to embark on.