By Melodie Veldhuizen
“We’ve found jobs overseas and will be emigrating soon.” Few parents are ready for this news. They feel it especially negative if there are grandchildren ─ they are heartbroken because they are going to miss the grandchildren’s developmental phases and are afraid that the grandchildren will forget them. Dr ST Potgieter, a psychologist, and Dr Douline Minnaar, a psychiatric nurse practitioner, have the following advice on how to handle the emigration of (grand)children.
· Be positive, grateful and excited with your children for the opportunity they are given to take their careers to greater heights. Join them in looking forward to the new challenges awaiting them. This would perhaps not have been possible in South Africa.
· Support your children. The big step was their choice. But they will have to adapt to a new environment, climate, an unfamiliar culture and, on top of that, foreign languages. Apart from that, they will have to build up a new support system from scratch. They are going to miss their family, friends and everything familiar. You are staying behind in your familiar environment with family that will support you.
· Emigration cannot be compared to the death of a child, even if it sometimes feels that way because you are experiencing an intense feeling of loss. Dr Douline is of the opinion that this could result in an unresolved mourning process. Just as you are becoming used to the separation, you visit them or they visit you and the mourning process starts all over again when you have to say goodbye once more. The positive thing is that you can keep in contact.
· Depression often goes hand in hand with loss, but fight feelings of depression by focusing on the positive things ─ there is still a lot to be grateful for.
· Acknowledge feelings of loss and sadness, they’re part of the mourning process. It’s better than putting on a mask all the time and pretending that everything is in order. When longing overwhelms you, pour out your heart to your pastor, a counsellor or even a good friend. Do not allow sadness to rule your life.
· Carry on with your life and live all out. Keep on doing things you have always enjoyed doing. If your life revolved around your children and grandchildren, now is the time to start a new hobby. Knit the children and grandchildren something nice or make little presents. While you’re doing this, think about how glad they are going to be when this supprise packet comes with the mail. No other child will ever be able to take the place of your grandchildren, but perhaps you can do something for other children whose grandparents live far away by babysitting now and then.
· Keep contact. It’s easy and relatively cheap to Skype, to send emails, SMSs and WhatsApps or to talk on Facebook, and also to exchange photos and videos. In this way you can stay informed about what is going on in the children’s lives. Some parents have more contact with children who live abroad than parents whose children live only a stone’s throw from them.
· Set goals and dream big. See your children’s emigration as a possible opportunity to go overseas for the first time in your life. Try to save a few rands every month with a view to visiting your children. It will give you something to look forward to. And dreams can come true.
· Create memories. Before they leave, do as many nice things together and take lots of photos of yourself with the children and grandchildren. These are precious memories that will be an important lifeline when you are overcome with longing.
· In peace. If there are bad feelings between you and your children, make peace before they go. Nobody wants to live with reproach and self-reproaches, especially since you don’t know when, if ever, you are going to see each other again.
Let this be a period of growth for everyone. If everybody co-operates, your relationship withn your children and grandchildren can bloom rather than wilt in spite of thousands of kilometres’ separation.
Dr ST Potgieter. Pitkos Nuusbrief. (email@example.com, 021 949 5007)