It only takes a few years in the Foreign Service to realize that each move, each time you leave a post, marks a significant part of your life. So it’s only right that you commemorate and celebrate your time there. Usually, once we get the information for a new assignment, that’s what we start focusing on, because it is important to make sure our kids and families are able to quickly adjust to somewhere completely new. But it’s also important to spend some time remembering the people you’ve met, friends you’ve made, food you’ve eaten, and home that’s sheltered you for however many months (or years) you’ve been living there. Here are five creative ideas I’ve seen FS families do to say ‘good-bye’ to their friends, home, and post before leaving:
1. Memorialize your home. The more you travel, the more you recognize how special your physical home is; after all, not only did it provide you shelter in an unfamiliar place, but it was also the backdrop for many great memories. And let’s face it, all the homes we’ve lived in can become a blur after a while, so make an effort to remember each one before you leave. Take photographs, get a painting or sketch done of it, you can even turn your key into an ornament. A keepsake like these will help moving on to somewhere new a little easier, since you’ll be able to take a bit of the old with you.
2. Give your kids a way to reflect and an opportunity to look forward. The "Life as a Foreign Service Kid" activity book is a fun way to preserve your child's unique experiences and memories. It’s full of colorful pages for your child to fill in with memories (about the places they’ve lived, the souvenirs they’ve collected, etc.) and hopes for the future (like writing a letter to their future selves). You can get it here, free for a limited time: www.ushistoryabroad.com/activity-book/
3. Get everyone’s contact info. This one’s pretty obvious, but make sure you check in with your kids too. It’s better to be thorough here than wish you were still in contact with so-and-so years from now. Did they get all their friends’ emails, messenger app information, or phone numbers? You can get your kids an old-school phone book to keep their friends’ contact info or even help them create a ‘yearbook’ (on Shutterstock, or another photo program; or with polaroids photos, tape and a notebook), so their friends can write their contact info as well as a note saying good-bye.
4. Start a group chat or set up a kid-safe social app for your kids and their friends. If your child doesn’t have a phone yet, create a special group chat in your phone along with the parents of their friends so everyone can stay in communication. Facebook has a kid-safe messenger app you can set up for them as well.
5. Throw a ‘House Cooling’ party! You’ve heard of a housewarming party, but what about a house cooling party? You throw it right before you move as a way to say goodbye to your old home and enjoy a final meal together with the people you’ve met while at post. Remember to invite neighbors, your CLO, and other local friends, and encourage everyone to share their favorite memories they’ve made in the house. After this, you could make a toast to your old house and wish its new owners all the happiness you’ve enjoyed there. It may be rough to say goodbye, but remember, your next post will hold just as many amazing experiences and cherished memories!
Want more tips and tricks for making your life in the Foreign Service a bit easier? For an ongoing list of ideas like these, delivered straight to your inbox each week, subscribe to the 3-Things newsletter: www.ushistoryabroad.com/3things