Jun4TueFive survival tips for children of officers under farewell orders. June 4, 2019 by Captain Scott Strissel
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- Opinion & Critical Thought
I vividly remember the day my parents broke the news to me and my sister that we were under farewell orders. I thought life as I knew it was over. My friends, my school, my corps family—everything was about to be uprooted and, in my adolescent mind, ruined. And I was angry about it.
My family spent eight years as missionaries in three locations in southern Africa. When we moved back to the United States, I thought perhaps we would stay in our new appointment for longer, but it was not to be. So we packed up our things and began the long goodbye that is the farewell process in The Salvation Army.
Let’s face it, moving is never easy. Officers can get stressed out, frazzled and downright difficult to live with during this time. But how we view these transitions can make all the difference in how we face the next place we live. So here are five tips for the children of officers who are moving—I hope they can help you thrive, not just survive, in your new home.
Talk to Your Parents/Talk to Your Child
Ask as many questions as you can about where your parents are being sent. Be inquisitive—ask about your new school, corps, summer camp. Talking about the new appointment or location will make it less of an unknown, scary thing, and more of a tangible “new home.” Keep in mind that talking won’t always be easy. There will be times when your parents will also be stressed or upset about the move, but keep in mind that families need to stick together and talk about the transition.
Parents: tell your children as soon as you can. Get them ready for the move. Also, please remember that how you view the move will positively or negatively impact how your child will view the move. Discuss the pros and cons of moving. Don’t forget that both adults and children will feel a sense of loss, especially if you’ve been in your current appointment for a long time. Talk about what you’re going to miss and about what you’re not going to miss. Be honest and sensitive to what your child is saying.
View Moving as an Adventure
One of the ways my parents helped me and my sister was by showing us the adventure that awaited. Now I know there are some reading this who may be thinking, “It’s not always so joyful when we move,” and you’re right. But the more we can begin to view moving as an adventure, the more we can begin (and help our children begin) to adjust to a semi-transitory lifestyle. I recall meeting people who have lived in one place for their entire life, and although I don’t know what that’s like, I don’t envy them.
Dr. Seuss wrote, “O, the places you’ll go!” As I look back on my life, I see all of the lessons I’ve learned from living in many places. I’ve learned about different cultures and customs, and have a broader world view than if my family had just stayed in one location. Start talking about the adventure—then live the adventure! It’s natural to miss where you once lived, but if you keep looking back, you’ll miss the fun in front of you.
Coupled with a sense of adventure, try to maintain a familiar atmosphere at home. Bring your decorations, pillows, blankets, posters, etc., so home remains a sanctuary, a safe place, a family-first environment.
Research Your New Home Town
We all have smartphones and computers, so use them to check out all of the fun places around your new home. You can use apps like TripAdvisor, Yelp, Zomato, etc., to find new and exciting places to eat, explore and visit when you arrive at your new appointment. Make plans to check out those places, and then do it!
It can be fun to use the “street view” function of Google Maps to tour your new neighbourhood. As you do this, you will start to envision yourself there. It will never take the place of where you live now, but it will certainly add to your life’s adventure. Think of your life like a book—you’ll never replace the last chapter, but this will be the start of a new chapter.
Find New Activities
When you move to your new home—and here’s a big, frightening step of faith—find activities at your new school and/or community to become involved in. Don’t wait for a year to jump in, do it right away—trust me on this. I know some of you might be introverts at heart and you’ll want to stick close to home and “play it safe,” but push yourself to get out and get involved.
When I was a kid, I loved sports, and so when we moved I joined the soccer team and the track team. By the time school started, I already knew people at my new school because they were friends from soccer. I made it a point to get involved. It wasn’t easy, and there were days that my stomach churned with anxiety about being the “new guy,” but I pushed myself, and my parents gently pushed me, too.
Parents: Kids are stronger that we sometimes think they are. They will thrive if we get them out there and involved in activities. I’m not saying don’t allow them their down time at home, but don’t let them settle into an unhealthy cocoon, either. Help them plug into activities they’re interested in within your new appointment. When we can help our children find these healthy sources, they will develop friendships and become invested in this new adventure.
I’m not going to lie to you. There will be days when you sorely miss the place you just came from. There will be days when you are tempted to withdraw from your new place and quit. Don’t. Families need to stick together during this “mourning” phase of moving. Emphasize the positives—look for the bright side and the opportunities. They say that life is 10 percent what happens and 90 percent how we react, so attitude is important in these transitions. If your new school stinks, perhaps you can still find one friend to hang out with. If your corps is not the best place to be, perhaps you can still find a small corner of it to make it your own, despite the circumstances.
How we act toward one another matters. Be an encourager. Don’t be negative and only focus on what you hate about the new place. Sure, talk about those things, but don’t stay there—find the silver lining. When you do, you will find hope and joy despite the ups and downs of these transitory circumstances.
Kids: You got this. You are resilient and smart. Help your parents, and remember we aren’t alone. Children of officers are a band of brothers and sisters and we can do anything we set our minds to. Let’s stick together!
Parents: Keep speaking truth, love and joy into your kids. Be patient with them, and at times go easy on them. Encourage them to be active, and show them what it means to live this officer life. Live the adventure with them.
Captain Scott Strissel is the divisional youth secretary and divisional candidates’ secretary in the Midland Division, U.S.A. Central Territory. He is an active blogger and contributor for the purpose of encouraging and challenging the Salvation Army world. Read his blog at pastorsponderings.org.
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