How to prepare kids for goodbye at the end of a visit!

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My kids love having family come visit. The excitement leading up to their arrival and the anticipation of all the fun to be had is one of the best parts of the visit. We always plan special outings and get-togethers and the calendar of the visit is usually full to the brim. When it comes time to leave…the kids (and grown ups) are disappointed, deflated, and usually not ready for the departure.

Favorite guest post writer, Babs Bell Hajdusiewicz shares her thoughts and strategies on how to best prepare little ones for the day company leaves to go home in this month’s featured post. As a grandma (a best-selling children’s author, career educator, and longtime consultant for schools, parents, and writers) Babs has both personal and professional insight on how to manage what can be a really difficult good bye.

Do your kids struggle with saying goodbye at the end of a visit? How do you plan for that tough last day?

I hope you’ve enjoyed this guest post from educator and Babsy B founder, Babs Bell Hajdusiewicz, Ms.Ed. You can look forward to a monthly feature post about A-Z parenting topics from Babsy B!  Be sure to check out the Babsy B website to find field-tested books, prints, and other products like Today’s Song, a CD that  includes 28 songs and poems!

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74 Responses

  1. Babs says:

    Hi Friends. Just to extend your hostess’ and my own sincere apologies for the bad links in this, my April post. We’re continually working to get the kinks out.

    Meanwhile, if you’d like to view anything I’d tied to any of those bad links, you can always reach me at info@babsyb.com or go to my site at http://www.babsyb.com. Thank you for your loyalty and your patience!

  2. Saying goodbye at the end of a visit can certainly be difficult, especially for kids but sometimes even for the adults. No one likes saying goodbye to those they love, but it’s important that we teach kids (and remember) that being able to visit with those we love is great, and to cherish the time we have together.

  3. Lisa Rios says:

    I deal a lot of such issues when both my kids struggle a lot in saying goodbye at the end of any visit, which I think is quiet natural for kids. I give them some time to express their emotions & console them that we will come here again!

  4. Babs says:

    Hi Sarah. Please do share with all family and friends the world over. It’s my goal to reach out to every child and parent to help them develop the child’s oral language. Thus, I officially deputize you! 😊

  5. Ryan Escat says:

    Sometimes my son did it, I know I understand child emotion.

    • babs says:

      Hello and welcome back. It’s good to know readers do come back to check on a post. Thanks! You seem ever-aware that children benefit from empathic listening when they are feeling emotions, especially when they are pre-verbal or can’t yet verbalize. Thanks, Ryan.

  6. parpar de real says:

    what a great post, Honestly I need a guide my wife should know about this. Thanks for sharing

  7. Nicole Escat says:

    Great tips! My son did it! I think kids are have an attachment in person or things that they’re loved. And they’re very emotional.

    • babs says:

      Yes, Nicole, children feel deeply, love wholly, and need our help to express all those feelings and emotions. Glad to know you liked the post. Thanks for commenting.

  8. Rebecca Swenor says:

    Saying good bye was something my boys grow up with because their dad traveled a lot when they were little. I love the idea of using songs and sticky note. I will have to share this with my sister for my little nephew. They come visit a few times a year. Thanks for sharing the information.

    • babs says:

      Having a parent who travels does prepare children for saying goodbye. Good point. Glad you liked the post. Songs and sing-songing words are magical tools in living and working with young children. Thanks for commenting, Rebecca.

  9. Rosey says:

    I need a guide for me, lol. I’m always the one that has the hard time. 😉

  10. Elizabeth O. says:

    I guess, we all struggle with goodbyes. Kids are just more emotionally attached to people, so they tend to struggle with it more. I remember my girls crying whenever a family member has to leave. It takes some time, but normally I just assure them that it’s just a temporary goodbye.

  11. Awww i remember how hard it was when they were little and when I was little too..its a wrencher and only time can get it sorted. But ten again your tips are awesome too 🙂

  12. Lexie Lane says:

    Awww … I know my little niece has a difficult time with this. Everytime we get ready to leave she asks for another hour. Nice to know there’s a good book for it!

    • Babs says:

      Hi Lexie. It’s not actually a book for the goodbyes…this one’s a strategy. Try it out with your niece. We just did the sticky-note reverse advent calendar again last week, my GrandGirl and I. And this time, she initiated choosing one of her stuffed menagerie from her bed to send along with Grandmama to my home in Atlanta. Sooooo sweet. I left a hairbrush with her, so we are well-connected from afar. She asked to check on and to see her doggie in my house on FaceTime Sunday. She was happy to see her doggie in the arms of a huge teddy here in my office…and holding a book, of course. Sweetness, my GrandGirl is!

  13. Dina Demarest says:

    This is a toughie when it comes time for the visit to be over. Children do become attached especially if it is a family member. Awesome info on this though that can be passed on to friends and family!

    • Babs says:

      Dina, do pass on the tip for planning those goodbyes after extended visit. I just wrote above how my GrandGirl and I just experienced it all again and how the stickies-calendar was a big help again. Thanks for sharing the tip with friends and family!

  14. My kids just started having playdates with the neighbours and I have to admit that they’ve been pretty good with this! I forewarn them what time we have to leave (or their friends can stay) and even though they can’t tell time yet, it seems to work 😉

  15. Jamie says:

    When my kids were both very young, my grandmother kept them during the day while I worked. Every day was a fight at pickup time. Grandma was SO much better than mom and they never wanted to say goodbye. Some nights, it was so bad that they just ended up spending the night with her instead of going home with me. It was frustrating for me, but grandma couldn’t stand to see her grand snows upset.

    • Babs says:

      I’m glad your grandmother was there to support you and your children. They must have good memories of her to keep forever.

  16. Oh, wow! What a cool way to get kids involved and learning about how to deal with events and emotions involved. Very cute and informational! I’m definitely sharing this with other mommies!

  17. Katie says:

    It was much tougher when mine were younger, but it can still get dicey once in a while. I always try to have a 5 minute warning and a follow up activity to transition them to. These are some very helpful tips!

    • Babs says:

      Hi Katie. Yes, the younger children are, the tougher these transitions can be. Glad you find the strategy of use. Yes, a reminder can be useful, though I find the younger the child, the less their understanding of the concept of a minute. That said, whatever works for children and parents to make the transition is whatever works! Thanks for your comment.

  18. When my daughter had friends over at like age 2 through 7 maybe, all of them cried when they had to leave. I couldn’t believe how upset they were to not get their way but I secretly pretended that they just loved my home so much they couldn’t think about leaving! This is very helpful!

    • babs says:

      Hello Melissa. Ah, how difficult transitions can be for all of us at all ages. I’ve often noticed how much easier it is when a move happens…to leave a friend than to be the friend who’s left behind. So we adults tend to play tricks on our own thoughts in order to deal with what’s happening. Transitions are hard parts of life, for sure!

  19. JENN says:

    Good byes are very hard if they aren’t planned for!! I try to give my kids plenty of warning when a visit is about to end!!

  20. Goodbyes are just plain hard, even for adults. These are all wonderful tips to make the transition a little bit easier for them. No one wants to end a perfect time with a fit or upset feelings.

    • Babs says:

      Hi Kristy. You bet, goodbyes are tough! I’ve just returned from nearly two weeks with my new 1 and new 3. My heart and arms ache while missing them today! I keep clock watching as I’d grown so accustomed to doing for naps and meals and snacks and tubbie times. Ah, the joys of being with grandchildren! The sticky notes calendar was a huge help yet again. Thanks for your comment!

  21. These are great tips for helping kids deal with saying goodbye. I know when I was younger I always hated when our out of town guests we didn’t get to see often left. I think telling the kids you will see them again helps a lot.

    • babs says:

      Hello Tammilee. Yes, reminding about return visits helps a lot. As do reviews of all the fun things we did together during those numbered days. Thanks for your comment.

  22. Dee says:

    These are some great tips that can be used. I believe letting the child know up front of the limited time you have together will better prepare them for you leaving.

    • Babs says:

      Yes, Dee, the heads-up is a huge help. Also assists very young children in learning about days of the week. My grands and we sang “Today’s Song” many times in the past nearly 2 weeks. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  23. I think this is a great method to use with children who have difficulty when their relatives have to leave. I think the success is a result of the child participating in the vacation and being able to monitor each day with grandma. The songs sung each day make it fun and the child already knows which day grandma has to leave so it’s not such a shock.

    • babs says:

      Thanks for your comment, Lori. Yes, the tips just helped me yet again. Just back from a wonderful visit with our new 1 and new 3. Sang and sang and sang some more!

  24. i dont have any kiddies but yes i am sure ending a visit especially with certain love ones can be extremely hard.

    • babs says:

      You bet it is, Dawn. Just experienced the ending a visit again yesterday. Very hard, though the sticky notes truly helped our Toddler 3 and me! Thanks for taking time to comment.

  25. Adrienne says:

    Interesting! As someone without kiddos, I would have never thought that this would even be an issue. I can see how saying goodbye would be difficult to kids.

    • babs says:

      Yes. Young children have little concept of time, so this strategy assists with that. It’s interesting how often our talk with babies and toddlers centers around “time” words…actually, from the moment of birth, we begin our “time talk.” Born at what time? Is it time to feed, change, burp, sleep, wake, and so on. Always using those “time” words, we are! Thanks for joining the conversation, Adrienne.

  26. John lopez says:

    I never have a problem with my kids leaving usually they’re asking me if they want to go and leave the location LOL

    • babs says:

      Yes, children do ask to leave activities and locations. This strategy, though, is about helping very young ones cope with emotions they’re unable to express verbally and about getting an oral head start on those time concepts of the days of the week, the days in order, the circular aspect of time from one Sunday to the next Sunday, and the like. All about teaching children all that they’re wanting to know and understand but without the oral language that enables them to verbalize it all. Thanks, John, for joining in this conversation.

  27. My daughter is actually going through the “If you are not my mommy, I don’t want you near” phase lol So goodbyes to her isn’t a big deal. Maybe when she will be a bit older!

    • babs says:

      Wondering how old she is, Marielle. Sounds like one of several age stages wherein children seek to meet their need for security that only their primary caregivers can provide. Those age stages can make goodbyes equally difficult for the caregivers. Glad to have you in the conversation.

  28. Ryan Escat says:

    This is such a great post. I like seeing and reading post for kids.

    • Babs says:

      Hello Ryan. Glad to have you join us. Good that you found this post of help and an interesting read. Thanks for your comment.

  29. Heather says:

    My toddlers did, but they’ve grown out of it. It was more leaving places like the park or a play date with friends where hey didn’t want to leave and a tantrum would ensue.

    • Babs says:

      Yes, Heather, leaving fun behind is never easy. Leaving the park or a play date can be made easier with the use of a timer…or a reminder of another sort that uses sticky-notes, pebbles, sticks, or what-have-you as “time counters.” Here’s what to do:

      You divide the amount of time planned for the event into increments of 5, 10, 15, or so minutes––however best fits the event’s timing. Say the event will last for one hour. I might sort that event’s time into 6 ten-minute parts.

      Now, take a couple of minutes with your young child before the start of the fun event. Ask the child’s help or lay out 6 sticks or pebbles or other “time counters.” Explain that you or the child will move away one of the counters at the end of each 10 minutes, and that the child can look at what’s left at any time to get a feel for how long left to play.

      Depending on the child’s age and ability, I sometimes like to use sticks or sticky notes as our counters because that last counter can be separated into parts that represent 2 or 5 minutes each. This serves as that heads-up reminder that helps the child visualize those last minutes of time to play.

      With “time counter” experience, a child learns about counting, grouping, placeholders, self-control and self-discipline, handling of emotions and wishes versus reality, and much more. A child comes to recognize how it is that such “time counters” can represent the passing of time. And, in reality, how time flies when you’re having fun! Ha!

  30. I think all kids go through separation anxiety at some point. I used to just tell my kids that I would be back. They eventually got it. We had tears at first.

  31. Michelle says:

    I remember my daughter being a little sad saying goodbye to friends and family members she wouldn’t see for awhile. I found that it helped to make plans for the future and talking on the phone after saying goodbye helped as well.

  32. My kids do quite well with Goodbyes. Granted I give them a lot of notice so it isn’t a huge surprise and we have always been very open with including them in our plans so they never feel left out or worried they won’t get a chance to see that person again in short order.

    • babs says:

      Indeed, both tips (making future plans & phone conversations) help with the goodbyes. Thanks for offering them up, Michelle.

    • babs says:

      Lots of notice as the heads-up sure does help. And I like your mention, Heather, of including children in planning so they feel a part of it all. Children are always listening, whether we include them or not, so why not give them that respectful benefit of inclusion! Thanks, Heather!

  33. Jeanine says:

    This is great! My kids have always done well with goodbyes. I on the other hand was awful as a kid. I would always be left so heartbroken. It was not good. This is helpful.

    • babs says:

      Glad it’s helpful, Jeanine, though tardy, it appears. Given that your children have done well with goodbyes, it sounds like you’ve worked to include them and to be there for them around goodbyes.

      You know, despite our tendency as parents to overlook or to dis the positive role modeling and such assists we give to our children, fact is we do give them coping mechanisms that enable their, in your case, doing “well with goodbyes.”

      Jeanine…Time to lift an arm in the air, move it to your shoulder, and pat yourself on the back…for YOU, consciously or unconsciously, helped your children get there!

  34. My son is 5 and sometimes we do have issues with him not wanting to leave – especially at playdates. I think it helps to let them know upfront what you will be doing AFTER you leave. We haven’t had any situations like this one, though. We are usually the ones who are leaving and after we have been away from home for a while, he is typically ready to go home. I guess it also helps that most of our family lives nearby. My immediate family is all within minutes of each other (we literally live across the street from my parents) and most of the extended family is only 45 minutes away.

    • babs says:

      Yes, playdates are just too much fun…to let it all go with a goodbye! That heads-up is helpful, as is talking about that next activity. If, in fact, the next activity is a “not desirable” one like brushing teeth or taking a nap, then talking about what will come AFTER that next one is ultra helpful. It’s all about trying to stay one step ahead or being proactive.

      Facts of life…there are some things in life that must get done…and…No one wants to brush their teeth! No one wants to take a nap…if you’re 5 or younger, that is! No one wants to end a playdate! And no one wants to tidy up! The motivating factor for each of us is the “what comes after that chore” or the “hope” in life for what’s to come that we will WANT to do!

      Tiffany, you are fortunate to have family so close by, but you know that already. Read my blog at babsyb.com for ideas to bring a child’s loved ones close to them via pix posted on their room walls, and the like. You’ll also want to scroll up here to read about ways to use “time counters” to help time the playdates. Thanks for joining the conversation.

  35. Eloise says:

    great info… the only time I had this problem with my kids were at the age of 2 1/2 yrs and 3 1/2 yrs(14 months apart) and they had to live elsewhere for 6 months while I recovered from a major illness… they would come visit me and the goodbyes were heartbreaking!

    • babs says:

      Oh, Eloise, how difficult that had to be for all of you. Sounds like you and your children have survived an extremely-challenging time. With my own children being 13 months apart, I can’t imagine living away from them for 6 months as you had to do. Whoa. Thanks for sharing and for giving us all one more reason to be grateful for each and every positive opportunity that comes our way.

  36. Brandy says:

    I don’t recall having a situation where my kids had issues saying goodbye, but these are great information!

  37. I found my children to be quite resilient. They didn’t fret too much about things, we’d explain anything we thought they might struggle with and they were good to go.

  38. Sarah Bailey says:

    I don’t have kids I have to admit – but I can imagine it can be a hard thing seeing someone go at the end of a visit, especially when you have had such a good time. x

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