How to Say Goodbye – The New York Times

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“You have to say goodbye in a way that the person will understand,” says Dionne Davis, 45, of Decatur, Ga., who has worked in child care since she was a teenager, first in preschools, and for the last 12 years as a nanny. In that time, she has said goodbye to a lot of children, some of whom she has cared for since birth. Choose words that honor the relationship and its context. “I would never say to a child, ‘I’m not going to work here anymore,’” Davis says. “I would say, ‘Miss Dionne is sad because I won’t get to play with you every day.’”
A goodbye should not be a surprise. “Make time to talk it through,” Davis says. Don’t leave all the emotional processing to the moment of separation. When 6- and 7-year-old siblings Davis cared for were preparing for an out-of-state move, together they made a calendar and marked off the days until their departure. Davis asked the children to draw pictures of their future home, and she illustrated how she imagined they would look on their next birthdays. As a result, their last day felt more celebratory than sad because everyone had time to process the impending loss.
Be forthright with yourself and others about the terms of your leave-taking, whether you’re moving away from your home country, separating from a spouse, quitting a job or ending a friendship. Ask yourself: Is this a forever goodbye or just the end of a specific kind of association? Partial goodbyes work if it’s clear what part is over; Davis enjoys keeping in touch with children even after she’s done being their caregiver. Acknowledge, however, when circumstances call for something more terminal, and be brave enough to communicate that clearly. “I have stayed in difficult situations too long because of the love that I have for the children,” says Davis, who is now advocating better pay and benefits as a member of the nanny council at the National Domestic Workers Alliance.
Parting traditions vary by culture and geography. Still, separating from things that you hold dear is an inevitable part of being a human anywhere. Think of goodbyes as a key socioemotional skill for our species. Resilience during transitions is one lesson Davis tries to teach children in her care. “Things will change,” Davis says. “We have to learn how to grow.”
(After seven years, this is the last Tip. Goodbye and a full-hearted thank you!)

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