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Acknowledging and Validating Parental Feelings:

(Jonathan Liddle: Psychologist SpLD Specialist and Senior Accredited Psychotherapist)

Navigating the Emotional Landscape of a Child Moving Abroad: Acknowledging and Validating Parental Feelings

The decision for a child to move abroad can be a complex and emotionally charged experience for parents. While recognising the potential benefits for the child, parents often find themselves grappling with a sense of loss and grief, creating a tumultuous emotional journey. In this short article I explore the various facets explores the various facets of this emotional landscape, observing the feelings of loss, guilt, and the struggle to balance the benefits for the child with the parental need for connection.

When a child moves abroad, parents may experience a profound sense of loss, akin to grieving. The physical distance can magnify the emotional separation, leaving parents to confront a void once filled by daily interactions and shared experiences. The feeling of loss is not only natural but an expected part of the transition. Acknowledging this grief is crucial for parents to navigate their emotions effectively.

Guilt often becomes an unwelcome companion on this emotional journey. Parents may feel guilty for mourning the absence of their child as if doing so undermines the opportunities and positive experiences the move abroad may offer. The conflict arises from the societal expectation that parents should unconditionally support their child's pursuit of personal and academic growth. However, it is essential to recognise that experiencing grief does not diminish the support for the child's journey but rather reflects the depth of the parent-child bond.

Visits home or travels to reunite with the child become both a source of joy and anxiety for parents. The countdown to these reunions is marked by anticipation, but the fear of re-experiencing the inevitable separation looms large. The emotional rollercoaster of joy at the reunion and the looming dread of departure can lead to complex emotions, including resentment or anger towards the child. Parents may grapple with these feelings, feeling selfish and guilty for harbouring any negativity towards their child's decisions.

It is crucial for parents to understand that these conflicting emotions are a normal part of the adjustment process. Embracing the complexity of their feelings does not diminish their love or support for the child; rather, it reflects the depth and intensity of the parent-child relationship. It is okay to feel the pangs of separation, to grieve the absence of daily interactions, and to experience a spectrum of emotions during visits.

Acknowledging and accepting these emotions is a crucial step towards healing and maintaining a healthy relationship. Open communication with the child about these feelings can foster understanding and empathy on both sides. Additionally, seeking support from friends, family, or even professional counsellors can provide parents with tools to navigate the emotional challenges that accompany a child's move abroad.

In conclusion, the emotional journey of a child moving abroad is one marked by loss, grief, guilt, and a myriad of conflicting emotions for parents. It is essential to normalise these feelings, recognising that they do not diminish the parent-child bond but rather underscore its depth. By acknowledging and validating their emotions, parents can find solace and strength to support their child's journey while preserving their own emotional well-being.

Jonathan Liddle: Psychologist SpLD Specialist and Senior Accredited Psychotherapist About
Jonathan Liddle and Dr Clare Cooper run the North East Assessment & Psychology Services (NEAPS) in the UK. Jonathan has 19 years experience in the field of psychology.  He is a senior accredited clinical psychotherapist and an expert in developmental learning difficulties.  Dr Cooper has 19 years experience in the field of psychology.  She is a chartered psychologist and an expert in health and wellbeing, brain injury, illness and disabilities.


Counselling & Psychotherapy

NEAPS offers a wide range of counselling and psychotherapy models of support to suit an individual's needs.  They offer long term and short term treatment options for individuals, couples, or families.  They can work with difficult life events through to complex mental health needs. Visit their website or email for more information. 
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