Transition game for the Whole Family: Questions to Engage Before Short or Long-Term Transition

Originally posted: March 26, 2014

Reality shows us: Furlough and re--entry can be a very unsettling times for all the members of a family

OBJECTIVE: To help families talk about their feelings and experiences. To create a safe space for every member of the family to process. Families could do this at any time, but there is an especially high need for children to feel secure and understood during times of transition.

INSTRUCTIONS: Take one month prior to your transition during a meal or other time and as each person is able, answer one question per day. You can play this 1 of 2 ways. Pick a number corresponding to the questions. Or print out the questions and cut the questions out drawing them from a hat. Note: You may have to reword questions for younger children, or modify those that don’t apply.

Dear Parents,

When your family relocates, either for furlough or for a change of assignment, that transition experience is sometimes a “mixed bag” of feelings for various members of the family.

The following communication game has been designed to help you and your children talk about these feelings in a non-threatening manner. It allows questions to be asked or topics to be discussed at the suggestion of an external source (the game), rather than through the initiative of any single family member. Everyone is on common ground…everyone who can, plays.

As you use this game, there are some things worth remembering:

  • Ask questions in a relaxed, spontaneous, non-judgmental way

  • Don’t try and fix their experience or what they share

  • Be willing to admit your own feelings – fears, loneliness, etc.

  • See the upcoming time in your country of origin as a great time to experience new things

  • Re-frame the questions if it’s confusing or not age-appropriate

  • Remember that during times of transition it is especially important to find something each day to praise/celebrate with each child.

  • Don't force processing or make this game go on too long. It's meant to be a fun listening and sharing time, not an obligatory experience.


Transition questions (pre-furlough or pre re-entry): Talking to a 4+ year old (give younger children concrete situations they can relate to; adapt questions to maturity level)

  1. The thing I miss most about where we are going back to (passport country) is…

  2. What is a funny question a national friend has asked you?

  3. What is the strangest food you have eaten? Do people in this country think it is strange?

  4. Tell about a travel experience you’ll never forget, either in your passport country or this country

  5. One thing parents should never do is…

  6. One of my favorite memories of celebrating a holiday in my passport/this country is…

  7. What is one of your favorite things that you own? What makes it valuable to you?

  8. The food I miss most from my passport country is…The last time I ate it was in___with___

  9. One of the things I’m looking forward to most this year is…

  10. If I had one wish I would…

  11. Is there something about being here/living here that made you feel uncomfortable at first but not anymore?

  12. What is something you’d like to thank your parents for?

  13. What will you miss most about being here? What could help with this when you are gone?

  14. What helps most when you are lonely or sad because of being separated from friends or family? What could someone else do to help?

  15. What do you do with friends here?

  16. When you get back to your passport country and people ask you what it was like here, what will you say?

  17. One of the feelings I have a hard time expressing is…

  18. What is a good thing that happened to you today? Could it have happened to you in your passport country?

  19. The thing I will miss most about this country is…

  20. Tell about an embarrassing situation you’ve experienced since coming here. How did you get over feeling embarrassed? How do you think you might face situations like that back in your passport country?

  21. Is there anyone you’ve met that you’d like to be like? What makes you want to be like them?

  22. How do you figure out what to do when you don’t know how to act?

  23. When you get back to your passport country and people ask you where you are from, what will you say? (Do you think that sometimes you will want to answer the question differently?)

  24. What would you do to help someone who is sad?

  25. It was really fun when our family went…

  26. What are the things that make you feel happy (or sad, worried, afraid, angry)? Why?

  27. Sometimes I wish I would never have to ______ because…

  28. Who do you miss the most from your passport country? Write a letter to that person?

  29. Who would you like to invite to our house for supper?

  30. The first thing I would do if I were back in my passport country would be…

  31. What is the best thing about being a TCK (or being in ministry for parents)?

  32. Where is home for you? Where do you feel like you belong? What makes you feel that way?

  33. When I feel excited, I…

  34. When I feel disappointed, I…

  35. When I feel lonely, I…

  36. When I feel happy, I…

  37. When I feel discouraged, I…

  38. When I feel angry, I…

  39. *Make up your own question today

Talking to an older child 7+

  1. Tell about a person who has influenced your relationship with God

  2. To me, living here has been…

  3. Tell me about one of your fondest memories in the country you live in

  4. Describe your favorite teacher and what it was about the class you liked

  5. Complete this statement: To me, living here has been…

  6. Tell about one of your fondest memories of something we did as a family together on the field

  7. One of the biggest celebrations of my (our) life has been…

  8. Which skill would you like to develop that you have an opportunity to learn while here, that may be difficult to learn in your passport country?

  9. What makes you feel more “at home” either in your passport country or here?

  10. I hope we never stop doing ______because…

  11. Right now my friends back in my passport country are probably…

  12. What cultural differences do you notice between here and your passport country?

  13. Are there cultural things you’re unsure of when you get back to your passport country?

  14. If you had all the time and money you needed, what would you like to do most? Why?

  15. What is the hardest thing about being a TCK or someone in ministry?

Remember the most important part of this communication game: Creating a safe space to be heard and understood. You may have to gently remind players that there is more value in open communication than being correct. "That's how he feels" Can keep kids from arguing over the right or wrong answer. Older children may have the tendency to want to correct younger ones and parents may have to resist the urge to fill in the sentences for their children. Finish by thanking the children for what they shared and for letting you in on a part of their journey.

Other Potential talking points prior to leaving:

  • Do you know anyone else who has ever left from where we live for 3-6 months

  • What is a TCK?

  • What is a passport country?

  • What does it mean to be a national?

  • If it’s your first time back in years, talk about things that might be different or strange that they’re not prepared for (i.e. technology, consumerism, friendships, how they’ve grown up and so have their friends)

Transition:moving from one state or condition to another 

TCK = Third Culture Kid

Adapted from: Jim & Ruth Lauer Transition is a Family Affair: Communication game for the family Modify for pre-deployment or indefinite re-entry