Going back and trying to recapture some of the events lost by sharing anecdotes about when they were together on the part of the parents, or asking their children to share with them the important or not so important episodes of their life that they missed. One of the most significant experiences that I have always asked the parents to share with their children is how they felt when they left them. How they spent nights thinking about them. How much they missed them and the tears they cried when they saw other children, or a picture of them, etc. The children crave to hear how important the weight of the separation was emotionally for the parent, to hold on to this confirmation of the parents love for them, especially when the going gets rough in the present. For the youngsters it will be more difficult to share as they may withhold information out of their natural anger over the parents’ missing out on important parts of their lives and/or fear of trusting the parents with information that they dread the parents will disapprove, as well as a fear of hurting their feelings and/or seeing their pain. This is a point where guidance from a trusted therapist would help in letting them know that tears and pain are OK and in fact good in getting them closer to their parents. They can cry together at the sadness of opportunities lost. Teaching the parents also about trying to hold criticism and education about values for another time, in order to allow the flow of communication to continue when the youngster is starting to open up and concentrate instead on building trust first. This is the time when both parents and children need from to learn from the professionals or other parents good communication skills such as open questions that encourage sharing and validation of feelings to make the other experience “I am being heard”.
In her recently published book Latino Families in Therapy, Second Edition, Dr. Celia Falicov suggests restoring a Shared Family Story by constructing a Catching-Up Life Narrative which makes the idea of sharing the events before, during and after the separation, which is encouraged during therapy sessions, into a product that can be a palpable object. So the stories can be even made into a book or a diary, where these narratives can be recorded and illustrated also with photos or drawings of the houses where the family lived before and after the separation and the narrative goes all the way up to the present. For a media appealing to young children she suggest a helpful tool called the family floor plan where children can draw in a large piece of paper in response to guided questions that may open up the expression of feelings. (Coppersmith, 1980) Again in her new book, Dr. Falicov also suggest the idea of composing a certificate of legitimization which purpose is to clarify and reinstate the role of the parent(s) in its due place in the children’s lives, while at the same time honors the role of the substitute parent, recognizing the contributions as the caretaker of the children. It also makes room for the fact that the caretaker has a much deeper knowledge of the children and needs to help the parent in performing his/her parenting in the present and future. This certificate could form part of a celebration of the reunification as suggested by her, where guests could be invited and which is planned together as a family. (Falicov, 2014). For further details you can read them in the chapter about Transnational Therapies.