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Off We Go

A Book Review

If you have children, one item on your to-do list before moving to the field is “Prepare our kids.” While it’s a right and noble goal, it can feel big and nebulous so it gets moved from one week’s to-do list to another week’s to another . . . until now. You can put “Get Off We Go” on your list and know that you have taken the first step towards preparing your children.

Off We Go: An Activity Book for Children (Ages 3-8) Going Overseas is a must-have resource for those with young children.  Written by Polly Ho and Pwee Hwai Bing this downloadable PDF, available below, is designed to help parents prepare their children to move overseas.

Off We Go is divided into four sections with seven activities in each section.

The four sections are:

The workbook is designed so that you, as the parent or a person helping the family, can choose and print the activities that are best suited for your child’s needs. As the intro says:

The first chapter of the activity book aims to help the child build up security in the family. The second chapter will help to encourage the child to talk out feelings and to experience positive closure in the move. The third chapter aims to help the child develop realistic expectations and a positive attitude toward the new country. The fourth chapter is to help the child know how to protect him/herself and how to stay safe when traveling.

The pages are colorful and engaging for a child. Most activities have tips to help a parent and some activities have suggested “extended activities” for parents who want explore a lesson in a bit more depth with their child.

I appreciated that each section has a Bible verse that can be used by the family to anchor their family in that concept. For instance, in “You Are Chosen,” every page has the verse “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3) There is enough repetition to allow a concept to stick and enough variety in the activities to keep a child’s interest.

To give you a sense of how a concept is developed, here are the activities in the second section Getting Ready To Go:

2.1 My Moving Truck
2.2 Saying Goodbye to my Good Friends
2.3 Saying Goodbye to Favorite Places
2.4 My Love and Stress Baskets
2.5 How Do I Feel?
2.6 A Farewell Party
2.7 Saying “Sorry”

If you do the “My Love and Stress Baskets” activity, your family will likely find the language of “love basket” and “stress basket” working its way into your family vocabulary.

The only chapter I found to be a stretch was the last one: “Keeping Safe.” The first activity would be a good one to do a day or two before traveling, but most of the activities seem geared toward preparing a child to be safe in their home country. It was jolting to me as the reader to have a lesson about private parts that did not seem related to life on the field. Obviously, the safety of children is vital. But there was nothing in the activities that tied the lessons to life outside of your home country. In some cultures, strangers will touch a child’s genitals to determine if the child is a boy or a girl. If the parents or the child don’t know this is likely, you can imagine the trauma caused! But that connection wasn’t made with the lesson.

It is because this topic is needed that it seemed a missed opportunity. It could have been easily remedied with a page geared towards the parent. Maybe introductory information explaining types of situations parents might find themselves facing when it comes to their child’s safety or a check list for them to ask other parents in the new host-culture about what they might face. This would help parents have a starting place on what they need to think through and what most likely they—or their child—won’t experience in their new culture.

Though the final section seemed to have a different tone than the rest of the resource, don’t let this keep you from using this valuable tool to prepare your family for the field! This will help you say “Off we go!” with more confidence and connectedness as a family.

Editor’s note: Our reviewer of the workbook Off We Go: An Activity Book for Children (Ages 3-8) Going Overseas, questioned the inclusion of the fourth section, “Keeping Safe.” We reached out to one of the authors and she wrote the following response.

A response from Polly Ho, co-author of Off We Go.

A few years ago, I attended a training on child safety organized by the Child Safety and Protection Network (CSPN). In the training, I was alarmed by the number of child abuse cases involving Third Culture Kids (TCKs) on the mission field and the number of victims affected. To my surprise, those who abused the TCKs included nationals, as well as people within the missions community! I am grateful to CSPN for raising awareness regarding of and advocating for TCK safety and protection. Parents, TCK caregivers and missions personnel are reminded not to overreact and withdraw children from healthy interaction with people around them. Nevertheless, the key to this issue is prevention. And parents play a key role in educating their children.

In the revised version of Off We Go, a chapter on “Keeping Safe” has been added. While it is good that some parents may be aware of the need and have already taught their children how to protect themselves before the family leaves their home country, other parents may not have realized the need. We hope that the activities in this chapter will serve as a tool for parents to start talking about the issue with their young children before and even when they are overseas. Of course, some safety issues may be addressed differently in different cultures. We trust that parents will have wisdom to know how to use and modify these activities as appropriate.

More information on child safety and protection can be found on the Child Safety and Protection Network website.

Updated with author response on June 17, 2020.

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Image credit: 272447 from Pixabay.
Amy Young

Amy Young

Amy Young, MA, LPC loves a good story. She served in China for nearly 20 years (plenty of stories there!). As the founder and CEO of Global Trellis, her current story involves helping great commission workers have tended souls and expanding skill sets. Amy has written six books for great …View Full Bio

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