Creating a Memory Jar with your Expat Family on the Move

Moving from one country to another impacts all members of a family, parents and kids alike. We say goodbye to people and places, and hello to new people, new places and adventures. 

However, leaving a place does not mean forgetting about it. Even young children can still remember and miss specific people, food, or their house.

And that’s ok.

One of the tools that you as a parent can use to support your kids (and yourself) going through a transition, is making a Memory Jar together.

This blog post is inspired by the Memory Jar Exercise that Aylssa Cowell, school counsellor at the Jerudong International School in Brunei, showed Clarity Brunei and UBD colleagues at our latest meeting. Aylssa works with Third Culture Kids and supports them for example in grieving for a deceased grandparent or settling into Brunei. Memory Jars are often used in grief therapy, but in this exercise we will use it slightly differently.

Happy Place Memory Jar

Exercise Intention

It is a way to open up a conversation about the city or country you used to live in and to help your child (and yourself) process and give space to emotions and memories tied to the location.

Time needed

Around 30 minutes to 1 hour depending on the number of participants and age of the children.

Materials needed 

Expat Energy_Creating a Memory Jar with your Expat Family on the Move


  • 1 medium sized empty jar with a lid
  • Enough sugar to fill the jar (around 100-200 grams)
  • Small box of chalk
  • Sheets of A4 sized paper for all participants
  • A few cotton balls, enough to fill the top of the jar
  • A pen



You can do this with your whole family. Both kids and parents can come up with memories. Alternatively, one parent can do it with a child that is struggling with the transition to another country.

Expat Energy_Creating a Memory Jar with your Expat Family on the Move

How to Create Your Memory Jar

  1. Place a piece of paper in front of each participant.
  2. Heap some sugar on it.
  3. Ask each participant to recount a happy memory about the time when you were living in your previous location. It can be about a favourite person, a place, your old house, the park you used to go to, anything really, as long as it is a happy memory.
  4. While they recount the memory they put a coloured piece of chalk flat on top of the sugar heap and move it around. The sugar will take on the colour of the chalk.
  5. After finishing telling the memory, they put the coloured sugar into the jar.
  6. Then, the next person does the same and puts their coloured sugar on top of the first layer, creating a layered structure.
  7. Continue until each person has had a turn and until the jar is full.
  8. Put the cotton balls on top to keep the sugar in place.
  9. Then write each colour and a few key words about the memory belonging to it on a small piece of paper. Fold the paper and put in on top of the cotton balls. Then put the lid on the jar.

Your Memory Jar is ready!

Expat Energy_Creating a Memory Jar with your Expat Family on the Move

Your memory ideas?

It would be great if you could share your experience with making a Memory Jar below or let me know of other things you have done with your children to remember your previous location.

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