Creating Smooth Transitions — RAFT
The late David Pollock, an authority on third culture kids (TCKs), transitions, and internationally mobile families, prepared very helpful transition materials including this tool to help family members leave well.
Imagine building a raft lashing the following four “logs” together before you leave:
Reconciliation — Intentionally repair relationships before you leave. Any time we face a move from one place to another, it’s easy to deal with tensions in relationships by ignoring them. We think “I won’t see these people again, so why bother trying to work out our differences?” When a person refuses to resolve their interpersonal conflicts, they are ignoring the whole process of closure and are unable to move on and build the rest of their RAFT. They carry with them the mental baggage of unresolved problems. Old discontentment can interfere with starting new relationships. Reconciliation includes both the need to forgive and be forgiven. How that is done depends on many factors, including the culture the people are from, but it is very important to be sure that all has been done to reconcile any broken relationships before leaving.
Affirmation — Acknowledge that each person in a relationship matters. Help TCKs do things like tell favorite teachers or others how they have appreciated them, tell their friends how important their friendship has been, give a note of appreciation to their neighbors for their kindness, reassure their relatives of their love and respect and that they don’t leave them lightly. Part of closure is acknowledging their blessings—both to rejoice in them and properly mourn their passing.
Farewells — Saying goodbye to people, places, pets, and possessions in culturally appropriate ways is important if we don’t want TCKs to have deep regrets later. They need to schedule time for these farewells during the last few days and weeks. Openly acknowledging this time as a true goodbye is important.
Think Destination — Even as goodbyes are being said, TCKs need to be thinking realistically about their destination. Where are they going? What are some positives and negatives they can expect to find once they get there? What are their external support structures and their internal resources for coping with the problems they might find? Who can help them adjust? There is no way they can avoid the chaos and confusion of the transition process. TCKs need to understand that it is normal, and that it will pass if they hang on long enough. They need to keep this in mind: Leaving right is a key to entering right. By preparing their RAFT they can go through proper closure.
Here is an adaptation for younger children:
Re-unite – Make sure your friendships are ok before you leave.
Appreciate – Tell people you like that they are special to you.
Farewell – Say good-bye to places, people, and pets.
Think Ahead – Talk about where you’re going and how you can get ready.
For more materials on the transition process, see Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds by David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken, published by Intercultural Press. The above information is revised from Building a RAFT Before a Transition.
To learn about the losses associated with moving frequently, visit Mobility.
Permission to copy, but not for commercial use.