At this time of year, many of us are saying goodbye; either we are transitioning to a new country or know someone who is transitioning. Transitions in life are typically times mixed with joy and sadness.
The late Dave Pollock, an authority on third culture kids (TCKs), transitions and internationally mobile families, discussed the cycles of transition in his book, Third Culture Kids. When he discussed leaving, he shared the concept of a ‘RAFT’ to help students and families transition well in this highly mobile lifestyle. I hope the wisdom that he shared from his book resonates with you.
To achieve healthy closure in the leaving stage, imagine building a raft lashing the following four “logs” together to get you safely ‘to the other side’:
Reconciliation - 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 we refuse to resolve our interpersonal conflicts we ignore the whole process of closure and are unable to move on and build the rest of our RAFT. We carry with us 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, but we have to be sure we are doing all we can do to reconcile any broken relationships before leaving.
Affirmation—Acknowledge that each person in our relationships matters. Do things like tell your coworkers how you have enjoyed working with them, tell your friends how important their friendship has been, give a note of appreciation to your neighbors for their kindness, reassure your parents and siblings of your love and respect and that you don’t leave them lightly. Part of closure is acknowledging our 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 to have deep regrets later. We need to schedule time for these farewells during the last few days and weeks. Openly acknowledging this time as a true goodbye is important. Be sure you schedule time for your children to say goodbye to significant ones in their lives, as well.
Think Destination—Even as we are saying goodbye, we need to be thinking realistically about our destination. This inevitably brings with it many questions. Where are we going? What are some positives and negatives we can expect to find once we get there? What are our external support structures and our internal resources for coping with the problems we might find? Who can help us adjust? The good news that the preparation is typically pleasant and knowing before you go can help reduce anxiety and increase our anticipation of what is to come.
By preparing our RAFT, we can go through proper closure and complete the process of transition in healthy ways that allow us to leave well. If you have any questions or concerns about this process, our school counselors at every division are more than happy to help, so please reach out to them if you need support.
One final piece of advice to keep in mind: Leaving right is a key to entering right.
All the best for a successful transition to you wherever next year finds you!
School Counselor, Pretoria Campus