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  • Claudia Disco

Are you moving (again)? Use a RAFT for your next transition

Updated: Apr 19, 2023


There are many things that can get in the way to saying proper goodbyes to our friends, family and life in general when we move. For one, the overwhelm and stress of preparing for the move doesn't seem to leave us much time. But leaving the right way is a crucial element to the phases of closure, transition and starting a new chapter.

Here’s a simple acronym that will help you with your next transition. RAFT stands for four concrete steps we can take to make the transition as smooth as possible. This tool was developed by David Pollock in the book Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds written by David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken. Pollock found that children had greater resilience and health when they learned how to say goodbye well. I believe this tool does not only apply to our children, but that as adults, we need to lead the way.

The RAFT can help you keep afloat through the turbulent waters of transition. If you can, take the time to build these four parts of your RAFT:

o Reconciliation

o Affirmation

o Farewells

o Think destination

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 a person refuses to resolve their interpersonal conflicts two things can happen. First, they are ignoring the whole process of closure and are unable to move on and build the rest of their RAFT. Secondly, 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.

I find this step the most challenging and am very tempted to skip it. Why should I bother with this when I can start again with a clean slate and will never be confronted with these tensions again? And that is where I know now that I am wrong. Over the years I have experienced the power of letting go and forgiveness. It is not about the other person, but about me. When done right the resulting peace and the emotional freedom are priceless and key to continue and start again in a balanced way.

Affirmation — Acknowledge that each person in a relationship matters. Help children 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.

There are so many people who mean a lot to me. It ranges from the check-out lady at the grocery store to my dear friends who helped me make the best out of this chapter of my life. Mentally I have already started my affirmation process. Now I just need to acknowledge it “out loud”.

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. 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.

Before our last move we organized a big farewell party. It was a great way to give back and receive even more in return. But it is not only about people. It is about acknowledging that there is an end to our lives as it has been for the past four years. It is also about saying goodbye to daily routines and rituals, like the drive to school and our Tuesday pancake dinners.

Think Destination — Even as goodbyes are being said, children and adults 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. It is normal, and it will pass if they hang on long enough.

I realize that I am just at the tip of the iceberg of “Think Destination”. As we have lived in the same region four years ago, we are talking about the positives and negatives we can expect. But the external support structures and internal resources for the entire family, including myself, definitely still need a lot of work.

There is no way we can avoid the chaos and confusion of the transition process. We can keep in mind that it is normal, and that it will pass if we hang on long enough. Leaving right is a key to entering right.

For more details on the tool RAFT and other 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.

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