RAFTing Time for TCKs

The end of the year is here and the pace is picking up: exams, awards ceremonies, field trips, field days, concerts, and more.  Add to that the pomp and circumstance of a graduation this year, and I’m watching the calendar fill up as time seems to warp into hyper-speed.

Working in an international school setting, I became very aware of the vulnerable emotional states of students at this time of year.  There’s a fair amount of breaking from routine, a lot going on to be excited about, and a few things that can cause some stress.  For TCKs, one of the main contributors to stress can be an impending move.

With a highly transient community being the norm, TCKs can get used to moving, but that still doesn’t mean it’s easy. David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken, authors of Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds, suggested that, at this time of year, those moving on remember to build their RAFT. RAFT, like so many all caps words we see these days, is an acronym.  It stands for Reconciliation, Affirmation, Farewells, and Think Destination.

Reconciliation has to do with supporting our Third Culture Kids in working through misunderstandings and conflicts before moving.  When you live in a highly mobile environment, it can become rather easy to do a count-down to literally leaving your problems behind.  But finding a comfort zone in avoiding problems in this manner results in carrying a heavy load of unresolved problems from destination to destination.  It also doesn’t encourage development of  the valuable coping skills needed to deal with working through such problems throughout life. Finding a way to seek or give forgiveness in relationships before moving on is a healthy way to leave and to build important relationship skills and resilience in moving forward.

Affirmation is about acknowledging those who have been important in the lives of the TCKs and showing appreciation for them in some way. This also helps remind TCKs of the good times and memories they will carry with them when they leave.

Farewells include saying specific goodbyes to important people, places, possessions, traditions, teams, buildings, pets, etc. when leaving. Many TCK families have been known to make a list of “favorites” for last-time visits, to make sure they get a chance to relive the fond memories and say a necessary goodbye to nearby restaurants, favorite parks, museums and more.  Goodbye parties or events with special friends are also helpful ways to move on.  With technology being what it is today, a part of these goodbyes to people can include e-mail contact info, Facebook “friendings” and skype information.

Thinking Destination addresses looking ahead to the new location and getting practical about existing in that setting.  Do some internet exploration as a family to become more informed. Listing positives and negatives of the new residence helps a TCK to come to terms with what he or she is leaving behind, but to also picture himself or herself in the new setting. Thinking about practical things such as what supplies are needed, what foods are staples, how people spend their time and get around, and cool sights and activities in the area, may even help add to the excitement of moving.

By building a RAFT to help on the journey, TCKs will  have addressed many of the important challenges of being a person frequently on the move. This kind of preparation can serve to help them navigate the turbulent waters that can come with the great adventure that is the TCK life.

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    1. Leaving and saying goodbye – how to help kids » Happy Go KL

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