Our family moves. A LOT. Friends come and go in our lives. A LOT. Changes happen. A LOT.
We have several strategies that help our family navigate the changes. If you move as much as we do, maybe they’ll help you. Or if you’ve never moved, but your kids are anticipating a change (maybe a school year with a new teacher or new classmates) maybe these strategies will help.
The book Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds by Dave Pollock and Ruth Van Reken gave me words that helped us solidify our process. The authors devoted a chapter to leaving well. They recommended building a RAFT as a process of saying goodbye. RAFT stands for
Reconciliation | Affirmation | Farewell | Think Destination.
Reconciliation. Right before this last move one of my kids was hurt by a close friend. “Mom he was mean to me” was hard for me to hear. But, keeping reconciliation in mind, I said, “sometimes when we are getting ready to leave it makes our friends sad, and when they are sad they can be mean. Forgive him.” They are still young so it’s easy to forget and move on. Even so, reconciliation is a very important step in leaving well. Being at peace with ourselves, our friends and family, and the place we are leaving is important. I don’t want my memories to be of how grumpy I felt in the hot weather, or how annoying the traffic was, or how irritating a person was…I want to be at peace.
Affirmation. I am a third culture kid who has a hard time opening myself up. Sure, I can have a million friends, but rarely will I have one that goes deep. Usually when it comes close to time to say goodbye, I insulate myself. I decided years upon years ago that I wouldn’t cry, and so I don’t. It’s hard to change these long held patterns, but I try to dive in to relationships even if I know that it will only be for a short time. I try to encourage my kids to let their friends and family know how much they mean to them before they leave. Each of us attempts to acknowledge our special friends, and the wonderful experiences that happened to us while we were with them.
Farewell. Last time we left I had the boys give small gifts and goodbye letters to each of their friends when we said farewell. But, this time I had a hard time getting anything together. We were blessed, though, by special friends who created photo albums, painted pictures, and helped stuff the boys backpacks with fun things.
Think Destination. Before we leave, we talk about the benefits (and shortcomings) of the place we are leaving. We also talk about the place we will be going. This conversation often continues for weeks, even after we have arrived. I often find myself saying “you know you don’t have to pick one place over the other. Both have good things.” Just yesterday Grey said, “There are positives and negatives about here and about America. Here we don’t have to wear seat belts, but it is hot and there is a lot of trash. In America there are lots of toys, even in all of the stores, but we have to wear seat belts.”
Change is a hard part of our life. The life is still worth it though. We are doing what we feel called to do. Not only that, but the boys get to experience the wide wonderful world.