For many expat families, this is the time of year when decisions are made about leaving the host country for a new posting. Or, in some cases, repatriating to their passport country. In my case, my youngest is in her last year of high school. There are nights when our eyes are glazed over from looking at university applications together, but I am reminded that she also needs to build her RAFT.
What is RAFT?
RAFT is an acronym created by the late Dave Pollock to help teenagers (and adults) in their transitions. It stands for Reconciliation, Affirmation, Farewell, and Think Destination.
It does not guarantee that everything will be smooth sailing, but it gives thought to various aspects of moving and allows the person to process. About this time of year, I usually talk with a group of students in their final year of high school, focusing on building the “F” in RAFT, or Farewell. I challenge them to begin their “[insert host country name]’s Bucket List” now.
So, I am challenging you as a parent who is getting a family ready to move, or if your child is about to launch into adulthood, to start your “Bucket List”.
What Should Go on the “Bucket List”?
There are three main ideas of what should be on this list. Talk with your children and spouse if you are making one for the family. Get everyone’s input. If it is your child leaving, then sit and ask what they would like on the list.
- People: Who are the people your child is the closest to? Who are you the closest to? Also included on this list are the market vendors, the restaurant workers, or, as in my daughter’s case, the tea shop owner in our city. The question to really ask is: “Who is someone big or small that you would like to say goodbye to?”
- Places: Are there any places your child(ren) would like to visit one more time? How about you? Or how about a location in the country you would like to go to? Write down the big places first, but do not forget the smaller places like the tea shops, the favorite restaurants, parks, etc.
- Things: This one may seem a little odd, but is there anything you can think of that you cannot pack and bring with you? Maybe it is the family van that you’ve spent several hours in together as a family. Maybe your child has a favorite flower that he/she passes by and wants to smell Every.Single.Time. Or maybe it is a special playhouse your spouse made, and the kids played for hours and hours in.
After you have your list begin planning your trips. Talk about which are doable and which may not work out well because of the time frame. I find that if I do not put it on the calendar, it does not happen. Remind your children that they will not be able to do everything on the list, so highlight the top three places if they are not in the city you currently live in.
As you begin to make your rounds of saying goodbye, the best thing to do is to take A LOT of photos. Take photos with the vendors, and the restaurant people, but also recreate photos from when they were younger. Make photo albums with them when you get to the new location.
I believe that making this list now is important because the closer to the departure date, the less time you have to think about what should go on this list, but also time to go and do it. Saying goodbye is hard, but it is so necessary.