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RAFT – the transition acronym

Last week we had our annual Transitions Dinner. In the past it’s been for seniors and their families; this year we opened it up to all teens who were leaving, along with their families. Three guest speakers shared about their own TCK transitions and advice for other TCKs.  Then, as every year, I explained the RAFT acronym.

The RAFT acronym for transitions was developed by Dr. David Pollock. It has been widely quoted all over the place, especially in reference to TCK transitions. This is the “Beijing edition” I use with students here.

Leaving Beijing and heading back to your home country isn’t always easy. You are probably feeling a ton of different emotions. There is a simple acronym to remember that will help you make a big transition: RAFT. Using this acronym isn’t a one step solution. But, if you actually use it, it can help you immensely with getting settled back home. The four words in RAFT are:

reconciliation        affirmation        farewell        transition

reconciliation

First things first: do you have any broken relationships? Bad feelings with anybody? Something you need to apologize to someone for? Do it. Do not look at this time as “Ahh, I am leaving I can just leave it and not ever worry about it again!” Don’t leave broken relationships. You will regret it later. Try to reconcile any bad blood or hurt feelings that might be between you and someone here.

affirmation

Is there anyone that has done something for you? Best friends? Teachers? Mentors? Coaches? Anyone that has been there for you? Make sure they know it. It’s easy to forget to encourage or say thank you to people who mean a lot. We usually do life thinking that they know how much they mean to us. We tell other people about them and how much they mean, but never really tell them to their face. Tell them. Thank them.

farewell

Say good-bye: not just to people, but also places. Living here for awhile you have places you like, maybe even places you haven’t bee to yet and need to go to. Say good-bye to your favorite restaurants, waiters or waitresses, DVD guy, or guard. Say good-bye to that place you always go to on Sundays or maybe even the Great Wall. It helps to go one last time to these places and people that mean something to you and say good-bye. Or in Chinese, “until the next time I see you.”

transition

This is a hard one. You have packed everything up, crammed in as many minutes as you could with those people that mean a lot to you, and you head home. You will get there, you will unpack your bags, and you will have moved. There is no question about where you are physically, but emotionally and mentally, where are you? This last step is more for your heart and mind. Physically you will have all your stuff with you and in your new place, but your emotions and mind can try to live back in  Beijing for awhile and it can take a while to catch up. Transition means actually packing those up as well. It can be easy to try to live back here in Beijing through Skype, SMS, and Facebook and not really BE in your new place. The problem is three months later you will find yourself without very many friends or people that you hang out with because all your time is spent talking with people here in Beijing. Communication is great, but make sure when you leave Beijing you are heading to your new place with a goal of meeting new people there, and not trying to live where you were.

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Posted by on May 27, 2011 in Expat Life, TCKs

 

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TCK Perspective – Cat Foster

Cat Foster lived in Texas, Indonesia, Brunei, and Malaysia before repatriating to the US (Illinois and Colorado) for college. Despite the difficulties of transitions, she wouldn’t trade her TCK experiences for an “easier” life. You can find more of her writing on her blog.

When I was three, my family moved from Dallas, Texas, to Jakarta, Indonesia. The following 15 years saw us moving between two different places in Indonesia, and Brunei. I attending boarding school in Malaysia for high school. When I was in boarding school, my parents moved to Moscow, Russia. After I graduated high school, I went back to my passport country of the USA to the state of Illinois. My transition was not easy, and it’s not something I would choose to repeat in the future. However, if given a choice between a rough transition from growing up abroad, or staying in the States my whole life, I would choose the rough transition.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what made my transition difficult. Maybe it was because I was suddenly lost in the majority of white people, instead of Asians. Maybe it was because I had chosen to go to college in a town where people thought that the next state over was a long distance. Regardless, I wish that I had been more prepared for living in the States. I knew who I was as a TCK within a foreign country. What I didn’t know was who I was as a TCK in America. I suddenly found myself getting lost in malls, or wanting to cry from seeing how much food was readily available at grocery stores, or at baseball games and not being able to sing along with the National Anthem.

I have to say, however, that I am completely aware of how my transition could have been even harder. I am incredibly grateful for the roommate God put me with my first year back in the States. Her name was Brittney and she was totally goofy, but understanding. She took the time to teach me American nuances and the American anthem. She patiently answered my dumb questions about if I’m allowed to walk around barefoot, or at what age people can go into casinos.

As I sort of mentioned before, there’s a lot of give and take with a TCK lifestyle. It’s wonderful because you get to see the world, gain new experiences, and have a broader perspective on life. We are able to bridge cultural barriers in a way that most can’t. We have a unique opportunity to make a difference in way most can’t. However, most TCKs experience more grief by the time they’re done with high school than most people do in their whole life. Goodbyes aren’t easy, and far too common. Trust becomes something that we chose not to do. Even though we’re in touch with other cultures and people, we’re hardly in touch with ourselves emotionally. I’ve always said that I only have so much capacity to miss people, therefore I have to be selective with whom I choose to “miss”. But the truth is that sometimes I choose to detach so that I won’t have to feel.

While I was in boarding school in Malaysia, I met Aunt Val and Uncle Brian Weidemann, who worked at the school as dorm supervisors. They became my mentors in life, the leaders for our class, and my personal friends. I also became very close with their kids, Ben and Bethany. They took their furlough the year I went back to the States. They lived about a four hour drive from where I was, so I often went to visit them. I treasure those visits. They helped me stay in touch with that part of me, the part from Malaysia, while I tried to adapt back into an American lifestyle. Val and I would go out for coffee and just talk about the things we were going through, and she was always able to offer me advice and encouragement. They gave me a safe place to be when I felt overwhelmed by the new culture, and that’s definitely something I will never forget.

Aunt Val and I started going out for coffee while I was still in high school. I was going through a rough patch in my junior year; I was having trouble with relationships. Sometimes TCKs can be experts at relationships, and sometimes they have no idea. Part of the reason she and Uncle Brian were so helpful was because they are also TCKs themselves, so they totally understood the things I was going through – they had been through them too. Also, they accepted me for who I was, faults and all, and expected nothing more from me. They listened to me when I needed to vent. Because immediate family (mom, dad, brother, sister) is usually the only family TCKs get to experience, I think TCKs look to make families out of the people they meet while abroad. Like their names suggest, Aunt Val and Uncle Brian reached out to me and became part of my ever-growing family. I can’t express how much I appreciated that, especially because I met them while I was in boarding school and therefore away from my parents and brother.

I was able to go to a re-entry seminar right when I moved back. The most encouraging thing about that was that I met people who would be going through the same thing as me. We all became friends on Facebook and checked in with each other occasionally. The week mostly consisted of how TCKs go through grief, what our personalities were like, etc. Although all of that is valid and important, I already knew what my personality was, I already knew what kind of grief I had experienced. The one session that I felt was most helpful was the one where we all sat together on the floor in a big circle, and the leaders told us some things we would face living in America. Things like how to deal with peer pressure, how American teens think and live, the lingo that we would have to know, the list goes on. Like I said, I wish I had been more prepared for living in the States.

I transferred to my chosen home state of Colorado after a year in Illinois. I love that sometimes I get to choose where I’m from. I’m a lot happier here. Maybe it’s because I already had a year of American experience under my belt, maybe it’s because I’m in a more culturally diverse community. I’m going back to Malaysia this summer, and hope to close that chapter of my life and start off on something new. There’s so much more of the world to see, and I can’t wait to go and meet more people like me.

 
 

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The place of Christian Coaching in youth ministry

I recently attended a 3 day workshop on coaching. Christian coaching is a process of mentoring that consists mostly of asking questions and allowing the coachee to come up with their own discoveries and goals. There are two things I really love about coaching:

  1. The emphasis on trusting the Holy Spirit to to be the one at work transforming.
  2. Coaching is a process that empowers the coachee to set their own growth goals – a great reminder that I don’t have to have all the answers.

Coaching is a great tool to add to our tool belts. The seminar was focused mostly on peer-to-peer coaching and how to use these skills in informal settings.  The big questions now in my head revolve more the application of these skills to my own ministry context – working with youth. How can we use the principles of coaching, and the art of powerful questions, in youth ministry? What is the role of formal coaching in our work mentoring youth?

Most long term youth workers have spent time considering what makes a “good question” during group teaching times. It’s a big topic – probably best to spend a whole blog post talking about that alone. In the context of coaching, we talked about asking “powerful questions” and the risk of asking open-ended questions. We have probably all experienced the crazy tangents that can happen in small groups – and even large groups – when an interesting question derails the whole discussion.

If we really believe that personal discovery is more powerful than being told the right answer, it seems to follow that we should strive to set our kids up for personal discovery. Instead of teaching them the right answers,we should be learning to ask powerful questions that lead them to think their own way through to those answers.

Parents and Coaching

The principles of coaching might provide some valuble tools for parents, especially as they work through changing relationships with their kids. Coaching speaks to kids the message I have confidence in you. It makes lots of space for positive feedback and recognition. Although parents may never formally coach their kids, the techniques can be used to  help their children think through their decisions, the consequences and, and setting their own goals.

Formal Coaching in Youth Ministry

I think one of the most vauble roles of formal coaching in international youth ministry would be as a transitions coach for students who have graduated and are moving back to their passport countries.  Think about all the changes that happen January to January – preparing to leave the host country, graduations and farewells, a summer break, and then moving into  uni and settling into  a new life…  How valuable would it be if we intentionally coached our students through this process? Not just being intentional about checking in but also giving them a dedicated hour of our time – to listen to them, and give our assurance that they have within them the resources needed to set and meet goals. Coaching actually works well over skype, and many professional coaches actually prefer to use skype.  For students in transition, this means that the coaching can remain a constant during the months leading up, during, and after the move.

One of the factors that Fuller Youth Institute has identified as helping highschool students make a success transition to college or university is continued contact with their highschool youth leader*. How much more valuble would  this be for international youth like the ones we work with? They are not only facing the challenges of the transition from high school to college but also the extra pressures of an international move, and entering a “home” country they may not feel at all at home in.

What about you?

What experiences have you had either formally or informally coaching teens? Either as a youth leader or parent?

*A note: I am currently studying at Fuller Theological Seminary. The Urban Youth Ministry program I am doing was created by Fuller Youth Institute. A concept they have spent a lot of time looking at is “sticky faith” – helping students build a faith that lasts beyond high school. More resources here.

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2011 in Leading Youth, TCKs, Youth Resources

 

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