Leaving well: Working towards a thoughtful transition
Phillip Meehan, Former School Counsellor, East Campus
25 June 2013
In international schools, the only constant is change. Jobs change, friends move away and new friends arrive. With over 110 students leaving UWCSEA East this month, the Counselling Department has recently hosted two parent sessions and a number of student sessions to gather individuals and discuss how they can make their transition to a new home or school as thoughtful as possible.
The sessions were based on the R.A.F.T. framework of transition, introduced in the book Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds by David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken. In it, the authors discuss the importance of thinking carefully about a number of elements that can be overlooked in the chaos that is moving: reconciliation, affirmation, farewells and think destination.
‘R’ is for Reconciliation, where individuals consider if there is a relationship they want to repair before they leave. In this age of Facebook, you can’t simply say that you’ll never see a person again and negative feelings can linger for years.
‘A’ is for Affirmation, where an individual thinks about who they would like to say thank you to. This can help bring about closure, in the case of a special teacher, or a way to solidify a friendship before moving away.
‘F’ is for Farewells as people think about how they want to spend their last few weeks. For kids, this might take the form of a last sleepover or play-date, or simply a last trip to Orchard Road for a movie with the gang. It can also be about what you will miss about Singapore, which may be the only home some kids know. Friends of mine who moved to Africa last year tallied on a chart all the dumplings they ate over their last five months here as they knew the family favourite would be hard to come by in their new home. The tally was well over 1,000 by the time the movers came.
Finally, ‘T’ is for Think destination. Spend time thinking about the good things to come, but also what the family is nervous about. From language to culture to food to being able to find the washroom in a new school, we don’t know what kids are thinking unless we ask.
The sessions gave both parents and students a chance to walk through the RAFT framework. Participants also shared some of the experiences they have had over the years. For some June brings about the first move overseas, and for others it is the fifth in as many years.
Some thoughts and suggestions that came from the sessions include:
- Give kids a camera to go on a ‘photo safari’ of their favourite places in Singapore.
- When saying goodbye, accept that this is a loss.
- If you can, have kids visit their new school beforehand. If you can’t, see if there’s a walk-through video of the school. If not and your kids are concerned about the new place, ask for one.
- When repatriating, try to mix with people who have similar experiences because you’ve changed!
- Think about what parts of your old life you want to resume when you return.
- It’ll take time to settle in, and that’s OK.
- Leavers’ sessions are held in December and May when families typically leave the College, but the Counselling Department is always available as you think about your next home.
What’s in a name?
Recently, the College made the decision to change the name of the Pastoral Care programme to Personal and Social Education. This was driven by the need to be more specific about the intentions and purpose of this element of the learning programme. The words pastoral care did not capture what we provide for our students through the various activities and support mechanisms that make up the programme (not to mention the fact that to many people the word ‘pastoral’ connotes countryside!). Personal and Social Education expresses more clearly that our goal is to provide students with opportunities to examine how they are connecting to their learning, friends, family, technology and the outside world. The name may change, but the purpose and importance of this programme remains the same.