Will your teenage daughter soon change schools, country, or go off to university or college?
Then she will face a transition that will include loss. Loss of the life she knew until then, loss of friends, school, culture, food etc.…
Loss in this situation refers to the experience of losing a sense of belonging, identity, or connection to her previous school, country, friends, family, and/or home. This can manifest in various ways, including feelings of loneliness, confusion, and isolation. She may struggle with questions of identity, trying to reconcile their previous experiences with their experiences in their current environment.
It's important to note that the experience of loss can vary widely among teenagers in general and third culture kids especially, depending on individual circumstances and experiences. Overall, a loss is a complex and nuanced experience that requires sensitivity and understanding from those around them, including parents, peers, and educators.
Well-planned transitions and proper "good goodbyes" are important for a healthy transition into the next chapter. You want her to confront her losses while looking positively into the future. Not easy, I know! I have been doing this for over 25 years, and I still find it very hard… My daughter has been doing this since birth, and some transitions were easier than others. To prepare your teenager well, adopt the RAFT approach (David Pollock, author of the internationally renowned book "Third Culture Kids.
Here is how it works:
This means to forgive and be forgiven. Encourage your daughter to repair any broken relationships before she leaves so that she doesn't go away with this icky feeling. This might mean walking up to the person she fought with and talking to them. Tell your daughter to maybe go with a friend if she doesn't want to do this alone. She could say, "I am sorry we didn't talk much after, but I wish you all the best for the future!" The outcome, of course, also depends on the response of the other person. But, whatever the outcome, she can say, "Well, I tried!" which will make her feel great and ready to close this chapter! You might want to stress to her how important it is to leave in peace and get her relationships straightened beforehand to avoid bad memories and extra baggage that she might otherwise carry for years.
We know that we build and maintain friendships and relationships through positive affirmation. In this case, it might be writing her favorite teacher a farewell note, giving her roommate/sibling a special photo of the two of them, or gift a friend her yellow t-shirt that they liked so much. A friendly word and hugs work as well!!!! With this, she shows them (friends, family, and teachers…) her appreciation, what she has learned from them, and what they mean to her.
Help your daughter schedule enough time to say goodbyes to her favorite friends, family members, people, places, animals, and possessions. Ah, and her room! These are all like little ceremonies and will take her more time than you (and her) think. Tell her it is okay to hug, cry and hug some more …
Even while she's still using up the tissues with a heavy heart, encourage her to think realistically about her new destination/class/school/country. Where is she going? Think destination also means planning some activities for the future. Maybe there will be a family trip during the break, a summer course, and friends she wants to visit. Looking ahead is important!
Great, you just helped her build her first "raft". I am not saying this is easy. There might be confusion, chaos, and strange feelings. She might feel it would be easier to hide and ignore the future transition, but this might catch up with her later. "Closure" is the word we are trying to achieve during a transition, but she makes the closure.
This technique is great for any transitions and has been used by Third Culture Kids to say good goodbyes when they leave their home country, head off to college, and every time they prepare for yet another move.
If you are an expat family and have Third Culture Kids (TCKs), your children have additional challenges due to their multiple transitions, changes, and losses. Third culture kids are those who have spent a significant part of their formative years living in a culture different from their parent's culture, and may feel a sense of disconnection from both cultures. Additionally, TCKs may feel a sense of grief or loss for the connections and experiences they may have missed out on in their parents' culture.
Good luck with helping her build her RAFT!
P.S.: (Please let me know if you want even more details that are targeted to your family…)