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What is a RAFT and Why Do I Need One?

RAFT is a helpful and important acrostic, commonly used in cross-cultural circles. It stands for: 

  • Reconcile
  • Affirm
  • say Farewell
  • Think destination 


It is a tool to help with navigating transition in a healthy way. Fundamentally, it is about what it takes to have healthy closure in the place you are leaving so that you can also make a good start in the place you are moving to. 


Reconcile is about facing up to mistakes and restoring what might be broken, especially in our relationships. It allows us to make peace with issues of disruption, uncertainty and loss that we may be facing, both personally and with others. You can ask yourself how you are feeling and, more importantly, why.


Affirm means letting loved ones and others know what they mean to us. When we acknowledge what is important to us we can be thankful for it in the moment, and also in the future when times may be tougher.


Farewell means saying our goodbyes well (ie not in a rush!) – not only to people but also to favourite places, not to mention pets and toys/books, which need to be found a good home (this is important to kids!). Saying goodbye like this may be painful, as we are forced to let go of what ‘might have been’, but it helps us to process and move on in a healthier way.


Think destination means making sure you plan well for your arrival in the new place even as you depart from the old. All of this takes time and forethought – and it is a process, which pays not to short circuit by failing to plan well. This may be best tackled gradually, in small steps.


Building a RAFT for transition is a concept developed by Dave Pollock and Ruth van Reken in a chapter of their seminal work “Third Culture Kids, Growing Up Among Worlds”, and it has been widely adopted as offering a helpful approach to transitions of many kinds, especially cross-cultural ones. I recommend this blog for a more in depth overview.


This concept was developed by Dave Pollock and Ruth Van Reken, who wrote ‘Third Culture Kids’. Check out our interview with Ruth for more on the topics of transition and Third Culture Kids.

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