Ever heard of the acronym RAFT? If you are someone who’s lived cross-culturally, there’s a high chance you’ve heard of it. At every orientation I’ve attended before moving to a new country, we’ve talked about this acronym.
What does it mean, you ask? Oh, let me tell you. But first, let me also add that this little four-letter acronym has served our family in countless ways as we’ve transitioned AND I don’t think it’s only for people moving locations and cultures. If I know anything, it’s that TODDLERS are the number one culprit for being the most transition-challenged group on the planet. So, if you’re someone who spends any time at all around toddlers, this could be a life-saver for you too.
R – Reconciliation
A – Affirmation
F – Farewell
T – Think Destination
Let me paint a picture for you. You’re at a friend’s house for dinner. (Or maybe an outdoor socially-distanced picnic lunch, which is probably more accurate these days). You’ve had a lovely time catching up, and now it’s time to head out the door and get home for bed times. It’s right about the time when one or all of your children start the Tactics. Trying to play with all the toys at once because they don’t want to leave. Melting down in wails. Trying their darndest to loudly convince you that they should stay for 5 more minutes. Sound familiar?
Recently, my husband and I realized that transitions are hard no matter where you are or what age you are, but especially for children. And maybe this RAFTing business wasn’t just helpful for relocation, but could be used for these frustrating every-day departures too. A Mini-RAFT, if you will.
We started mapping out what a mini-RAFT could look like.
Reconciliation: Putting toys away you played with (at least some), giving a hug to a friend– these acts can help a kid reconcile within themselves the tension they feel with leaving.
Affirmation: Saying “thank you” for playing/cooking the meal/letting me use your toys etc. before leaving– having rituals that happen, even in day-to-day transitions, can help kids deal with what’s happening.
Farewell: Giving kids a chance to say goodbye to the four P’s: People, Places, Pets, Possessions. For a mini-RAFT, this could be short and sweet, but may be key in a smooth transition.
Think Destination: Giving kids a warning, so that they have time to process a transition, is helpful. Sometimes I forget to give them a warning they can understand, since they have little understanding of time. Instead of “5 minutes”, I could say “After each person has 1 more turn in this game.” Another way of Thinking Destination, is simply letting kids know what is going to happen before it happens. “When it’s time to leave, I’m going to let you know, we’re going to put our shoes on, and then we’re going to get in the car.”
Our little family is still learning and growing in this area of transitions, both big and small! In thinking through this idea of a mini-RAFT, I think my main take-away is this:
Establishing some sort of Goodbye Routine could be helpful, even for the day-to-day transitions. It seems to me that goodbyes can be triggering for many kids, including my own. It’s my hope to turn that trigger into an opportunity for learning the absolutely vital art of identifying feelings and working through them.
Speaking of feelings, I’m going to leave these Feelings Cards below as a little invitation to try them out with your kids. I’m learning how to use these well and I think they can be a great tool. I made these ones and they can be used in limitless ways!
In this current state of fewer engagements with others, goodbyes are fewer and farther between. For an inexperienced toddler, this makes it difficult to practice! Perhaps, then, these goodbye rituals and mini-RAFTS become all the more important. I’m practicing this along with you! Let me know how it goes!
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These Feelings Cards have limitless uses and provide ample opportunity for connection!
- Name the Emotions
- Act Out the Emotions
- Guessing situations where this emotion might happen
- Identifying current emotion
- Discussing how to respond when a friend feels that emotion