and Five Stages of Transition

A very useful tool in preparation for our departure has been the book Third Culture Kids.  In Chapter 4, the author writes about the following five stages of transition: Involvement, Leaving, Transition, Entering and Re-involvement.  I will summarize each stage:

Involvement:  comfort, belonging, familiar, settled.  Our status is clear and we know our place.  We know and follow the social rules, customs and traditions.

Leaving:  ending, detaching, pain, backing away, confusion, denial. Our time is coming to an end and we begin to detach from responsibilities and relationships.  We can fall into a trap of denial:

  • Denial of feelings of sadness and grief by thinking things such as: “I don’t really like these
    people anyway” or “Things will be so great in our next destination.”
  • Denial of feelings of rejection: We realize we may not be included in the planning of certain events or we are treated like outsiders when we were once a valued member of this community.
  • Denial of “unfinished business”:  We hope that time and distance will heal our wounds from past conflict and un-reconciled relationships.
  • Denial of expectations:  Secretly, we hope someone gives us a goodbye party or we dream of nicer house in the next place.

Transition:  chaos, dysfunction, survival, stress, insignificance, worry, anxiety. We have lost our support system and and have not yet formed a new one. As parents, we become more self-centered than normal and we give little attention to our kids, temporarily discontinuing their daily routines. We become stressed out by all the changes in how things are done and all that has to be re-learned.  The knowledge and skills we’ve acquired or used in the past have little or no significance in this new place.  We have to prove ourselves all over again.

Entering:  familiar, learning, vulnerable, unstable, uncomfortable, adjustment, recognition, inclusion.  We have made a conscious decision to become part of our new community and are starting to learn how things work.  We are trying to figure out where we fit in and still feel a  bit different than the rest of the community around us.

This stage can also be uncomfortable for the members of the new community.  They will be forced to adjust their social order in order to help us find our place in it.  But the time does come when they begin to recognize us, remember our names, include us in their events and make room for us in their world.

Re-involvement: hope, belonging, significance, present.  We see “the light at the end of the tunnel.”  Once again, we have become part of this community and have the hope of truly belonging to it.  We have found our place. We are part of the group and we matter to it.  Our thoughts are on the present rather than a different future or what we left behind.


Our family is currently in the leaving stage.  It is not an easy place to be for us and for those we leave behind.  Nevertheless, awareness of the various stages can help us prepare for what is yet to come.  What choices should we make now that will help our thoughts, words and actions be  ones that will give God glory?  What do we need to do to prepare for the chaos and confusion to come? What are some routines we can continue regardless of where we are?

Where are you?  What has helped?

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD himself, is the Rock eternal.” Isaiah 26:3-4


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