Transition stages

Moving – More work than you realised!


For our family talking about moving was rare, moaning about moving was not encouraged but when I read about the five stages of transition in Pollock and van Reken’s book Third Culture Kids (2009) I was shocked and I have to admit a bit uncomfortable at how much mental effort every move it entails. However, these stages are all normal and being able to negotiate them successfully is empowering. The stages are involvement, leaving, transition, entering and re-involvement.

For those of you who would like to know more ( optional) I’ve paraphrased the seven pages about transition stages into the text below. If you can read this and not feel a bit sad for your young self then you are tougher than I am 🙂

1. Involvement- settled & comfortable, know where everything is, have friends, responsibilities.

2. Leaving- prepare by loosening emotional ties, backing away from relationships and responsibilities. It’s less painful to deny sad feelings and focus only on the new place and new friends. Also you may feel rejected or angry when friends make plans that won’t include you. It can be difficult to resolve unfinished business or mend relationships as the time to leave gets closer. You may not get contact details from people you later wish you had.

3. Transition -begins when you leave and ends when you accept that you have settled somewhere. A stage when much is exciting and new but also chaotic, rootless and strange. Parents are very busy and may give less support. You feel disorientated, you don’t know where your belongings are or can’t get at them. You are not sure where you fit in and what is expected of you. Even if you are welcomed in the new community you are still new so you feel a loss of status. The insecurity of each of the family members contributes to chaos for everyone. You carry knowledge from past experience but most of it isn’t relevant in the new place. You are homesick and miss your last place. You may come across as arrogant, the new community may come across to you as boring and parochial. Perhaps you have to hide your feelings and pretend to be happier than you are in order to make friends or perhaps you are too fed up to do that and become withdrawn and isolated.

4. Entering -life is no longer so chaotic, you are having success in a number of areas, you recognise places and people, get the right bus, start using the right language and remember important rules for this new community and they remember you and start to include you, but other days you may still feel ambivalent and homesick.

5. Re-involvement- settled again in a new community. You are part of a group again. The community knows who you are and something of your history, talents and interests. They include you and ask your opinion.

And this is normal transition, not anything problematic, but it all takes time. Eighteen months to two years is an average time period and families can move more frequently than that. Our ten moves was about average as far I can tell from contemporaries. Respect to the Nomad Sproggs because that’s a lot of work!

2 thoughts on “Transition stages

    • It is a valuable reference book, one of very few on the subject. It’s not something you can read at one sitting, you need plenty of thinking time.
      They have also arranged conferences in the US I believe so that people can get together and talk about this stuff. Good people.

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