Goodbyes can be a tough one for us Third Culture Kids. We have had quite a few growing up. I am sure we can all look back and remember goodbyes that were really hard. Can you remember a goodbye that you tried to avoid? Or a goodbye that took your breath away? I think I tried all kinds of tricks to cope with these never-ending losses growing up. My two main strategies were the Disappearing Trick and the “I am an Island” Shtick. The former would have me disappear before the final goodbye, denying myself and my friends of any sort of ending. The latter had me telling friends that they shouldn’t get too close to me because I would leave some day and never look back. Shockingly, this did not bode well in the friendship development arena and the pain I felt and never dealt with would resurface years later.
This is why, when I designed Sea Change, I wanted to make sure that when it was time for a mentor and a protégé to say goodbye, that it was done in a healthy way. Goodbyes are inevitable, after all, but in order for us to have healthy, intimate relationships in our lives, we need to learn how to create that closure.
I bring this up because our one of amazing mentors and her protégé, a pair that was with us from the very beginning, have completed their two year journey together. I spoke with each of them individually before they formally closed out the match. The protégé shared with me how grateful she was for her mentor, who had been like a rock for her. We reflected on how much she has changed since we all first met her at age 15. Now she is at the University of Amsterdam and has become a sophisticated, reflective young woman. When her mentor and I spoke, she movingly talked about what an important part of her life her protégé had become and that it was an honor to watch her grow into the woman she is now.
The road was not always easy, but these two really stuck together. I won’t lie, I may have gotten a little teary reflecting on them and their special mentoring relationship. When we finally all said our goodbyes, while I was sad to see them go, I was mostly touched that Sea Change had the opportunity to set up a goodbye the way that it should be done. An intentional, reflective celebration. And one that included the conversation about how this pair will stay in touch with each other and with Sea Change in the future. It was a moment that reminded me of why I decided to start Sea Change and I can’t tell you how much it meant to me.
Interested in learning more about effective closure in mentoring programs?
Sea Change Mentoring follows the Elements of Effective Practice which are research-based best practices outlined by Mentor (The National Mentoring Partnership in the US). I would like to share parts of the Standard on Closure that I believe other programs, schools, communities and even families can employ.
The standard instructs us to have a conversation (or exit interview) with the mentor and with the protégé about the closing of this formal relationship, regardless of the reason why it is closing. Here are some of the things that should happen in that conversation:
- Talk with them individually about their feelings about this goodbye and the reasons for it.
- Reflect on the positive experiences this relationship afforded.
- Give everyone sufficient time to go through this process.
- Plan a final meeting for the pair to meet up and say their goodbyes.
- Discuss what the future holds, how they will stay in touch (if this is part of the plan) and what that would look like.
- Finally, talk with each of them about the possibility of being a mentor or a protégé in the future.
I believe that service providers and international schools have an ethical responsibility to provide healthy closure when young people’s relationships with staff and volunteers end. This closure process can serve as a model that they can adapt to their own personal relationships. When we help the young people in our globally mobile community achieve this, we heal and strengthen them, setting them up for a happier future.