Third Culture Kids - TCK's

Who are 'Third Culture Kids' ?

As a parent of three TCK’s, I see that the way their way of looking into the world is a bit different than children who did not have the experience of living abroad and growing up in primarily one culture. 
David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken (2001) give a definition for TCK’s:
A person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture. The TCK builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture are assimilated into the TCK’s life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of the same background.
Pollock, D. C., & Van Reken, R. E. (2001). Third Culture Kids: The experience of growing up among worlds. London, United Kingdom: Nicholas Brealey Publishing.

Being different ?

A TCK is being raised in a cross-cultural world and travel back and forth to their (parent’s) home country and host cultures. A major aspect of the identity of a TCK is that, very often, he or she is raised in an environment, where he or she is physically different from the people around him.
A TCK grows up in a different way, maybe with an Arabic nanny and using Arabic words as a toddler, and later moving to Asia where he or she will take over habits from that part of the world. So there is constant exposure to different cultures, but without having full ownership in any of them and very likely, neither of their parent’s home country.

....or not being different ?

Although TCK’s feel different from the children and adults around them, they too have the same needs as non-TCK’s. They want to share time together, build relationships and want to be meaningful in life. However, being raised cross-culturally can come with challenges in life.

Because of their frequent transfers they are more prone to grief of saying goodbye. Secondly, they are more vulnerable of thinking who they really are (identity). A third challenge is the question: ‘Where do I belong?’ A Dutch child born and raised several years in The UK might feel more English than Dutch, but it still not an English citizen. And finally, the challenge of having a friendship and/or relationship; the way TCK’s start and maintain a relationship can be different than from a non-TCK.

I don't recognise my child anymore

 ‘I don’t recognise my child anymore‘ is something I hear quite often in my practice. After the move, parents see their gentle, confident child change into a sad, anxious or aggressive one. Children who show these symptoms, go through challenges. Moving house and country is not just moving your belongings from A to B; it is being separated from everything you know and love. Physically you are in your new country, but emotionally you are still in your ‘old country’. This takes time and support and this is not always easy for parents. They need to start their new job, find a new house, a school, a doctor, the supermarket, friends etc. Often specific daily routines for the children are being put on hold, like reading a book with them, have some special time after school, or play with them. This can be very challenging for children and suddenly parents are not only dealing with all the physical aspects of moving, but also the emotional behaviour of their child.

Being an expat parent myself

I have been there…

Having three TCK’s myself I recognise the pattern, I see the challenges. In the beginning, when I went abroad without having children, I myself went through the emotional rollercoaster. So when I became a parent, I was aware that also my children would be more vulnerable in our expat life.

As an experienced pedagogue and child and youth therapist, I can help you and your child go through that transition process. Together we work towards the goal of belonging again and finding connection with yourself and the people around you. 

Or when you and your family are leaving and need to say goodbye, I can be there for you. Saying goodbye starts already at an early stage where you might be loosening emotional ties or cancel new projects. This can be emotional for you and also for the people around you. Why not do this together with me and find a way to connect with your feelings and close a chapter in a safe way.


Call me for your journey; we connect

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