I listed the book “Third Culture Kids” in the sidebar awhile ago, and if you don’t already have it, it is a great resource. We got it at our organization’s cross-cultural training and it has been such a help as we prepare to meet the unique needs that our children will as they are raised overseas.
I was just reading through part of this book and came across a great chapter called “Enjoying the Journey.” It is about creating stability and an enjoyable experience for your kids as they are raised cross-culturally. Here is a summary, but please check the book out for yourselves!
1) Set aside special times for family and make family traditions. This is of course important in every family, but especially in our lifestyle that is often full of transition and where it can be difficult to establish identity. Having deep relationships, quality times together, and special traditions helps create stability and identity and a sense of being known.
2) Build strong ties with the community. Though our kids don’t live close to their extended family, we can help them build valuable relationships with those on our team, in the ministry, and in our community that will become like aunts, uncles, and grandparents to our kids. Of course they will never take the place of true family, but these relationships are also very special and will have a special impact on our children. I love how our team members have always been my kids’ substitute aunts and uncles.
3) Build strong ties with relatives. Though we live far away from family, these relationships are incredibly important and should be continually deepening. We live in a blessed time where there are so many ways to make this happen. (See here for a few ideas). One idea highlighted in this chapter as being incredibly valuable for building these close relationships is to have family come visit your family where you live if possible. That way family members can understand our kids (and us too) when we talk about our daily life. We have been so blessed to have both sets of grandparents, and 2 of our kids 3 aunts and uncles come out to visit. It was so special to be able to show them our world and it is amazing to be able to talk with them now and to know that they can visualize what we are talking about!
3) Build strong ties with friends. Not only is this important for their enjoyment of life in general, but it helps kids to adjust to their culture. Friends from the past are also important as they can “validate the TCK (third culture kid) experience and prove that the third culture world and experiences aren’t a dream.”
4) Return to the same “home” during each leave. This also can help with stability and identity. It is helpful for a TCK to have one place (city, not specifically a house) to identify as home in their passport country. I know that this isn’t always possible though, especially when extended family is split across the country and the value is building those relationships. It does help with stability though to have the same school, church, friends, etc. to return to.
5) Tour when traveling between countries. What a blessing to “have to” travel the world! Taking time between destinations (like staying a day or two rather than an hour or two for a layover) is a great way to expand our kids’ world view all the more as well as to create some amazing memories.
6) Explore and become involved in the surroundings. “Don’t neglect actively learning about the history, geography, and culture of the host country.” Often times when grown TCKs talk about their experiences, this is a highlight. On the flip side, this book mentions that a common complaint of TCKs is that they regret not being more involved in their surrounding culture and wish they would have really been able to make the most out of that amazing learning experience.
7) Acquire “sacred” objects. I love this one. This is the idea of collecting special objects that in a sense become a child’s “portable history.” Special memories are attached to these possessions, and they can be very comforting to TCKs as they travel from place to place throughout life. It helps them “connect all of the places and experiences of their lives.”
Also, here is an interesting link to some resources on TCKs that I stumbled across. It isn’t from exclusively a Christian perspective, but it seems to have a lot of resources that might be helpful or interesting. I am looking forward to checking out some of the blogs of TCKs that are listed, just to hear first hand what kids feel are the highlights and hard parts of their experiences.
What other things have you heard or are you making sure to do in order to help your children really love their experience as a TCK?