Who is a THIRD CULTURE KID?
A third culture kid (TCK) can be defined as: “A person who has spent a significant part of his/her developmental years outside of the parents’ culture.”
What does this mean for your international kids?
If I use my own children as an example – they were both born in Adelaide, Australia, so their passport country is Australian. My husband and I are Australian. My children spent 10 of their developmental years living outside of their passport country – in Hong Kong, Brazil and the USA.
They are not culturally 100% Australian, nor are they culturally 100% Chinese, Brazilian or American – they have taken the best parts of all these countries and created their own “third culture” – they are truly Third Culture Kids (TCKs). They love music, food, sport and art from different cultures; they speak with an unusual accent; they don’t always get Australian cultural references; Australian kids don’t always laugh at their jokes.
Research has shown that TCKs are naturally drawn to and connect with other TCKs, even if they didn’t live in the same countries. The shared experience of growing up among worlds means they share a culture all their own. They are the global citizens of the future.
What about an Adult TCK?
An adult TCK is someone who grew up in multiple cultures, and feels changed by the experience. They often feel a little different in their home country and may struggle to fit in. However, rarely do I meet an adult TCK who would change anything about their childhood (including myself), they recognize it as the gift it was.
This does not mean there aren’t challenges, but these can be overcome with support and connection with people who understand them.
As an adult TCK it took me awhile to realize how my TCK childhood affected me. Working with a coach was instrumental in my discovery of who I really was, and the gifts I had to offer. She helped me realize that while my childhood was “different” to many, it meant I was equipped in a unique way to connect with and support people who had experienced being “different” also.
What challenges can TCKs experience?
Many TCKs experience some of the same challenges:-
- Unresolved grief – they may not fully process their sadness at leaving friends, family and a community behind.
- A question of identity – the “Who am I?” question and “Where is my home?”
- A question of belonging – “Where do I fit?” and “Where do people understand me?”
- Relationship challenges – these can vary from not wanting to bond with people, to becoming very clingy.
- Restlessness – feeling the need to move, travel, change something in their lives.
- Strong attachment to previous countries lived in.
How can TCK coaching help?
- Support to recognize and acknowledge things they may have lost, and work through any unprocessed grief.
- Help them understand that what they are feeling is normal, and to facilitate connection with other TCKs.
- Assistance with navigating friendship challenges.
- Someone to talk to who has experienced life as a TCK.
- Partner them in identifying their own unique strengths and gifts, and how to utilize them.
- Planning for the future with a forward thinking and positive attitude.
Why can’t a parent do this?
- Many parents have the knowledge and ability to support their TCKs, however experience has shown me that teens and young adults don’t always want to listen to their parents!
- Working with a coach they can feel safe to “complain” without upsetting their parents. They often want to protect us, and don’t want us to feel responsible for their challenges.
- A coach is trained in listening skills, and the TCK will often feel truly heard for the first time.
- Teens are often happier being held accountable by someone outside the family.
- As an outsider, a coach is not emotionally attached to particular outcomes and can see the big picture.
- A coach is trained to ask empowering questions that can often lead to dramatic changes in a short period of time.
- Teens and young adults appreciate the confidentiality involved in a coaching relationship.
To receive a copy of my “6 tips to support your TCK teen”, please contact me.
To discuss coaching options for your TCK, we can connect with a no obligation Phone/Skype Call.