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Filtering by Tag: Third Culture Kids

Must Read Books for Parents Overseas: "Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds"

Phil Meehan

The book Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds is one that every parent who is raising kids outside of their home culture should know. These parents include expats, military, missionary and even those who move from one part of the country (or city for that matter) to another. 

Pollock and Van Reken see the cultures that each parent grew up with as #1 and #2, and "Third Culture" as the one their child is growing up in. For some families, this is obvious because both parents grew up in different countries and are raising their children in a third. But the challenges, opportunities and nuances of being a third culture kid apply to just about anyone growing up in a different environment than what either they or their parents are familiar with.

Growing up a third culture kid (TCK) has opportunities and challenges. As Pollock and Van Reken say, "he third culture kid builds relationships to all the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture are assimilated into the third culture kid’s life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of the same background, other TCKs.” Third culture kids are at home everywhere, but don't necessarily have a strong sense of home. "Where are you from" is a difficult question to answer for TCK's.

For parents raising TCK's, there are a number of things that Pollock and Van Reken discuss that can help emphasize the benefits and mitigate the challenges of growing up a TCK. On the emphasizing side of things, embracing the culture that you are living in - exploring, getting to know locals, being open to new experiences is important. There can be a tendency to focus on the negative, what is lacking, about a new location, which certainly takes away from the benefits of living in a new culture. On the other hand, maintaining links and ties to a home culture is a way to ensure consistency and roots for children. Skype and Facetime with grandparents, annual visits home to reconnect are two of many ways you can help your children maintain a sense of stability amidts the shifts of global living.

One of the best resources Pollock and Van Reken introduce is the RAFT framework for transitions. It's a way to think about the move for you and each of your family members - how do you "leave well"? The four elements are:

  • Reconciliation - because especially with social media, people are never truly out of your life. It's important to ensure closure with relationships.
  • Affirmation - one way to solidify a friendship before moving on is to let the person know how important they are to you.
  • Farewell - Saying goodbye to people and places. For some it's a "bucket list" from the place they are leaving.
  • Think Future - Leaving one place also implies arriving in a new destination. Consider what you are looking forward to and concerned about. 

Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds is an important book that every family raising kids abroad should read. Here are a couple other resources for TCK's, and an affiliate link to the book. 

This was originally posted March 2016 on