Thursday, 15 November 2012

Food for Thought on Raising Kids Abroad

"I am a TCK, and so no matter where I go, I am always a minority. My culture is not shared by anyone because it was built out of the fragments of so many different pieces of so many different cultural puzzles." 

These words written by James R.Mitchener jumped out of the page at me. He wrote these words on his blog called Third Culture Kid Life. It's true for me too. My culture is not shared by anybody, even my brothers and sister have a different story though we grew up in the same family and partly in the same countries. My culture is built out of fragments of many different cultural puzzles. It was a great puzzle to kind of understand myself and understand my culture. Discovering that I grew up as a third culture kid (TCK) really helped me. The fact that I discovered there was a group of people called third culture kids who had similar experiences, similar strange feelings was one step on the way to coming to terms with my past. As James says other kids who grew up abroad understand me to a certain degree but still each story is unique, different.

Schiphol International Airport in Madurodam by DrieCulturen
Does this mean that I am telling you not to raise your kids abroad? Am I saying that you should not move them from country to country, continent to continent, from one corner of the world to the next? No it's not what I am saying but I do want you to think about what the consequences will be for your children.

  • What challenges will they face? 
  • How can I help my kids while making international moves? 
  • What impact will this lifestyle have on my kids?
  • What's the best age to relocate with kids?
  • What language shall we raise our kids in? Please take time to think about this one because it has so many consequences.

One of the ways of discovering what the consequences might be of raising kids abroad is reading about it. Read books, articles and blogs written by people who have grown up abroad.

Like Clara Wiggins who writes about it in The Story of An Expat Child, Grown up. Here's what she says:
"One of the lasting results of my upbringing has been a wanderlust that has taken me to more corners of the world than I can remember."  

Cecilia Haynes writes about her experiences of growing up abroad in this post An Unsettled but Very Happy Third Culture Kid Part 3."Never think of moving abroad as a deprivation of any sort. It is the greatest gift you can give your child." 

Marina Sofia, an adult third culture kids wrote the poem "Who am I?" "I am all the places in which I’ve left my heart."

I have written about what I think the advantages are and what my 10 disadvantages are of growing up abroad. What do you think? Is raising your child abroad the greatest gift you can give them? Have you considered what the consequences of a global lifestyle will be for your kids?

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  1. This is a very thought-provoking subject, and one which troubles me from time to time.

    I gained great comfort from both those wonderful women and hope my own child will appreciate her life in the same way!

    Thank you for including links to those stories.

  2. Great questions! As an educator and parent, I think the last question is very important. I started to write all the reasons why, but it turned into a REALLY long response. I'm going to make it a post on my blog and link up to this one, because you inspired it!

  3. I can totally relate to this! Especially Marina Sofia's poem "Who am I?" "I am all the places in which I’ve left my heart." - You inspired me too and I'll write a post about a similar subject soon. Well done and thanks!

  4. Hi Carole @ExpatChild I am glad you have given this subject thought. Of course you have otherwise you would have not set up your website & blog. It's worth a visit! Thanks for posting stories by grown up expat kids (adult TCKs).

  5. Hi Madonna @raisingtcks, good to connect again. I'm glad this post is an inspiration. I'm looking forward to your post! The last question: is that the language question or the question at the end about the consequences of a global lifestyle? The language one is important too, because there seems to be some connection between language and identity.

  6. Hi Ute @Expatsincebirth and fellow adult TCK :). Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I love Marina's poem too, it just struck the right chord in my heart. Curious to read your post. I see you have been working really hard on your blog. It looks good.

  7. A wonderful, thought- provoking post! As a fellow adult TCK, I sometimes felt not belonging is where I belong. Most of my friends in Poland were either TCKs or other people who somehow didn't fit anywhere because of their beliefs, character or way of thinking. As for my children, I think I have it easier than others because we moved here when my older was 6 weeks old and my little one was born here. I expect them to go through this as well (as we're sending them to an international school even though the classes will be in Dutch), and am thinking every day how to make it easier on them. However, I hope they will see all the benefits that come with belonging to different cultures and speaking different languages- it certainly worked for me! Thanks for writing such wonderful articles- how inspiring!

  8. Even though I feel that an international childhood and being a TCK has enriched my life in many ways, I just don't dare to expose my own children to the same fate. It's a risk to take and I'm not willing to take it on behalf of my kids.
    You don't know what moving schools and loosing friends and changing environments so drastically will do to a person. Many children need stability, stable friends and environments over time in order to grow a healthy self-confidence and sense of who they are.
    I know enough TCK's that are much more restless than I am and who can't manage to grow roots anywhere, to find a longterm partner, who move from country to country, and who never seem completely content with life. I want my children to grow up in the same place, so that they can feel a sense of belonging that I never had.

  9. Hi Olga @TheEuropeanMama Like you say TCKs can have the feeling that they don't belong. I didn't know that you grew up among TCKs in Poland. It does really help kids when you live in one spot for a longer time. Your oldest was 6 weeks old so all her memories of home will be here in the Netherlands. I wonder what the atmosphere is like in the International school (where they teach in Dutch). What I remember from my childhood is that there was quite a sense of "we are different from the rest" at my international school, so even if the lessons are in Dutch, it can create a sense of being apart from the "locals". Time will tell....

  10. Hello anonymous fellow (adult) third culture kid, thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment. Like you I feel growing up as a TCK has enriched my life but there have been real challenges. I still struggle with the restless you mention. I know TCKs who have difficulty committing themselves to a long-term partner/relationship. The fact that kids easily adapt when they are young to new situations does not mean that in the future they will not have identity questions etc. My wish for you is that your kids grow up with a sense of belonging.