Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Dealing with Third Culture Kids

Some time ago I wrote the post Counselors be curious about the upbringing of third culture kids. I received a comment from Elfie and she wrote about her experiences with therapists: Counseling a TCK. Of all the therapists she had there was not one who knew the term "third culture kids". It's sad that therapists do not know what kind of challenges we face. Luckily there are some that do know! There is an International Therapist Directory. Maybe that can help.

On the Children's Mental Health Network website I came across an interesting article The Trouble with Third Culture Kids. Here's part of what it said:

"Rebecca Grappo, an educational consultant who specializes in the placement of these children, says there are three basic things all children need:  belonging, recognition and connection.  For TCKs, these basic needs are ripped away with each move.  Powerless in the decision to relocate, their many losses are often not acknowledged even by their own parents, and the main problem is unspoken, unrecognized, shunted aside.

It looks like depression, but it’s not.  This is the face of TCK grief.

And, according to Ruth Van Reken, unresolved grief is the most urgent mental health issue facing TCKs -- the children as well as the adults they will become."

So there are many losses that third culture kids go through. There's grief. There's something that looks like depression. Maybe sometimes it is a depression. There's a good article on Denizen "Dealing with depression as a TCK student". The article includes 5 tips on how to stay mentally healthy as a TCK when you are feeling challenged.

This week I read a post by a third culture kid called Hippie in Bloom. A friend of hers who also grew up making international moves as a child wrote: “I don’t like it much. Life would’ve been much easier if I were one of those people who never left the country and didn’t care about stuff.” 

The problem is that we can not change the past, so we need to find a way to deal with it. I think that's one of the challenges that we, (adult) third culture kids have to face.

Related posts:
Image thanks to grietgriet at Morgue File


  1. Yes, this sure hits home. I still surprise myself sometimes at how certain things can trigger some deep lying pain that I was unaware of. Most of the time I can trace it back to the grief stemming from the loss of the place where I was at home, loss of the friends that were dear to me, loss of control over my life.

  2. Thanks for stopping by. Yes it's like you say. Multiple losses: people, places and control. I think Rebecca says it so well: children need belonging, recognition and connection. These change with every move. It took me quite a long time to understand myself (an ongoing thing). Looking back I was kind of depressed my first year here in the Netherlands when I came from Zimbabwe to start university here, but I think it was actually more a grieving process that I went through. I could not give any words to my emotions at the time, I was in the "survival mode". Trying to make the most of the situation, that's what I had had to do time and time again.