Friday, 6 April 2012

How do transitions effect children?

Recently the The American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) had a panel discussion about third culture kids and their experiences. You can watch the film, it is nearly one and a half hours full of good information. The members of the panel all have many years of experience working with Third culture kids. One of the members of the panel is International educator and adult third culture kid (ATCK), Rebecca Oden, M.Ed,  who has been a teacher and a coordinator providing academic and emotional/social support for transitioning families and students.  Her master’s thesis and research focused on transition and its consequent effect on the identity of TCKs in the international school setting.

I want to share something with you that Rebecca Oden said at the start of the panel discussion. I share these words with you because I believe they are true. According to Rebecca here are:

4 very important variables that influence the life of a third culture kid (or internationally mobile child):
  1. The developmental age of the child. There are different challenges and different issues at different ages. It's a little easier when children are younger, for example parents can arrange a play date and within moments of meeting each others toddlers can be playing together. The issues change depending on the developmental age. A child of 12 years old will not be charmed when mum arranges a play date but parents can facilitate the social interactions at that age.
  2. The number of transitions a child has faced. Parents often think: well they did fine the last move so all will be well this time. There are all kinds of reasons why this time the transition is more difficult. It could be connected with the developmental age. It could be transition fatigue, tried of all the change, the multiple loss of status, starting over time and time again. The fragmented identities that need to be put together time and time again.
  3. The family wellness. How is your family culture? Are you as parents doing well? Is this transition more difficult for one of the parents too?
  4. School choice.  Is it a school that is knowledgeable about these kind of issues? Does it have a program to address these issues?
I can not really remember how I experienced each transition in my youth. In Malawi I went to international schools but in Zimbabwe I attended good local schools. I have good memories at all of these schools. An international school is not automatically the best choice. What's your experience? Do you identify with these 4 variables?

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  1. I had a really good move from Bahrain to the Azores. I was 12 at the time and for whatever reason, the transition was smooth! Maybe it was because a lot of my peers had moved quite a bit and we were all looking for friendly faces and the opportunity to make friends. When I moved to the States from the Azores, there wasn't anything to help with the transition and I didn't get involved with international students nor peer who had moved a lot or at all, for that matter. I think that was a mistake. Now, where I currently live, my closest friends are ones who have moved quite a bit in their lives and understand what it means to be a "transplant".

  2. My worst transition was the one back to my passport country (the Netherlands) at 19 years of age. My story is very similar to yours that I had near to no help when I made the transition and there were nearly no international students, TCKs or expat kids around. Advice for others: get around some international students/kids. Thanks for commenting!