Anyone who has kids and has prepared to move overseas has likely heard this term before.
Third Culture Kid.
Then there are PTCKs (Parents of TCKs), ATCKs (Adult TCKs) and probably more that I don’t know about.
Loads of books, seminars and blogs about the topic, but I will refer you to Third Culture Kids by Pollock and Van Reken for foundational reading.
The basic premise is that people who spend large portions of their formative years criss-crossing borders and living outside their passport country for lengths of time have a completely different way of relating to the world than people growing up in more “rooted” settings.
The other major element making up a TCK’s childhood is frequent transition–both by themselves and by the people surrounding them.
Groups that fall into this category include military families, State Department/diplomat families, missionary families and global corporate types, as well as “misc.”
There’s always someone leaving and new people coming to your community, and in between you’re going back to the place your parents call “home.”
It still surprises me (although it shouldn’t) when my older kids consider China “home.”
While time flies for those of us who are over the hill and I remember getting off that plane with 3 kids and unwittingly pregnant as clear as yesterday, 5 1/2 years of an 11 year old’s life is literally half a lifetime.
I unknowingly grew up as a TCK myself, and when I learned about the term from an American who had grown up in South America I finally found myself and it explained soooo much.
It helped normalize so much of my own strange experiences to realize that I was in some sort of group and not just a freak.
And so we have gradually grown into our new lives where home is a different place for different family members.
We are fortunate to connect with other groups of expats in China as well as around Asia through conferences, and the biggest hit is always the friendships our kids have made through these events.
One young woman who grew up here is now working for a group that sends a lot of families to sites around the world, and her main job is to meet the needs of the children in these families so that they can survive and thrive in their various settings.
She came back to visit her family and decided to have a TCK seminar for her younger siblings and other kids in our city as well.
I think my older kids are starting to find themselves.