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Third Culture Kids

Third Culture Kids or TCK’s as they are called, refer to the children who who have spent a significant part of their developmental years outside the parents’ culture.I recently had an opportunity to attend a workshop that was targeted at parents of TCKs. My daughter is not yet one (we have lived outside of India only for a little over 2 years now) however I was keen to find out a little more about challenges such kids (especially teens) face in a society that is not their home.

Here are a few lessons I learnt at the workshop that was worthy of a share.

It is crucial for teens who move from their native countries to another culture, to understand that meeting teens from another culture is akin to meeting of tectonic plates! There will be cultural dissimilarities and a clash of who they are and who they need to become to belong.

It is also important for parents to recognize the fact that adjusting to a new culture is a process and it takes time. The effects of acculturation (cultural and psychological changes from being exposed to other cultures) will be seen in the way your teen eats, dresses and speaks!

I understood that the parent has an important role to play during the acculturation process, helping the teen assimilate, separate and integrate the new culture while preserving traditions from one’s own culture. By pointing out situations where similarities and differences between cultures can be compared and contrasted, adults can help teens understand and integrate new customs while preserving the old.

Then we had another speaker of repute, Dr. Lisa Pittman, a psychologist who works with children to study the impact of global mobility on children’s psyche. She shared some scary statistics of children who have emotional eating disorders because they don’t integrate well into the new society.

The third speaker was Rebecca Grappo, an educational consultant who shared her experience working with TCKs. The important message I got from her was that parents of TCKs have to comfort the child and validate her fears of adjusting to a new culture and not just be a cheer leader encouraging her to be a part of the new culture and promising that everything was going to be great.

The basic need for every human is to be recognized, to have a sense of belonging, connecting and identity. For TCKs, school is a place that fulfills not only the academic needs but also emotional and social needs. If these needs of the child are met in the new culture, the child then becomes resilient and fits into the society.

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