Out of the many concerns expat parents have, certainly the most untold one is related to how it is like to raise a third culture kid. Beyond the commonly asked questions (such as “Is this country family-friendly? Does this country offer a good environment to raise my child? What about the school system here?”), most parent are also questioning the notion of cultural identity and the impact of expatriation on their child’s life. And these concerns are absolutely justified. Nobody said that parenting is an easy job, especially when you are far from your home country.
What is a Third-Culture Kid?
A Third-Culture Kid (also known as TCK) is referring to a child who grows up in a culture different from the one in which his parents grew up. David Pollock and Ruthvan Reken, both American sociologists, were the first to come up with the concept in their book “Third-culture Kids, Growing Up Among Worlds”. The third-culture is in fact a mix between the parents’ culture and culture in which these expat children are raised. Some other sociologists also call them “Global Nomads”, referring to children who have grown up abroad because of their parents’ occupational choices and career opportunities.
Most expat parents fear that their children will never develop a sense of belonging or that they will forget about their family roots. This can lead to high anxiety, especially for parents that were raised in their home country. They are then very attached to their traditions and are afraid that their children will not find the same cultural needs.
Lack of family time can also be an issue, as during daytime parents work and children are at school, mostly surrounded by people with different cultural habits.
Let your children embrace their multi-cultural identity
It is commonly accepted that childhood experiences (both positive and negatives ones) will directly impact the adults that we will become. And growing up in a culture which is radically different from one’s background will, in most occasions, turn out to be a very positive experience. Living the life of an expat will give your child the opportunity to broaden his/her horizon, to develop an open mind and a good heart. This will teach them tolerance, respect and enable them to easily adapt to new circumstances and people.
So, you should not be fearing that your offspring would end rootless or isolated. I was myself a third-culture kid, and I have always considered that my different cultures are part of a whole, and never felt this is as a burden. On the contrary, I had the opportunity to inherit values from each culture and this allows me to choose who I effectively want to be. I feel blessed for the life I had as a multi-cultural child, speaking different languages and celebrating twice New Year’s Eve. 😉
Please stay reassured that, although your children will most probably never experience living in a single place, they will however be blessed to become true citizens of the world.
Our advice would be to talk to them from an early age about this multiculturalism. It is also very important for them to regularly travel to their parent’s country of origin. This will be the appropriate moment to show them all the aspects of your culture that you appreciate most. Take the opportunity to fun facts about your childhood for example. It will be a great opportunity for you to share unique moments and have deep emotional connections with them. So worry no more and in the end you might surprise yourself to look at your child with envy.