Misunderstood comprehensively explores the impact international life can have on children growing up overseas in the 21st century. It is written for two main audiences: traditional Third Culture Kids (TCKs) – “children of expatriates, growing up in families that live as foreigners abroad,” and those who care for them – parents, educators, youth workers, extracurricular coaches and even therapists.
Author Tanya Crossman grew up as both a domestic and international TCK before embarking on a decade-long journey of discovery as a youth worker alongside TCKs in China. In this book, she brings her own experiences together with the global voices of more than 700 TCKs, and many of their parents, to “advocate for TCKs: to explain their worldview and share their stories – in their words.”
Beginning with the basics, Tanya builds readers’ understanding of the three categories of influence for children growing up overseas, the difference between 20th century and 21st century TCKs and the challenges of living abroad. She then meticulously walks the reader through the many different experiences of TCK life, including the reason they are overseas in the first place, the variety of educational options available, the range of family types represented – both traditional and non-traditional – and the different relationships they may have with their host country or countries. The following chapters deal extensively with transition and grief, goodbyes and hellos and the inner lives of TCKs before focusing on the future. Any TCK reading this book will find themselves in these pages because Tanya describes “a perspective, not a person.”
What sets this book apart from others in the global transition genre is the way Tanya brings research, perspective and solutions together. She identifies the challenge, fear or feeling “many TCKs believe others cannot, or will not, understand,” then underpins it with research and wisdom from experts in the field and articulates it using anecdotes from TCKs and Adult Third Culture Kids (ATCKs). For each challenge, Tanya provides solutions and strategies for parents/ caregivers to support their TCK, so those challenges do not become traumatic but instead serve as springboards for growth.
The title of the book, Misunderstood, may lead readers to assume the contents are negative in nature but in fact it is very balanced. This word, misunderstood, was repeated over and over in interviews and conversations Tanya had with TCKs yet the book provides an insight into the heads, hearts and souls of children growing up overseas to dispel any misunderstanding. It bridges the gap between TCKs feeling misunderstood and adults trying to understand. TCKs reading this book will identify with the words ‘spoken’ by other TCKs and perhaps find a vocabulary to express their emotions and find a sense of belonging. Parents, educators and other caregivers will gain the understanding TCKs desperately need and want in order to encourage, equip and support them to “develop into emotionally mature adults,” either abroad or at home. Misunderstood is a book of hope and one I would highly recommend for all TCKs and those who care for them.
Jane Barron, Youth Intercultural Transition Specialist, Globally Grounded