A Lesson for TCKs – Everyone Leaves

The experience of living overseas as a child is very different to the experience of living overseas as an adult. The impact of childhood experiences last a lifetime. They are formative experiences – they teach us how the world works. We all internalise ‘lessons’ from our childhood experiences.

TCKs grow up between cultures, learning lessons from more than one cultural viewpoint. Often these messages contradict one another, and learning to navigate this conflict is part of what makes a TCK. The lessons they learn about how the world works, therefore, often come less from individual cultures and more from the fact that they juggle more than one cultural viewpoint. The experience of being “in between” greatly affects their understanding of the world.

As I interviewed hundreds of TCKs there were a lot of repeated themes, and even specific phrases, that became familiar. These were the lessons these TCKs had learned through their childhood experiences. In this post I’m introducing one of the most common lessons of a TCK childhood: Everyone leaves.

Read More | About Misunderstood

Jane Barron Reviews Misunderstood

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.

About the Book

Jane Barron, Youth Intercultural Transition Specialist, Globally Grounded

Misunderstood – fascinating and thought-provoking

Fascinating and well written book that demonstrates beyond doubt that modern day Third Culture Kids (#TCKs) really do face complex and debilitating issues – hundreds of TCKs were surveyed or interviewed for the book. As well as providing some valuable research material, the book gives a real sense of what TCKs actually feel: “My life feels like a series of learning how to stack stones on the wall around my heart,” and “Every time I felt sad, I let myself feel it. Some of those days, I laid down in bed for a while, and let myself be tired out by the grieving process.”

This is a really helpful book, bringing all the issues together in a well-structured and logical way. As well as providing food for thought for other TCKs and their families, I think this will resonate with others: many of the issues highlighted in the book apply not just to TCKs, and not just to adults who were once TCKs, but to anyone who, like me, took the plunge and moved abroad. A really absorbing and thought-provoking book.

Waterstone’s Review

The Book | The Review