Unreached Network

Supporting Third Culture Kids (TCK’s)

Navigating the World

Imagine growing up in a world that constantly shifts beneath your feet, where home is a concept more fluid than fixed. For those who have found themselves bridging cultures in this way, the term “Third Culture Kid” (TCK) resonates deeply. TCKs are individuals who have spent a significant part of their formative years in a culture different from their parents’ home culture, creating a unique identity that wonderfully blends elements of both. In a world that is increasingly interconnected, the number of TCKs is on the rise, and so is the literature, resources and support available to  normalise their diverse, unique complex and incredibly enriching experiences.

Help us Understand

But before we dive into the resources and literature that are available, let’s take a look some facts to help us better understand Third Culture Kids (TCKs) and their unique experiences.

Global TCK Population There is no exact count, but it’s estimated that there are millions of TCKs worldwide. The number continues to grow as globalisation and international mobility increase. It can be comforting to know that you are not alone, that there are millions of people worldwide who may be feeling similarly to you.

Diverse Backgrounds TCKs come from diverse backgrounds all over the globe and are made up of expatriate families, economic migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, missionary families and military families. Let’s be aware that there may be many TCKs in our communities that may be struggling.

Multiple Relocations On average, TCKs move every 2-4 years during their formative years. Some may relocate even more frequently.

Cultural Adaptation  Some well-known TCKs include Barack Obama, Angelina Jolie, and Elon Musk.  TCKs tend to be very adept at adapting to new cultures, learning languages, and working cross-culturally with others. They relate well to and know how to put at ease those who are from other cultures in their own communities and they are typically unphased by operating in our increasingly globalised world.

Identity Challenges  Some TCKs might grapple with issues related to identity, including cultural identity, a sense of belonging and feeling like they don’t entirely fit into any one culture.  Other TCKs may also face mental health challenges, including feelings of rootlessness, identity crises, and reverse culture shock when returning to their passport country.  Although not every TCK will struggle with these things, it is good for us to be aware of some of these less desirable side effects of being an international superstar, so that we can help families to mitigate against these where possible and so that we can offer support and empathy to those who are struggling.

Offering Support Great ways to support our TCKs is to normalise, empathise and provide as much emotional stability and support as possible. Make sure relationships at home are strong, and that you encourage strong relationships with those around you.  You can also help them by maintaining strong links with those key relationships that are important to them.  Other ways we can help our TCKs is by exposing them to other TCKs so that they can share stories and experiences. Help them know that they are not alone and that their experiences have worked and will work to enrich them.  They will never be in lack.

Useful Resources

Whether you’re a TCK looking to understand your unique experiences better, a parent raising a TCK, or someone interested in supporting TCK’s and their families, we’ve put together this list of resources to help you to navigate the experiences we encounter when living cross culturally in this beautifully multicultural world.

https://globalconnections.org.uk/resources/tck-guidelines These guidelines laid out by Global Connections are designed to help any UK based organisation or UK church sending families overseas think through and develop their own agreed policies and procedures.

https://globalconnections.org.uk/resources/tck-resources This resource list includes Global Connections’ top picks of:

  • Books for and about TCKs – including books on preparing children to go overseas, transition and grieving
  • Books for children of different ages
  • Books covering special subjects – on parenting, multilingualism, education and special needs
  • A list of helpful magazines
  • Links to the best websites relating to TCKs

Rekonnect Camp for Kids Since 2002, rekonnect camps have offered children and teenagers five fun-filled days with others who have lived overseas and have recently moved back to the UK. There are two different camps; one for those aged 6-12 (rekonnect kids) and one for those who are 13-18 (rekonnect teens).

https://www.tanyacrossman.com/resources As well as writing her own book, ‘Misunderstood‘, Tanya provides a comprehensive list of resources for those supporting third culture kids, from blogs, vlogs, podcasts, forums and professional associations.  Tanya also has a comprehensive list of resources to support multilingual families.

Have we missed anything out? Let us know at info@unreached.network