The term TCK refers to anyone who has spend a significant part of their developmental years in a country other than their country of origin (Van Rekken & Pullock, 1994).
There are many common characteristics among those who share the TCK lifestyle. One benefit that I have heard most commonly pointed out is the TCK’s ability to be exceptionally adaptable and flexible. The TCK lifestyle has required them to become a “cultural chameleon”. They have the uncanny ability to subconsciously pick out the subtleties in a new culture and operate successfully in that culture even if they only move between their passport country and one host country. Because of this, adapting becomes their lifestyle. More than that, I believe that adapting becomes their comfort zone.
The funny thing, is that TCKs often don’t realize this. Many dream of a settled life in a small town, where their children can grow up in the same house, go to the same school, and have the same people in their lives who knew them from birth. For a long time, this was my dream. This sounded comfortable. However, each time I got close to this settled feeling, I would get uncomfortable and the clock in my head would go off that said “time for a new place, new things, new people!” and I would once again, be on the move.
Still, I thought it was the settled feeling that I was searching for.
After many conversations with TCKs and colleagues who also work with the TCK community, I found that I was not alone in this. For the majority of Americans, being settled and adapted is comfortable. You have “arrived” when you have a stable job, purchase a house, and start to “build a life”. Moving is considered one of the top 10 most stressful life events on the Holmes and Rhae Stress Scale. However, for the majority of TCKs, moving is thrilling, exciting, and comfortable. This process of settling and adapting is familiar territory and they know how to navigate it well. It is when they begin to settle that they feel uncomfortable and must make the conscious decision to wade into the uncharted territory of settled and adapted.
So how can you as a new TCK parent prevent this struggle from becoming debilitating when your TCK reaches adulthood?
How can you as a church, community, grandparent, friend support the TCKs you know and love?
My passion lies in preventative care and education for TCKs, MKs, and their parents. There are many resources available for adult TCKs and MKs who are struggling because of their globally mobile upbringing. However, there are very few tools to prevent those struggles from becoming issues in the first place. I believe that by educating parents and children, they can begin a healthy life overseas and prevent many of the issues that TCKs and Adult TCKs commonly face due to their globally mobile upbringing. This three-part series will address parenting the adapting child, and how those left behind can support the adapting child. I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback!