Politics

When Your TCK Isn't Patriotic

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  A family is back in the United States on furlough for a year. The 6 year old girl and her parents attend her school's beginning of the school year assembly. The assembly starts and everyone stands up to say the Pledge of Allegiance. The girl looks up at her parents and asks, "Mommy, what are we doing?"  Her mom's heart sinks.

A TCK returns to America for college after spending the majority of her life overseas. She attends a football game and before the game starts, someone walks onto the field and begins to sing a song. "This is strange," she thinks.  Stranger still, it appears as though everyone around her knows the words. Then she notices that everyone has their right hand over their hearts. She quickly follows suit and realizes the song is the National Anthem. "I really should know the words to this," she thinks.

When a child becomes a TCK, they become a global citizen. This is an amazing attribute, but it can leave many parents and family members a bit frustrated and disappointed, as this viewpoint often comes across as a lack of patriotism for the child's passport country. Unlike their parents who grew up in one country, TCKs don't have ties to a singular country, and if they do, it may not be to their parents' country. This apparent lack of patriotism can create rocky ground for both the TCK and their parents.

So, what do you do when your child doesn't appear to feel patriotic toward their passport country; toward your country? 

It can be tricky for parents to understand that, while they have been living overseas just as long as their children have, the impact will be profoundly different for their children than it is for them. The parent who was born and raised in one country may have a difficult time when their TCK does not feel as connected to their passport country. Here are some things for you to keep in mind as you navigate this challenge:

1.  Teach your children about their heritage not their home. I use the word "heritage" because for the TCK, your passport country may not feel like their home. By talking about your native country as "home", you may inadvertently cause your TCK to tune out. Make it a point to teach your children about where you (the parents) are from. Teach them about things like traditions, culture, history, food, and holidays, but approach the topic from a heritage perspective. Your children may learn to appreciate that place more if they don't feel like you are trying to convince them that your native country should feel like home.

2.  Don't expect them to be comfortable. When you visit your passport country, remember that while it may be your home it may not be your child's home. I have talked with many TCKs who had a hard time when they visited their passport country because their parents seemed to expect them to feel comfortable and jump right back into their passport culture.  Your children may not be aware of cultural norms and social expectations,  which can make them feel very out of place. Be mindful of this and patiently give your TCKs space while they (re)adjust to their passport culture.

3.  Don't make them choose a favorite. Often, TCKs feel like they have an expected loyalty to their passport country and that given the choice they should choose that country over any other. A TCK I know once told me, "One of the worst things I can imagine is my passport country going to war with my host country. I have no idea which country I would side with, and worse, it probably wouldn't be the country my parents would side with."  Intentionally reiterate to your TCKs that they can love different places for what each place uniquely has to offer. They don't have to choose a favorite.

4.  Encourage their global patriotism. I have said before that I think it would be to the world's advantage to have more TCKs in political offices and the primary reason is this:  TCKs have an appreciation for the world as a whole more than possibly any other single people group. They aren't typically loyal to one place and thus, they can love and appreciate many places without being influenced by stigmas, stereotypes, and prejudices that develop when you have an "us vs. them" mentality. Often, this lack of "us vs. them" mentality is mistaken for a lack of patriotism. TCKs are good at looking at all of the world from an "us" perspective and this is an attribute that you should praise in your TCK.

When TCKs don't feel like they have to choose an allegiance toward a certain country, they can openly celebrate all of the countries that they have ties to and this is absolutely beautiful. Parents have the wonderful opportunity and responsibility to be instrumental in shaping how their children view different cultures and people groups. Encourage your children's appreciation of all places, advocate for their global patriotism, and remind them that while every culture has its weaknesses, they also all have something wonderful to offer.

Let's Think Outside the American Box - A TCK's Approach to Politics

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I have been deliberating on this post for quite some time, not wanting to add another article to the political clutter invading the media world these days. I almost left the word "politics" out of the title, so no one rolls their eyes thinking, "really, you too?" But, I hope that no matter where you sit on the political spectrum, this will be refreshing and, more importantly, will challenge you to think outside the American box. When I talk to parents of TCKs, I emphasize the benefits of being a TCK; for example, growing up in a different culture yields a unique perspective and a broad worldview. I was recently talking with a mom of TCKs and was asked, "Do you think that being a TCK impacts the way you look at politics?" Without a second thought I answered, "Absolutely."

In talking with other TCKs about how and why our experience impacts our political perspective, I was surprised to find that while our views vary widely, there are specific similarities that influence those views that are worth exploring.

We see faces. Topics of refugees, immigration, and travel bans come up and we see faces. One TCK told me that she cried when she heard that Libya was on the travel ban list because that may directly impact close friends of hers. Another TCK knew people who were stranded at the airport entirely unsure of their future. We don't see them as impersonal populations we see them as part of our multicultural family. While we may have varying opinions on political solutions, the role of the government, or our role as Christians or American passport holders, our perspective is shaped by the fact that we don't live with an "us" vs. "them" mentality. Those people are friends, or are like our friends, and the solutions change significantly when instead of seeing intimidating, different, unknown, unapproachable people groups, you see familiar faces.

We know what it's like to be the foreigner. We have lived in countries where we were the minority. We understand what it is like to be discriminated against and exploited because of our race and skin color, and that directly impacts the way we interact with the minority populations in this country. We also know what it is like to be accepted into a culture despite our skin color, passport, and race. We remember the times when someone took the time to help us with language or showed us how to navigate the market or post office. As foreigners, we were accountable to integrate and respect the culture we were in, and were overjoyed when, though we were foreigners, we were treated like insiders. I desire to treat foreigners in America with the respect, dignity, generosity, and love that many extended to  me when I lived in Africa.

We value different perspectives. Many Americans seem to have a false illusion that we are the "bees knees" at pretty much everything and thus, we rarely look outside our borders for political brilliance. We can learn so much from other countries around the world and it would do America good to humbly seek wisdom and counsel from political leaders all over the world. For this reason, I believe we would do well to put more TCKs in political offices!

We cling to our eternal citizenship, rather than our temporal status. For a long time, I struggled with the fact that I didn't seem to belong anywhere. I held an American passport, but felt like a foreigner in America, yet I felt most comfortable in Tanzania where I neither looked like I belonged nor legally was anything more than a temporary resident. I vividly remember a day during my Sophomore year in high school when I read Philippians 3:20: "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." I finally found a sense of belonging.

I think that TCKs have an advantage in understanding deeply the concept that our citizenship is not on this earth. Yes, I hold an American passport, and I do care about what is going on in this country, but when things aren't going well, it does not rattle my soul. I know that ultimately, this is not where I belong. I am not so deeply rooted in this country that I feel personally attacked or affirmed by political decisions, because I am striving to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” rather than worrying about the kingdoms of this world and their actions (Matthew 6:33).

If you've been feeling unsettled by the political rhetoric, unilateral decisions, and inflammatory speech that surrounds us these days, I hope you will find the same solace in these words that I have, "All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them" (Hebrews 11:13-16).