Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Tough Task of TCK Parenting

One of the hardest aspects of cross-cultural life is parenting. It is one thing to make sacrifices and put yourself through hardship, but quite another to do so to your children.

Everyone knows a kid who shows up to school for the first few days or weeks crying, and eventually they adjust and are fine. However, when that kid is living cross-culturally there is always the nagging doubt: would they be having a hard time if they weren’t required to make the additional adjustments? The answer is probably yes, but it is still hard to put a kid through that.

TCKs consistently have to make huge adjustments. They live under more stress and feelings of alienation than “normal” kids. They have parents who are always a little “clueless” and therefore miss out on some things other kids get to do. They tend to leave places and have to make new friends a lot. They don’t open up to people because they doubt they will know them long enough. This is tough on the parents, perhaps even more than it is on the kids. One of the more significant reasons cross-cultural workers drop out and go home is child related.

On the other hand, parents of TCKs can know that it is not all bad, and often the hard times serve to make their children stronger, more capable people later in life. They are adaptable. They are survivors. They can make do and even thrive in any situation. They are cultural experts. They know multiple languages and can learn new ones easier. Kids growing up in single cultures could have just as many problems with none of the benefits.

Growing up in another culture can be like living in a crucible, but the process can really be a purifying perfecting one as well. If you fell like God has called you to that sort of life, trust Him to use it to the benefit of your children as well.


  1. I found this quite interesting...seeing the other side of the coin so to speak. As a kid in Chile, never thought twice about what we were living was anything "different" or "special". As an adult looking back, I found it wasn't till 2003 when I finally went back to Chile for a brief visit that I felt more Australian than Chilean (but only really cause I had more friends and family in Au than in Cl). Reading your account of the parent side...very interesting. A lesson that I've found can be applied in many areas, not just cross-cultural living.

  2. True. At times it was really hard, but who knew better? We sure didn't. And other kids the whole world over have hard times, so being an MK has benefits that far outweigh the challenges. It is probably harder as a parent than as the kid. There can be a lot of guilt involved if you're not careful.


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