Caring for third culture kids

What’s a TCK?

A TCK, or third culture kid, is an individual who, having spent a significant part of the developmental years in a culture other than the parents’ culture, develops a sense of relationship to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Elements from each culture are incorporated into the life experience, but the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar experience (David Pollock).

Challenges faced by TCKs
  • Being overlooked
  • Not feeling they are a part of their parent’s ministry
  • Adjustments to a new culture
  • Missing friends/relatives
  • Isolation or distance connected to schooling
Benefits experienced by TCKs
  • Broader world view
  • Rich cross-cultural experiences
  • Being bilingual and cross-culturally savvy
  • Usually skilled in initiating and maintaining deep relationships
  • Adaptability due to learning to function in a variety of settings
Practical ways to care for children
  • Provide entertainment for long flights or trips by making travel kits. Prepare a bag for each child full of small wrapped gifts, one for each hour of the trip. This gives the child surprises to look forward to throughout the journey. Check with parents before preparing to find out if there is space to carry the kit.
  • Stay in touch via email and letters (snail mail letters are still fun to receive!)
  • Send cards on birthdays and holidays or any time at all
  • Call them by phone or video Skype
  • Send care packages containing items they like or can’t get (read Sending care packages first!)
  • Send a “birthday party in a box” (tablecloth, napkins, favors, etc.) or a Valentine’s Day party box
  • Send things to help celebrate the Christmas season (games, baking supplies, things to give away)
  • Record a video and send it to them
  • Send electronic cards with picture slide shows (see smilebox.com and numerous other websites)
  • Pray for them
  • Subscribe them to magazines or devotional books
  • Send items chosen by other children, e.g., school pictures, favorite TV shows recorded for them, favorite comic strips, items they collect
  • Arrange for age peers to Skype with them during Sunday School
  • Be a resource for parents in raising their children overseas
  • Educate the rest of your congregation about TCKs
  • Keep them in front of the congregation along with their parents (children are sent too!)
  • Stay alert to things the children might want to do that are not in the budget (e.g., retreats, camps) and give a financial gift so they can participate
  • Visit them
  • Take them on special outings when they are on home leave (their parents will appreciate the chance for a date or time to run errands!)
  • Take them to the store to pick out their own special pillow case as a way of creating a sense of “home” wherever the child is – one missionary dad wrote that the pillow case can be “the one thing that is familiar in so many strange places. It is also a good lesson showing how Jesus is that one place we can go for comfort, wherever we are.”
Other Resources
  • "Third Culture Kids -- A Prayer Guide." Order at davidsonpublishing.org/prayer-guides1.html. (Scroll down until you see the heading "Children.")
  • Long Distance Grandma by Janet Teitsort (not just for grandmas!)
  • Recipes of the 10/40 Window cookbook -- a fun way to broaden your tastes