Cross Cultural Kids

Cross Cultural Kids

At the 2017 Families in Global Transition Conference (FIGT) in The Hague, Netherlands, Ruth van Reken elaborated on the term Cross Cultural Kid . Children are often in more than one of these circles at the same time. (e.g. A traditional TCK who is also from a minority group; a child of immigrants whose parents are from two different cultures, etc.) This helps us understand the growing complexity of the issues we face in our changing world . The term Cross Cultural Kid is the umbrella name for many variations of CCKs including:

Domestic Cross Cultural Kid

A child “whose parents have moved in and among various subcultures within that child’s home country.” (Pollock & Van Reken, 2009) This may be from the rural subculture to the city, from the subculture in one city to the subculture on the other side of that city, from a Capital city’s subculture to the subculture of another Capital city or from one State to another. Domestic TCKs are moving across cultures, they just happen to be within one country’s border.

Educational Cross Cultural Kid

A child who moves between educational cultures such as from the eastern educational culture to the western educational culture or vice versa. In this category I also include students moving from living at home and attending the local school to living in the school boarding house and experiencing a new educational culture.

Bi/Multi-cultural or Bi/Multi-racial Children

Children born to parents from at least two cultures or races.

Children of Borderlanders

Children living on or near the border between two countries, perhaps living in one country and going to school in another country.

Children of Immigrants

Children whose parents have made a permanent move to a new country where they were not originally citizens.

Children of Minorities

Children whose parents are from a racial or ethnic group which is not part of the majority race or ethnicity of the country in which they live.

Children of Refugees

Children whose parents are living outside their original country or place due to unchosen circumstances such […]

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Third Culture Kids: Prototypes for Understanding Other Cross-Cultural Kids

“A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture(s). Although elements from each culture are assimilated into the TCK’s life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background . ”

— David C. Pollock, developer of the TCK Profile, founder, Interaction, Inc., co-author Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds

As Ruth Useem wrote in an early article describing the Third Culture, “each of these subcultures [community of expatriates] generated by colonial administrators, missionaries, businessmen, and military personnel—had its own peculiarities, slightly different origins, distinctive styles, and stratification systems, but all were closely interlocked.”1

In other words, for all the differences of background, nationality, ethnicity, and purpose for living internationally among the groups, there were some fundamentals they all shared that transcended those differences. It was here in the early days of cross-cultural interchanges that a new way of looking at “culture” began. It was also here that the impact of how such a lifestyle impacted children began as well.

Common characteristics of Third Culture experience (for adults as well as kids)

  • Cross-cultural lifestyle
  • High mobility
  • Expected repatriation
  • Often a “system identity” with sponsoring organization/business (e.g. military, missionary, corporate, foreign service)

Common personal characteristics of TCKs (children who grow up in this world)

  • Large world view

  • Language acquisition
  • Can be cultural bridges
  • Rootlessness—“Home” is everywhere and nowhere
  • Restlessness
  • Sense of belonging is often in relationship to others of similar background rather than shared race or ethnicity alone

Major challenges

    Many of their losses are not visible or recognized by others. With no language or understanding to process these losses, many TCKs never learned how to deal with them as they happened and the grief comes out in other ways (e.g. denial, anger, depression, extreme busyness, etc.).

    “Cultural marginality” describes an experience in which people don’t tend to fit perfectly into any one of the cultures to which they have been exposed or with which they have interacted, but may fit comfortably on the edge, in the margins, of each. (For how that relates to TCKs see http://www.worldweave.com/BSidentity.html)

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