Living in a ‘limbo’: Raising Third Culture Kids.

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What do I mean by ‘trouble with third-culture kids‘?

Right now I’m simply trying to collect my thoughts into one piece, because attempting to answer this question has become my life task. I joke with my three children that I was only a woman before they were brought into my life. they made me turned into something completely different, the somehow scary concept of a parent… Not easy to be a parent, and even harder the ongoing duty of raising (well) kids that are wholeheartedly part of a hybrid scenario.

The so-called hybrid culture, a moving creature, a living chimera who’s not only part of their lives, but also defines who they (the children) are, the way they behave, how they interact with the (current) society, how they understand and express their feelings…

This past week the children went to visit their new school, and participated in a short orientation activity with same-age/same grade kids. They were asked to introduce themselves, and mention where they were coming from, their previous school/country,  stating their nationality.

My oldest was born in the US, and seems to have strong ties to the country thru sports, aligning himself with the ‘American’ culture. He’d also tell you he’s Brazilian – got a Brazilian-American mom and embraces the culture here. My surprise that day at school, came from my 1st-grader: when students originally from Brazil where called to stand up, she remained sited. The same happened when US kids were called to introduced themselves. Finally, when she heard, ‘now, children from Africa’, she jumped out of her seat, displaying a big and proud smile… Yes, she was born in South Africa, while our family was leaving/working in Mozambique. She left the country before she turned 2. But her allegiances to her ‘African past’ are remarkably strong – the culture, the music, the dances – she lives thru the stories we tell her from the time our family spent there. Who knows why? and, as long as she’s happy, we’re happy, despite our utterly lack of understanding. Maybe, for now, the answers will just confuse us…

As a parent, I’ve become aware of this ‘chimera’ my children represent. Sometimes I feel I don’t know them, and it’s not their fault – I simply don’t find the correct way to address their growing needs; how to respond to their sadness and anger; how to deal with their mood swings during the transitions, the constant moves, the new places, the losses of old friends…

I recently read a guest post written by Nina Sichel, introducing on one of publications, which referred to third-culture children living in a ‘limbo‘. Throughout the text, there was the comment on the ‘layers of loss’ a TCK experiences – according to Nina Sichel, those layers run deep – friends, schools, favorite places, pets… and again, now I’m wearing my ‘concerned parent hat’, seeking ways to address these losses with my kids, already knowing they will happen over and over…

Our family has relocated to our new post assignment – today marks the end of our second week in Brasília. My children are comfortable with Portuguese, and have been able to make a feel new friends during Summer Camp here. They seem happy, they’d adjusting, and yet, they’re struggling… I can tell from their little faces they’re trying hard, they’re no quitters, but sometimes the lack of (self) understanding  turns into and default. They look up to us (the parents) for answers we do not carry… We knew it would be like this, we knew it wouldn’t be easy, no transition is, but we’re here for them, even though, my husband and I are still trying to figure things out: socially, emotionally… I have no evidence, our family dynamics feels a tad disjoint, but time and patience will hopefully be good allies throughout the process… Time, patience, acceptance, and love – our travel companions 😮

(Note: Thanks again to Nina Sichel’s article, and for her book, the inspiration for this ‘parental op-piece’).

The emotionally resilient expat [by Linda Janssen].

Oh, well, why not mention here a great book that just came out [July 2013], by the author Linda Janssen?

And the reason for that? Linda interviewed several expats, families, collected their experiences, challenges, suggestions, stories and tales. All together, bound in one book – and I’m happy to say I’m one of the proud contributors [insert a shameless smile here! :o] to her compendium… My little 2 cents: lessons learned from our ‘nomadic life’ with the US Foreign Service – as a professional, a around-the-clock mother, a traveler, an FSO spouse… a survivor… 😮

Happy reading!

Oh, well, why not mention here a great book that just came out [July 2013], by the author Linda Janssen?

And the reason for that? Linda interviewed several expats, families, collected their experiences, challenges, suggestions, stories and tales. All together, bound in one book – and I’m happy to say I’m one of the proud contributors to her compendium…

[insert a shameless smile here! :o]

My little 2 cents: lessons learned from our ‘nomadic life’ with the US Foreign Service – as a professional, a around-the-clock mother, a traveler, an FSO spouse… a serial expat… ♥

Happy reading!

Linda A Janssen, The Emotionally Resilient Expat

The Emotionally Resilient Expat: Engage, Adapt and Thrive Across Cultures

Living abroad offers enriching experiences of growth, broadened perspective, enhanced cultural understanding. Yet its transition-rich, change-driven, cross-cultural nature can place considerable demands, leaving us stressed, disconnected, our identity in flux. Building on existing literature and benefitting from recent developments in psychology and brain-body connections, The Emotionally Resilient Expat: Engage, Adapt and Thrive Across Cultures shows the key to successful transitions and beyond lies in emotional resilience to adapt, adjust or simply accept. Linda A. Janssen combines candid personal stories from experienced expats and cross-culturals, with a wealth of practical tools, techniques and best practices from emotional, social and cultural intelligence, positive psychology, mindfulness, stress management, self-care and related areas. FACTORS™ offers a way to live a healthier, more positive, emotionally engaged, culturally connected global life.

Curious to learn more about the book? Follow this link:

www.theemotionallyresilientexpat.com

REVIEWS

“Using personal story and solid theory in her groundbreaking book on emotional resilience, Linda A. Janssen guides those facing the challenges of cross-cultural living to dig under the initial rocky surfaces of overseas life to discover – and use – the rich gold of their own experience. A great resource for expats of all backgrounds.” Ruth E. Van Reken, Author, Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds

“Janssen’s work is sure to be a stand out in any expatriate or cross-cultural arena. She eloquently, articulately and incisively delves into areas previously considered taboo in order to highlight how we can all gain mastery over whatever life throws our way. I will definitely be referencing Janssen’s material when working with TCKs, expat parents and international students.” Tina L Quick, Author, The Global Nomad’s Guide to University Transition,www.internationalfamilytransitions.com

“A practical guide in the art of managing the risks of overseas life in ways that will promote endurance and effectiveness. Full of honest and hope-filled stories from the lived experience and life-long learning of Janssen and her dozens of expatriate contributors. An invaluable companion for expats who want to know that they are not alone.” Duncan P. Westwood, PhD, (C)OACCPP Clinical Director of Expatriate Care & Development, International Health Management

“As with any food rich in nutrition, this book is best sampled regularly and digested slowly.” Drs. Douglas W. Ota, NIP Psychologist, NMI Mediator, Family Therapist, www.dougota.nl