Hi. As a citizen of the USA raised for thirteen years in Nigeria, I’m an adult Third Culture Kid (TCK) — that is, I, like many others, was raised for a significant portion of my childhood outside my parents’ culture. My father, children, and first grandchild are TCKs as well.
My life has been a rich one, filled with great diversity. It’s very richness, however, kept me from understanding the significance of the losses a cross-cultural lifestyle filled with high mobility also includes. The loss of a home, country and land which which I dearly loved but weren’t officially mine and repeated separations from family and friends left me with unrecognized, and thus unresolved, grief.
At the age of thirty-nine, I began journaling, trying to understand the full impact of my childhood. Eventually this journaling became Letters I Never Wrote , later re-published as Letters Never Sent. Through that, I not only looked at my story, but I’ve met and interacted with countless TCKs and adult TCKs (ATCKs) of all backgrounds and nationalities as well.
Since 1984, I’ve been writing and speaking on this and other topics, including the book I co-authored with Dave Pollock, Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds. This book , gives the history of the topic, the TCK Profile Dave developed which describes the benefits and challenges of the TCK experience, and many chapters on how parents and others involved with TCKs can help them maximize their gifts and grow from the challenges. These basic issues we discuss relate to TCKs from every background — be they military, international business, foreign service, or missionary kids.
But now it’s time to move on.
Through the years, countless people have contacted me after seminars, via email, or by phone saying they relate to the TCK profile, but did not have the same experience of going into another culture with their parents due to a parent’s career choice. They ask if they are or are not “official TCKs”?
When Dave and I first wrote Third Culture Kids, we said it was possible to have a TCK experience without leaving your home culture or in other situations such as refugees, although we focused our discussion on those who had made international moves.
Because the world is becoming increasingly complex, it seems time to bring new language to bear on the discussion of how a cross-cultural childhood—for ANY reason—along with the mobility inherent in our world is affecting children of many backgrounds. To do that, I, along with my friend, Paulette Bethel, would like to propose a new term for this discussion: Cross-Cultural Kid (CCK).
Our research is just beginning but we are delighted to have the conversation start. We know there is much wisdom from many of you “out there” and hope you will join us in this dialog.
Hope you find this conversation as helpful and as interesting as we are finding it!