Blogs for TCKs & their parents

What is a Third Culture Kid?

The third culture kid experience is a journey of living between worlds and discovering identity, discovering HOME

Marilyn Gardner

The history of the term comes from sociologist Ruth Hill Useem who coined the term “Third Culture Kids” after spending a year on two separate occasions in India in the early fifties. On observing the children of expatriates, Useem realized that they neither fully integrated with their parents’ home culture or with the Indian culture that surrounded them. She used the term “Third Culture Kids” because TCKs integrate aspects of their birth culture (the first culture) and the new culture (the second culture), creating a unique “third culture.”

Because research is always emerging, and our world is always changing, definitions for Third Culture Kids are not static. Cited under Merriam Webster online dictionary in the “words we’re watching” section with this statement:

The coinage of this term is credited to American sociologist Ruth Useem (1915-2003), who used it in her studies of expatriates living in India. Useem’s focus was on children whose parents had moved abroad for career purposes, such as diplomats, missionaries, and members of the military.

The “third culture” to which the term refers is the mixed identity that a child assumes, influenced both by their parents’ culture and the culture in which they are raised. While Useem first used the term during the 1950s, it was about forty years later that third-culture kid (sometimes spelled without a hyphen and often abbreviated TCK) emerged in the mass media.

The classic definition of a Third Culture Kid is from David Pollock: ““a person who has spent a significant part of his/her developmental years outside the parents’ culture. The TCK frequently builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture may be assimilated into the TCK’s life experience, the sense of belonging is (often) in relationship to others of similar background.”

In 2017, with the publication of the Third Edition of Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing Up Between Worlds, a new definition was published. “a traditional third culture kid is a person who spends a significant part of his/her first eighteen years of life accompanying parent(s) into a country or countries that are different from at least one parents’ passport country(ies) due to a parent’s choice of work or advanced training.”

Just this past year, in a conversation with Michael Pollock of Daraja, he gave me this definition:

“A TCK is a person who has spent a significant part of their developmental years between two or more cultures where aspects of their societies are exchanged . Common elements are geographic mobility and social fluidity.”

Third Culture Kid Blogs:

I’ve listed these based on how frequently the sites are updated with new blog content.

CultursMag is a gorgeous, award-winning site. From the website: CULTURS global multicultural magazine intends to celebrate the unique perspectives of such people.  Global Nomads, Third Culture Kids, and racially blended and culturally blended people can read lifestyle articles and research from their point of view.  One that shows a new-world order — a new normal that affects not only our lives, but the lives of those around us.

A Life Overseas – While this site is for adults that live overseas, primarily in mission work, there are also great resources for TCKs. I’ve linked the TCK entries so it will take you directly there.

Velvet Ashes – Velvet Ashes is an online community of women serving overseas. Many of them are parents or adopted aunties of TCKs. They have some excellent essays that speak to both to the head and the heart about TCKs. Their site is also visually beautiful!

The Black Expat – If you’ve been around the adult TCK world for long, you know that we have some voices missing from the table. I love this site and the people who founded it. From the site: a multimedia platform focused on Black identity and international living.  Since 2016, we have created and curated content to reflect the diverse, inclusive experiences of both the aspiring and savvy Black expatriate. I highly recommend that you take some time to look through the site and read the stories that you find.

Communicating Across Boundaries – If you’re reading this post, you are here! Join me as I write about all kinds of things, including travel, living between but mostly in Boston, grief, TCKs, cross-cultural interactions, world events, and faith.

And then we moved to….  Not a purely TCK blog, but Mariam spent the past 15 years as an expat, living in 7 countries and 3 continents. She has traveled to over 50 countries and is now raising 2 multicultural and multilingual kids. Mariam invites us into her blog to see the inside of a family who packs up their lives again and again and adjusts to new countries. Her work is delightful.

Michele Phoenix – After a lifetime as a Missionary Kid and twenty years teaching them abroad, Michelle launched a stateside ministry devoted to helping them and to educating the Church about their strengths, struggles and needs. Michele primarily focuses on the subgroup of missionary kids. Michele’s life work has focused on helping TCKs flourish.

Life Story Therapies – Dr. Rachel Cason is a researcher and counselor who has a unique approach to helping TCKs through something called Life . Life Story is best described by a quote from the site: “Life Story was born when I observed that impact of the life story interview used during my doctoral research was reaching beyond the academic.Life story interviews offered a clear therapeutic benefit to my respondents as they walked me through their life experiences. The Third Culture Kids, or expatriate kids, I interviewed found themselves recalling incidents long forgotten as story connected to story, and the echos of the past were heard, resounding in present-day lives.” Stay tuned for a book coming frm Rachel.

TCK Training I’ve linked the website in the website section. This is the blog connected to the website. There are some great articles that explain some of the latest research on TCKs.

TCKids – TCKid is a global community of Third Culture Kid (TCK) adults and youth across geographical boundaries.

Home Keeps Moving – Blog for the book Home Keeps Moving. “Heidi Sand-Hart’s “Home Keeps Moving” authenticates the TCK experience. Her personal stories demonstrate the tangible reality of the TCK theories we have been reading and hearing about for years.” – Tina L Quick, author of The Global Nomad’s Guide to University Transition

Expatsincebirth – A blog by an expat-since-birth multilingual mum living in the Netherlands. Ute’s subtitle says it all: “A blog by a plurilingual expat-since-birth, linguist, researcher, mum of three, living in the Netherlands and writing about bilingualism, multiculturalism, parenting abroad, and the international life. There are great articles and resources on this site, particularly for those raising multilingual children.

Paracletos – Cultivating a Community of Care – Paracletos does just what it’s name suggests: it comes alongside people, helping them live effectively overseas. Paracletos gathers resources and networks to offer the best support possible. Again, while not TCK specific, there is so much there that can help families and that ultimately helps third culture kids.

Archived Blogs:

The Displaced Nation – A great blog for international creatives. Displaced nation inspires us to find a home for our wanderings and displacement through the arts. This too is more archived articles and less current, but continues to be useful to those who are looking for articles and information.

DrieCulturen – Though there are no recent entries, there is great content about kids growing up in other cultures. Third culture kids. Expat kids. Refugee kids. Immigrant kids. The author of the blog is Janneke Muyselaar-Jellema and you will find this to be a wonderful resource with some excellent articles.

Denizen Online Magazine – Denizen is a now archived online magazine that was dedicated to today’s Third Culture Kids. It represents the modern global nomad community, complete with attitude, expression and creativity. The articles are still available though it is not currently posting articles.

14 thoughts on “Blogs for TCKs & their parents

  1. My name is Ronan Collver I am a graduate student under the direction of Eric Van Duzer at Humboldt State University. If you know of anyone besides yourself that would be wiling to assist with my research, can you please pass this along as well?
    I have three surveys; one for TCK, ones for their parents and one for educators.

    The purpose of this study is to describe the cultural disconnect Third Culture Kids experience upon their return to the United States and evaluate best practices for educators who have these students in class.

    I would appreciate a few minutes of your time to complete the following survey. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.

    Consent:
    http://tinyurl.com/TCK-Survey-Consent-Form

    TCK Survey:
    http://tinyurl.com/AdultTCK

    Educators of TCK:
    http://tinyurl.com/EducatorsTCK

    Parents of TCK:
    http://tinyurl.com/ParentsTCK

    Ronan Collver
    ronancollver@gmail.com
    707-599-4506

    Like

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