15 Things I Want to Say to Parents of TCKs

I’ve never raised a Third Culture Kid. I’ve never even been a parent. But I’m surrounded by parents of TCK’s. I teach their children. I turn to them for wisdom and support. We work together as an expat community.

I’ve grown into an adult who has had many years to process life as a TCK, re-entry into my home country, and “coming home” by rejoining the world as an expat. I feel like I have a few things to say.

To parents of TCKs: I’ve heard your worries. I’ve heard your excitement. I’ve heard your pity. I read this letter to TCK children by expat Mom and writer Djibouti Jones the other day. I could feel the emotion behind this mother’s joy and pains. I wanted to give her a hug. Instead, I wrote her a response.

1. We have the coolest life on the planet, thanks to you. Sometimes non-TCKs mistake TCKs for being arrogant. This is truly unintentional, but due to the fact that we are grateful for our experience and many of us wouldn’t trade it for the world (and we happen to LOVE the world!).

2. Sure, being a TCK is hard but our struggles only make us stronger. We are grateful for our experiences, good AND bad. And trust me, there were plenty of bad experiences. But how can you know your strength until you have charged through life with determination and passion?

3. We don’t know what it’s like to NOT be an expat. You are staying open-minded in order to understand our life experiences, and we will do our best to try to understand yours. You have taught us to be humble and to remember that whether TCK, expat, or adamant hometown-er, all experiences are momentous.

4. Being a TCK helps us fully appreciate our friends and relatives. When my friends were complaining that they had to visit their grandparents’ houses once a month, I was reminding them how lucky they were. When I finally got to see my relatives during the summer, I was making the most of every moment, hanging onto their every word, and fully embracing their presence.

5. We are thrilled too. The benefits are endless.

6. Sometimes we will want to share our thoughts. Sometimes we will cry because we miss our friends. Sometimes we will worry about our next move. In these moments, we want you to be there to listen.

But sometimes it’s just not that big of a deal. This life is normal for us. We don’t always feel the need to overanalyze it, to express concerns, or to mourn our past “homes.” Why is it not that big of a deal? Because you have always supported us along the way.

7. Have your cry, and then keep defending your choice to raise us as TCKs. We’ve heard people feel sorry for us, we’ve heard people comforting us, and we’ve heard parents express regret. We think it’s sweet, but it’s also kind of silly. We know we are resilient and we know we are optimistic and want to tell you that it’s going to be fine. It’s going to be great. It IS great. 

8 – 15. Keep telling us these truths, as you always have. 

To all parents who worry about the choices they have made for their TCK children,

I say…

We will be confused. It’s ok.