Monday, 10 September 2012

Where's home?

Bangladesh, early 80s
I have realised that we have never written a post about TCKs. Despite the fact that I (Becky) am a TCK, that our kids are growing up as TCKs and the reason we are here in Nepal is to work with TCKs.

Some of you may be wondering what is a TCK? Others may have already picked up on it from reading previous news or posts where we have mentioned them. Others of you will be sat there thinking "I know all about TCKs, I am one!"

Any ideas yet? A TCK is a Third Culture Kid. Someone who is growing up in a culture that is not their own.

Children are influenced by their surroundings much more then adults and in a much shorter space of time. So anything over a year or two spent in a place that is not their "home" can have a massive impact on their sense of identity and belonging.

The way being a TCK influences each child is very different. It depends on their situation, their personality and a host of other factors.

So for example I lived abroad for a relatively short period of time as a child (4 years as a pre-schooler in Bangladesh and then 3 years as a teenager in Sri Lanka), but I never lived anywhere longer then 4 years, even when in the UK. So I have got the itchy-feet syndrome; I don't want to settle anywhere and want to keep moving (hence we live in Nepal). I am always looking out for opportunities to move onto something new, always looking to the next thing. Even now we are in Nepal, coming up on 5 years, I'd love to move onto something else! But (don't panic if you are reading this as a member of KISC staff) we feel this is where we should be for the time being and so I have to come to terms with that and find a way to be settled.  I am also rubbish at keeping in touch (so don't take it personally if you don't hear from me often), I am the sort of TCK who says farewell to people from my very transient life and move on, out of sight out of mind!

Growing up in Nepal
Others I know are quite different. My sister for example, despite the fact that we had the same experiences in our very mobile upbringing has done the exact opposite. She was 15 when we moved back to the UK for the last time as children and, apart from her years at university, she still lives in the same area where we settled then. She feels the need to be routed in one place now. She still gets itchy feet to some extent, but is satisfied with regular holidays abroad. She is also the opposite to me with friends and keeping in touch. She always found it harder to transition then me, but is then much better at keeping in touch with old friends after we have left a place.

I think there are pros and cons to both kinds of TCKs. Neither of us would swap our experiences for anything. We both loved our childhood and appreciate the impact it has had on us and the experiences we had, but we also have to come to terms with the way it still affects who we are and the way we live now.

So now Dan (and I, in between having kids!) work in a school which is pretty much full of TCKs who have amazing stories to tell about their lives, who are being shaped by their upbringing here in Nepal and their experiences in a truly international school. Many of them speak multiple languages, have lived all over the world. These kids are our world's future. They are our future diplomats and leaders in organisations such as the UN and the EU. These children will have an amazing and unknowable affect on our world because of the experiences they have had.

Helping with some homework!
However, these children also need lots of support. Every year at KISC we see our student and staff bodies turn over, sometimes by as much as a third. So even those students who have lived here for years are constantly going through transition, saying goodbyes and starting again with new people. It is important they do this well, especially those leaving, as how successfully they leave a place has a big impact on how well they settle into a new place.

For many of our students "home" is where their family is, not a place. So we try and help prepare students to go back to "home" countries that don't feel like home. We do this in lessons by getting them to do projects about their home countries so they know about things such as the politics and geography there as well as other things. But they also need emotional support through the transitions, people they can talk to about their hopes and fears, and also to help them grieve as they say their farewells. A family who left last year got their children to write down what they were looking forward to and what worried them in returning to their "home" country, as well as what they would and wouldn't miss about Nepal. They could then talk about these things and help their children process their feelings about it all.

The TCKs we work with at KISC are some of the most amazing young people we have ever had the privilege of working with. They are having an amazing childhood. But they are also children who deserve the best education we can give them and who need our love and support as we help them through their very abnormal childhoods!

(If you want to know more about TCKs then I would recommend you find something written by Dave Pollack. If you are supporting TCKs or considering moving overseas then "Families on the move" by Marion Knell is a good book.)

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