According to David C. Pollock (who with coauthor Ruth E. Van Reken, wrote of the quintessential Third Culture Kids: Growing UP Among Worlds), the hallmarks of a TCK are:
[Someone] who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture. The TCK frequently builds relationships to all of the culture, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture may be assimilated into the TCKs life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background.
But that description could fit a lot of children these days, right? What with international adoptions, cross-cultural marriages, immigration and refugee crises, as well as increased mobility within countries, the world is becoming increasingly multicultural and kids growing up internationally are not so uncommon anymore. Kids with these features could be called Cross Cultural Kids (CCKs).
So if you’ve read Third Culture Kids, you’ll know that there are two more things aside from being raised in a genuinely cross-cultural world and being raised in a highly mobile world, common to TCKs that may not be common to cross cultural kids of other varieties. They are:
Distinct Differences: Between TCKs and children in their host country. This could be language-related, but generally children also look different to those around them. Another different is privilege: TCKs very often are wealthy compared to the local people.
Expected Repatriation: Unlike immigrants and adopted children, TCKs are usually expected to return to live permanently in their parent’s home or passport country.
For example, my own children are well and truly CCKs. I am Australian but their father grew up in South Africa. Although born in Australia, they spent the majority of their childhood in Arnhem Land among the Yolngu people (domestic TCKs). Now we live in South Sudan, in a compound with expatriates from Australia, Europe and North America (TCKs in the traditional sense).
But whether or not your children qualify as TCKs according to the book, we want this community and magazine to be a helpful resource. Perhaps your kids are technically domestic TCKs but you think they deal with the same issues as international TCK: high mobility, privilege, transitions, grief & loss. Perhaps, like one Mum who emailed us this week, your kids are not yet TCKs because, while in a period of cross-cultural transition, you have not yet arrived at your permanent posting. Perhaps your kids aren’t more privileged than those around them, but there is still the expectation that they will return to your passport-country. Perhaps just want your kids to be more globally-minded, or more compassionate towards immigrants or refugees.
Whatever brought you to find Continental Kids, don’t get hung up on definitions. We want you to feel comfortable submitting to the magazine and entering competitions if your children are enthusiastic about interacting with like-minded kids. If we can help just one child feel more comfortable about their unique lifestyle, more connected to community and more conscious of global issues, we have achieved what we set out to do.
Everyone has a story to tell. We want to make it possible for your younger kids to share their stories if they identify with any of the difficulties and joys of a cross-cultural life. If you think Continental Kids is going to be a good resource for your family then we are glad, and you are welcome.