TCKs give gifts to their families, did you know that? Here’s one of the gifts third culture kids bring to the family that their parents may not have.

The Gift of Sight

Because TCKs have experienced multiple cultures, they have more than one culture and experience to draw on. This can be so helpful to their friends and family whose opinions may be more inflexible.

I’m a linguist, so I am fascinated by the way children learn languages. And one of the amazing things about primary / elementary school-aged children is their ability to absorb new sounds and concepts as part of languages. This ability peters off around puberty and once its gone, it’s gone. Now this can also be extended to cognitive development (but without the time limit). Primary / elementary school-aged children have minds equipped to memorise large amounts of stimulus. You might be aware of the Classical Education method which refers to this as calls this the “Grammar Stage”. A French psychologist, Jean Piaget, calls it the Concrete Operational Stage. Children start out by absorbing a mountain of facts that are absolutely and irrevocably true (concrete) before they learn to think critically about what they’ve been taught.

So for the majority of young children in a monolingual, English-speaking country,

equals the concept “dog.”

But for third culture kids,

more likely equals “dog” and “chien” or “mbwa” or even “alkalb.”Or all four! It might also mean “friend” or “pet” or “guard-dog” or “rabies injections,” depending on your child’s experience!

Third culture kids’ ‘facts’ are not as concrete as those of their non-TCKs compatriots. This gives them a huge advantage when it comes to absorbing new things, things that don’t fit into the average child’s experience. The brain has already experienced that one thing doesn’t not necessarily have only one meaning. It can be expressed in a variety of ways.

Now as adults, we are obviously able to think more analytically about cultures that we encounter, but chances are, if we grew up exposed to only one culture, our minds will have a harder time observing something that challenges our cultural norms. Our idea of normal has become so engrained that different can feel threatening or lonely. Often, we need a little more time before we get to: “That’s different but I’m okay.”

Our TCKs give us the gift of sight when their exposure to multiple cultures helps them to be more flexible, adaptable and open to different experiences.

To find out about the remaining 5 gifts, you’ll have to download Issue 4: {GIFT} !