Third Culture Kids (TCKs) or Global Nomads are children of expatriates who establish temporary residence in a host country due to their parents work situation, such as military or foreign service personnel, missionaries, or business families. As these children grow up in one or a series of host cultures, they end up internalizing aspects of their parental and host culture (s), thus forming a Third Culture. Although these children can relate to both their parents’ and the host cultures, they do not fully identify with either of them. TCKs feel that they have a lot in common with other TCKs, as they are all members of that same Third Culture. These children grow up being very aware of what is a culturally acceptable behavior depending on where they are, and develop a chameleon like stance.
TCKs are constantly working on transitioning and adjusting. They focus their energy on adjusting to the host culture, but also when entering or re-entering the parental culture. It is exciting and interesting to move between cultures and countries, and at the same time there is a period of longing for stability and what was once familiar. Socially these moves can be hard on the kids, who at first tend to only relate to other TCKs, who they know are like them. There is also the hesitancy of getting too close to new “friends” as they know they will hurt when moving time comes and they have to say “good-bye.” Identity and belonging are often questioned as well.
Finding a therapist who understands and validates TCKs’ feelings can be an asset for these children. Therapists who work with expats and their children are often available via Skype, and that can provide the support system constancy they lack as they move from one place to another.
Therapy focuses on facilitating the adjustment and transition processes, integrating issues of belonging and identity since they feel they half-belong to anywhere they live, address relationship attachment difficulties as they worked toward not getting attached for so long in order to make leaving more manageable. Grief, loss and anger are also common issues with TCKs. Therapy will also work on building resilience, and incorporating the positive aspects of multiculturalism and mutilingualism in their current and future lives.