A Common Purpose: Working with School Counselors and Parents to Safeguard the TCK Experience.

Lois Bushong, Author of Belonging Everywhere and Nowhere: Insights into Counseling the Globally Mobile brings us her 5 Essentials For Parents Transitioning Kids Abroad guide. Lois discusses the role of international school counselors and expat parents, Third Culture Kids (TCKs) and Adult Third Culture Kids to enable successful transitions between schools, locations and cultures.

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Every Time It Rains, I Go Home Again to Central America

Every time it rains, I go home to South America, by Lois Bushong, Author of Belonging Everywhere and Nowhere: Insights into Counseling the Globally Mobile brings us her 5 Essentials For Parents Transitioning Kids Abroad guide. Lois has extensive personal and professional experience working with both expat parents, Third Culture Kids (TCKs) and Adult Third Culture Kids and her work focuses on embracing the benefits and managing the challenges that the expat families face when going through global transitions.

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International Parenting: 5 Things You Need to Know When Moving Kids Abroad

Lois Bushong, Author of Belonging Everywhere and Nowhere: Insights into Counseling the Globally Mobile brings us her 5 Essentials For Parents Transitioning Kids Abroad guide. Lois has extensive personal and professional experience working with both expat parents, Third Culture Kids (TCKs) and Adult Third Culture Kids and her work focuses on embracing the benefits and managing the challenges that the expat families face when going through global transitions.

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I am Flunking Retirement!

There can be identity issues of “Who am I?” as in our Western culture, our identities are tied up in our vocations, especially if you are a male or a single female. “I am a teacher, banker, coach”. Stay at home women frequently see  their identity as a mother, “I am the mother of five children and 14 grandchildren”. If you worked outside of the home most of your adult life, when you retire you suddenly find yourself asking “who am I”?

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Transition: It Gets Harder with Age!

You would think that transitions would be easier with practice and age. After all, I was born to parents who were moving in and out of various countries and cultures even before I was born. By the time I came into this world, my parents were already well experienced in packing up all of their belongings and moving. I am wired for packing and making transitions. Some day a young scientist somewhere will discover that the brain of the TCK will light up when they look at the neurotransmitters related to packing. Since this brain mass is so highly tuned to handling transitions, you would think that transitions would be a piece of cake for this 60+ TCK.

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A TCK Theme - Friends Everywhere but Here

“I can’t make any friends here”!

I think this is the most frequent complaint that I hear from my TCK clients.  It doesn’t matter their age, I heard it from several of the teen TCKs last summer who presented for therapy in my office. I heard it from a couple of young, adult TCKs fresh out of college as they were trying to negotiate their new world.  And most recently, I heard it from my middle age, TCK client.

No matter their age, their complaints are the same.

  1. People are so superficial in this town.
  2. I just can’t do chit chat or small talk.
  3. My peers are obsessed about things (shows on television, sports teams, or the latest gossip in their world or in the world of the rich and famous) that I don’t care about at all.
  4. The friends that I do have do not care to hear about my world(s).
  5. I feel all alone even though I am surrounded by people.
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Life Transitions with Parents

As my brother and I managed the details of their move, I was struck by how acutely the stages of Dr. David Pollock’s (co-author with Ruth Van Reken of “Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds”) transition cycle were playing out for them. The stages were applying not solely to their physical relocation, but to their life transition as well – from independent adults living out their retirement dream to aged parents requiring assistance with daily living.

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I went to my 50th high school reunion and bumped into me.

for me, an adult TCK who didn’t go to just any high school but rather to a boarding school, it was a highly emotional event. Back in the day, landing at Toccoa Falls Academy in northern Georgia began for some of us the lonely path of adjusting to a new culture, grieving too many losses known and unknown to us, and experiencing a freedom (and a loss) of being several countries away from our parents. During my youth, I did not recognize the value of good friendships. Yet those Toccoa Falls Academy friends were to become my family for three years.

Sadly, after graduation, I lost touch with them. Now, I’ve come upon the landmark of the Academy’s 50th at the same time that I’m arriving at what psychologist Erik Erikson identifies as the stage where we reflect back on our life.

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TCKs Make Great Therapists!

I believe the majority of TCKs are wonderful counselors and psychologists. They have faced their own demons and conquered them. They are well trained, very compassionate with their clients, and have excellent skills in working with all levels of society.

Last year, I stumbled on to an article on why Third Culture Kids make good therapists. So here goes my own list, with apologies to the originator of the idea of WHY TCKs make good therapists:

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Caged Birds, Clipped Wings and a Current Passport

As a Third Culture Kid, I was able to freely fly from land to land, forest to forest, mountain top to mountain top and just up into the blue sky. Today, I am often in the company of friends who share their worldwide adventures with excitement and wonderment. I am happy they get to travel this world and I soak up all of the details about those other worlds out there. Yet, I feel like Rosita, with my clipped wings, pacing my perch with my up-to-date passport safely tucked away close to my perch.

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What do we do with Thanksgiving?

“The Cultural Psychology professor asked each student to ‘Describe how your family celebrates Thanksgiving.’  The TCK in the class was confused about answering that seemingly simple question: ‘It depends on where we are at that time as to how we celebrate Thanksgiving.’ The professor tried again, ‘Well, describe how your family celebrates Thanksgiving culturally.’ Again, the TCK did no know how to respond to the question and expressed his inability to answer this question since his family had made so many transitions between cultures. The professor kept interrupting his questions and restating the assignment, ‘How does your family celebrate Thanksgiving?’ At this point, both the TCK and the professor were frustrated – their cultural worlds had unknowingly collided. The professor of Cultural Psychology was completely unaware of the multi-cultural world of the TCK and it hadn’t occurred to the TCK before that it was so unusual to have celebrated Thanksgiving in so many ways.

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TCKs and Anxiety and Excitement

The action of pulling my well-worn suitcase off the closet shelf never fails to awaken strong feelings of anxiety and excitement. Some TCKs feel only anxiety, others excitement.

But me? I sense both anxiety and excitement.

I believe much of this is due to my life as a TCK and moving from country to country, saying goodbye to new and old friends, leaving behind much-loved caretakers, the excitement of sensing that a new adventure is about to begin, fear of the unknown, wondering what will accidentally be left behind, and the anticipation of our new home, all mixed in with the silent pleasure of leaving behind some challenging relationships.

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