This is an article I wrote for an Expat Writing Competition at ExpatsBlog.com. While it does focus on specifics for living in England the majority of it does and can be applied to Expats from all nationalities living anywhere in the world. This is the issue about raising nomadic children outside your home country and culture in a nice Top Ten fashion.
10 Things Expats Raising Children (in England and elsewhere) Should Know
1. Depending on the age of your children and how long you will be living in the country, you may be raising Third Culture Kids, or TCK for short. Find out as much information on the subject as you can. American sociologist David C. Pollock coined TCKs as “a person 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 cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture may be assimilated into the TCK’s life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background.”
2. Expect that your children will face some sort of culture shock in England, even if you are moving from another english speaking country like the United States. Culture shock does not necessary happen immediately and can differ between individuals. Prepare your children for the tough times so that when a situation arises you can meet the challenge with comfort and flexibility.
3. Realize that your kids may transition faster in a country as a child than you will as an adult. I had lived in England as a young girl, but with raising two boys in school over here found them to adjust quicker to life in England. My boys would correct my word choice or even my pronunciation of words from the ‘American’ to the ‘English’. Kids are quite resilient and impressionable when taking in a new culture and learning the laws of the land.
4. With raising TCKs your children may find they have more in common with other nomadic children, especially as they become adults, than they do with non-TCKs from the country of which you originate.
5. While living in England give your kids the best experience of the culture by immersing them in the local customs and way of life. From holidays to sporting events, there are many facets of England that you can use to create lasting memories of a childhood abroad. Especially if you are around other expats, make sure your kids have local friends as well. As a military brat, I have known many families who never left ‘little america’ on the military compounds while living in Europe. It is one thing to visit another country as a tourist, and quite another to immerse yourself in a culture as an expat.
Bonnie Rose’s personal view as a TCK
6. Document your experiences with your children so that if you leave the country later, you will have memories for them to keep with them. Especially remember to take notice of the little ‘day to day’ things we often take for granted after living in one place for a while. These will be the things you will miss most after you move on. It will become more memories of travel for your children. Especially if you continue a nomadic life. As TCKs when you do not necessarily have a ‘home’ you connect with all the countries and cultures in which you lived. The little things like country walks on the weekend with your parents and going to the Pantos at Christmas will become important parts of their identity later on.
7.Prepare your children in England before you move back home if you plan on repatriation. Even if you moved your children around frequently with easy enough adjustments it will may not compare to the move back to your home culture. Since birth I moved around constantly growing up mainly in Europe and moved to the United States at seventeen years old. It was that move back ‘home’ with my parents that became the hardest move to date. It may not be for every one and can be harder on some than others. Knowing before hand the challenges can help the family as a whole as you embark on the next path of your life.
8. The Hidden Immigrant may be something your children will face if you are an American expat returning home from England. They will appear to look, sound, and fit right back into American life. However little things like personal interests, foods, world views may differ from their peers. Being teased for something seemingly small can trigger a form of culture shock or a feeling of being lost and alone. Recognizing these triggers and embracing that being different is okay can help transition your children into life in your home culture. Coming home may be harder because while they may not have fit in 100% as a English kid in England they may now feel they also do not fit in 100% in America. Nurture the ‘Neither/Nor’ feeling while helping them embrace the positive sides of being a nomadic child with a broaden experience and world view.
9. Help your children keep a positive view of being a nomad by keeping in contact with friends that you make abroad and with returning back if at all possible. Keeping a connection with the time period in their life where they were defining themselves as individuals will be a key part to helping them answer the question ‘Where are you from’ later in life.
10. As with anyone and anything in life there will be pros and cons. With raising third culture kids in England and else where you will find that to be the same. While there can be a continual sense of loss or not knowing where you belong, there are a long list of pros to accompany the nomadic upbringing as well. TCKs tend to get along with more people of any background, are more linguistically adept, and can adapt better than the norm. The more you know about TCKs and the more you know about how your children are feeling will make you that more experienced as a parent raising nomadic children.