While we are parenting our children in a cross cultural setting, it is difficult to know whether we are doing it right or not. One of our best sources of information about how living outside our home culture affects our children is hearing from adult children of PWs. Kim Holland recently shared some insights about her cross cultural experience. She is writing more and will from time-to-time share more with Peter’s Wife. Kim was a TCK(Third Culture Kid). She grew up in Argentina and currently works as a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner in Lawton, OK, USA.
“We are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10
“Me? A masterpiece? Let’s be real.” TCKs feel more like “broken” pieces rather than masterpieces, at least sometimes.
I love art. My favorite artists are the Impressionist painters. They use millions of brush strokes, apparently without rhyme or reason. Up close, the painting looks like a mess of color without meaning. It is not until you back away that you see the completed masterpiece, full of subtle textures and forms, all expressions of the Master’s mind.
TCK’s frequently feel like these random brush strokes, not appearing to have any connection to anything. Each event and each new move, beautiful in and of itself, seems unrelated to the whole of life. Frequently, the end result is a feeling of chronic disconnection.
So how do we help TCK’s appreciate the uniqueness and beauty of their complicated lives?
1. Connect the brush stokes: As parents, we can help our children connect each place and experience to the previous ones. We do this by allowing children to grieve through each experience and move completely. Then they can begin accepting and appreciating the beauty of their experiences.
2. Teaching the value of diversity: I cannot emphasize enough the need for TCKs to develop strong personal bonds with nationals. Appreciation of the people from each culture and location will later allow your child to see each experience as part of their “life painting.” Encourage TCKs to experience the culture through these diverse relationships. Occasionally allow them to do this without you around. Some of the most rewarding brush strokes of the masterpiece of my own life are my relationships with national people.
3. Mark a point of reference: Every great painter knows that in order to keep perspective you have to go back to your center point of reference. For PWs and TCKs, the centerpoint is home. It is vitally important for TCks to label some physical place on the globe as home, regardless of how many times they move or how long they actually live in that place.
4. Learning to step back from the painting: Depending on the developmental age and maturity of your child, stepping back to look at the entire picture may be difficult. Frequently, in casual conversations, remind your child that they are having a “unique” experience. God has created them and has a plan that only they can fulfill. Beware of over-verbalizing this point, however. If we spend so much time telling our children that they are special and unique they may consider themselves failures when they are not called to be the next Billy Graham. Instead, they should be realizing that they are part of a larger plan and be content in the part they have to play.
How exciting it is, as adult TCKs, to be able to look back at the masterpiece God has created and is continuing to create in our lives. Step back and look at the whole picture. Then we will see what we know is true: our God is the Master Painter, filling each life with his color and creativity.
Kim has graciously offered to email correspond with anyone who would like to write to her at: Kim