Lauren Wells, CultureBound’s, Children and Teen Program Director
It is important for parents raising children anywhere to be continually engaging and checking in with their kids. When you are raising Third Culture Kids (TCKs), this is even more important. TCKs are privy to struggles that mono-cultural children don’t often have to face, so being aware of that and taking time to routinely ask questions can strengthen your relationship and show your kids how much you love and value them.
Set aside time routinely to talk with your TCK. Ensure that this time is not tainted by distractions and that you are not attempting to multitask, but instead be fully engaged and interested in their answers. If these types of conversations are not something you have had with your TCKs in the past, it may take a few times before they truly trust that you care about their answers and that they are safe to answer honestly.
For this reason, it is critical to create a safe space for them to speak openly. Listen and encourage them to explain their answers or elaborate, but be careful to not be too pushy or to respond in a way that invalidates their answer. Remember that the purpose of asking these questions is not to provide a solution, but to open up the communication between you and your child. You might ask your TCK all of these questions, or just have them on hand to ask one or two when you’re spending time with your child.
1. How are you doing?
It seems simple, but asking this question is one of the best ways to show your kids that you care. Make is clear that there isn’t a right answer and that it is ok if they really aren’t doing “just fine.”
2. What are some things that you enjoy about living here?
Their “favorites” may be different than you expect!
3. Do you ever wish that we lived a different life?
It’s important to help your TCKs process the life that they are living. It is unique and it wasn’t of their choosing. It’s healthy for them to think through this question and for you to hear their answer as it may reveal some deeper struggles that need to be worked through.
4. What is something that you’re looking forward to?
This gives your TCK the opportunity to share their excitement about an upcoming event. Perhaps you didn’t know about this event or didn’t realize how important it is to your child. Now that you know, you can share in their excitement!
5. What is something that you’re not looking forward to?
This question often provides the opportunity to dig deeper and discover why a certain event, place, task, etc. is unenjoyable or uncomfortable for your child. Avoid a positive comeback such as, “But that will be so fun!” and instead explore the question further by saying something like, “Wow, I didn’t realize that place made you nervous. What is it about it that is uncomfortable to you?”
6. Do you feel like we spend enough time together?
TCKs can often feel like they are second to their parent’s work or ministry. This question allows them the opportunity to say so if that is the case. If their answer is “no,” be vigilant about finding ways to spend more time with this child.
7. Where do you feel most at home?
The question “Where is home?” is a common, confusing question for TCKs. Working through this idea at a young age prevents it from becoming a surprising realization when they are older and feel that no place feels completely like “home.”
8. Is there anyone or anything that you miss right now?
It is important to give TCKs the permission to reminisce and grieve their losses. Bringing these up for them can help them to do this in a healthy way.
9. Do you feel like people understand you?
Being a TCK has many challenges and one of them is a constant feeling of being misunderstood. While you may not have a solution to their perceived uniqueness, it can be insightful for you to hear your child’s answer.
10. What’s your favorite thing about yourself?
Again, identity issues are common for TCKs so asking them to think through things that they like about themselves is a good way to promote self-confidence. This is also a good time to tell them a few of your favorite things about them!