Learning about identity and cultural diversity is one of my passions, and the experiences of Third Culture Kids (a.k.a. TCKs) and Cross-Cultural Kids (a.k.a. CCKs) have fascinated me and I’ve studied them for many years. Having the opportunity to attend the 2018 Families in Global Transition Annual Conference was the first time I’ve actually met and spoke with adult TCKs and CCKs and it gave me a better understanding of who they are.
For those of you who are not familiar with TCKs, the term TCK was coined by Dr. Ruth Hill Useem a Sociologist and Professor Emeritus at Michigan State University. Third Culture Kids are children who spend a significant part of their developmental years outside their parent’s culture. Usually, this happens due to one of the parents’ need to relocate because of a job. In a nutshell, TCKs are the children of expats, for the most part, anyway.
After clarifying that, let’s talk about what are Cross-Cultural Kids, and why examining their experiences is important for everyone in the globalized world we live in. Different conversations, panels and the presentation by Ruth E. Van Reken during the Families in Global Transition (FIGT) conference gave me more clarity on this topic, and encouraged me to study this group at a deeper level because it will allow me to help moms better guide their Cross-Cultural Kids and also parent my own children to nurture their differences and understand their challenges.
As per Ruth E. Van Reken, FIGT co-founder and co-author of ‘Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds’, “Cross-Cultural Kids are people who have lived in—or meaningfully interacted with—two or more cultural environments for a significant period of time during developmental years.” Mrs. Van Reken also created a model that explains in more detail who are the people who fall into this category.
Where Do Cross-Cultural Kids Come From?
When it comes to cultural analysis, for some it seems that there is a hype new term every day. While I understand that the term Cross-Cultural Kids is part of a list of names that have been used to study and define the experiences of these group of people, the reality is that the phenomenon happened first and sociologists, academics and the very own people living those experiences have been looking for a way to define it best. Terms like Intercultural Kid, Hidden Immigrant, Nomadic Child, Cultural Hybrid, Serial Migrant, Global Nomad, Global Soul, Serial Migrant, International Child, Multicultural Kid, among others have been adopted and used in the quest to understand these cultural experiences better.
So where do Cross-Cultural Kids come from? Global mobility is the short answer to that. We are all living lives that are more connected, and moving around the globe is easier and cheaper than ever for those who have the means. On the other hand, international conflicts, poverty, mixed heritage marriages and family reunions make for many children to be growing navigating two or more cultures during most of their formative years.
Because Cross-Cultural Kids are living in the global world we used to read about in the books, and with true diversity and multicultural experiences all around them, they have many advantages we didn’t have growing up, and many different challenges we didn’t encounter in our childhood.
Knowing what Cross-Cultural Kids are is the first step to identify the children in our lives who are, so we can help them navigate the complex world they are growing up in.
Do you have Cross-Cultural Kids in your life?