Third Culture Kids & Adults
Thriving in the liminal space
Esther Tan & Dr. Ruth Van Reken
Special thanks to Ruth for being instrumental in making this resource a reality, through sharing her gifts of deep processing and conceptualization, wealth of transitional life stories, and her heart for all who identifies as cross-cultural or third culture individuals.
An Overview of the TCK Story
A plethora of video resources on TCKs & TCAs: 6 Mini Video Interviews with Dr Ruth Van Reken to provide an overview of understanding the TCK context
Resource for Educators: Understanding TCKs
A TCK's Sharing: Borderlands of Belonging by Joshua Tan on TEDTalkx
Departure Lounge: Research for The Practitioner
Easy-to-use research nuggets for your carry-on bag
Transit Lounge: Resources for Third Culture Kids and Adults
Liminality applies to all TCKs mentioned here. Liminality is the concept of being in-between. If you are curious about what liminality is, you can read more at an upcoming article.
Page selections of resources: "If I am a....."
Missionary Kid or Missionary
Business Kid or Expatriate
Military Kid or Veteran
International students' Kids or International student
Research Reflections from TCK and TCA Researcher
Along the journey of TCK research
Perspectives of Human Development - TCKs' Sense of Loss from Reciprocity with People, Places, Nature, Objects as They Move
August 10, 2019
In interviewing an adult TCK on the multiple connections she had in different countries growing up, she described this well: “Though I feel grateful that I feel like I have two homes that I feel a sense of belonging for (America and India), I also miss one when I am in the other.” There is a conflicting sense of loss and missing out wherever she is specifically located. She explained that it is hard for her to say goodbyes, as to her, there is a unique dynamic that is created only when the particular two persons comes together in a relationship—this is reciprocity explained.
Unbeknownst to TCKs, the located-reciprocal parts of their core selves can be buried or hidden when they adapt to new places. In order to fit in and be understood, they often engage in the process of deliberate code-switching (e.g., languages or cultural norms) that they lose those parts of who they are ‘reciprocated’ in the previous contexts they lived in. This naturally leads to identity confusion or deep sense of losses for TCKs when they do not feel a sense of connectedness to particular places or cultures that they are expected to feel connected to. I have come to see that explanation of identity confusion could be approached from using the reciprocating self concept, that the confusion is due to the loss of an identity inspired when the self interacts with these places, culture, objects, and people who belonged to places they have left behind. Somehow, people, and TCKs, have difficulty accessing certain parts of their core selves, which could be consciously or unconsciously suppressed, when they are no longer in those physical spaces.
For TCKs, frequent relocation processes can create significant hidden losses and unresolved grief, which were concepts discussed in Pollock and Van Reken (2000). The grief of TCKs is complex and remains unresolved for years mainly because they were hidden, and difficult to articulate. I would add on to propose that hidden losses are intangible losses which could stem from losing the ability to access to who they are when TCKs are no longer in those locations of their significant memories. That is why, it is so life-giving when TCKs meet other third culture individuals, they connect so well via a shared third culture-ness. I believe, TCKs find themselves being able to be in touch with who they are again, when they meet people or see places, objects that resembles what they miss, helping them recover and relive those intangible parts of their core selves again.
Holding on to tangible objects to access the intangibles - treasured memories and meaning
9 August 2019
I love this story, where an adult TCK shared how she had a collection of rocks from all the places she has ever lived in. She explained that these rocks represented an avenue for her to have something tangible to hold on to to relate to her intangible memories of moving.
Her story perfectly illustrated how inanimate objects generates reciprocal, symbolic meaning that serve as a ‘holding space’ for TCKs to bridge their high-mobility experiences across time and space. This concrete yet transcendent holding space is especially important for humans, as we have bioneurological limitations with memory functions that fade over time, especially with multiple interferences of new memories.
In such a time as this... in 2020...
...in the uncertain times of COVID-19
or stressful cross-cultural transitions filled with ambiguity...
Sharing more resources through my recent blog posts on the Thrive Center of Human Development.
How do I help my children to cope?
~ Understanding your child's BASIC pH Coping-resiliency styles ~
April 2020 #Resilience#Coping Styles#Children
The 6 Coping-Resiliency Styles (BASIC-pH):
June 2020 #TCKs#Purpose#Spirituality
An interview with Rene Velarde
Creating an intentional anchoring ritual for thriving and resilience
Make space for positivity by stopping the things that bring negativity in your life (e.g., reading the news).
Re-focus your thoughts on truths. These thoughts will re-direct your emotions and behaviors.
Stay grounded with your values, feelings, and body senses.
Find practices that anchor your core being, such as deep breathing, watching nature, and listening to calming music. You might want to recall instances from past memories of what has helped you reached deep reflection.
Stay connected with those closest to you.
Stay directed by reflecting on who you have been and are still becoming. How has your purpose helped you during these difficult times?
Arrival Lounge: News & Resources
More resources for your checked bag
Families in Global Transition (FIGT) Community
FIGT Annual Conference,
March 2021 & 2022
What are the hidden losses of TCKs? Stories from Asia
How are TCKs poised to thrive in Careers in such times?
Third Culture Kids and Families Ties
Aug 24, 2019
Organized by TCKs of Asia
Speaker: Esther Tan & Guest speaker: Dr. Ruth Van Reken
Video: TCKs & Career Development
A 15-min video resource with tips for TCKs on their career development.
If you would like to have further career discussions with career coaches, please feel free to email me.
9th Nov 2019: 5pm (Los Angeles) 10th Nov: 9am (Singapore)
Summary of resources shared on this site for Educators, Therapists, Coaches, Trainers and TCKs
About the Educational Resources
Overview of TCKs: Definitions & Key Questions
Understanding TCKs - Teaching Slides
Understanding the TCK experience: What are the hidden losses of TCKs?
How are TCKs poised to thrive in their careers?
Research Nuggets (layman summary) for Practitioners
Connections to Researchers for your practice
The Terminal: Reflections from TCK Researcher & Contact
Thanks for your interest in my research and the resources. Get in touch with any questions or comments regarding your thoughts on this topic. I’d love to hear from you.