Are you parenting a Third Culture Kid?

If you are parenting a Third Culture Kid, you have probably moved around the globe as well. But it is quite different to be a child moving around the world, or being an adult. Adults are most often more involved in the decision making. Adults also have another timespan – adults remember what it was like before the move, and can imagine what the next move will be like.

To help your child to cope with changes and adjustments, you can try some of the activities on this site (under ”Activities”). You can also:

Talk with your child about what is going on. Talk about what it feels like, about joys and fears. Try to share your child´s emotions. Tell the child what you feel like as well, but in the same time also assure him that you will be there to give safety and security.

Take pictures of everything and everyone that have been important to the child. Make a book about your life in that place.

Plan for toys and pets. What can you bring? What do you have to leave? To who?

Say goodbye to important people and places. Don´t forget people like guards, drivers, waiters on your favorite retsaurant …. people who you don´t really know, but that you have met regularly. Don´t forget to say goodbye to playgrounds, trees, restaurants and other places.

– Let the child meet with and talk to other children who have been moving.

– Help the child to imagine what it will be like in the new place. Watch movies, read magazins and books, search on internet. Talk to people who are already living there. Try to figure out if there are skills the child need to learn to thrive in the new place.

– Don´t forget to contact the new school – ahead of time. Try to figure out if there are changes your child need to do in his curriculum to catch up with the students in the new school.

Build bridges – both to the new life, but also to the old life. Contact people in the new place before you move there, and keep in touch with people in your old place when you have moved. Children sometimes have a hard time to keep in touch, and might need some support.

– Remember that children are only using languages they need. It is hard to teach a child a laguage he doesn´t need yet, and it is hard to keep a language that he does not need anymore.

It is a good idea to start the preparation and the transition process some months ahead of the move. Both grief and preparation take time. Everyone in the family might be more tired as well, and you might expereince more conflicts than usual. But as we share emotions and experiences, this can also be a great connection time for the family!

To talk with your children about during times of transition

Before the move

  • What do I look forward to?
  • What scares me?
  • In what ways will my life be different?
  • What will I miss?
  • What is the worse that can happen, and if that happen, what can I do?
  • What is the best that can happen, and is there anything I can do to make it happen?
  • Who do I look forward to to see?
  • Will they be the same, or have they changed?
  • Have I changed?
  • Will I feel different?
  • If I feel different, what can I do?
  • What does it feel like right now?

In the midst of transition

  • What is good?
  • Is there anything that is weird or scary?
  • Do I feel different? If so, when?
  • Do I sometimes feel like people don´t understand me? When?
  • Do I have a sense of belonging? To whom?
  • What makes me feel good?
  • What makes me feel sad and angry?
  • What can I do to feel better?
  • Is there anything I need to learn to thrive?
  • Is there anything we need to change or do in our family to make it easier?
  • Is there anyone I would like to be friend with?
  • Have I found ways to be in touch with my former friends?

After a while in the new place

  • How am I doing now?
  • What is good?
  • What has been hard?
  • What did I think should be different?
  • Do I still feel different sometimes? When? What do I do then?
  • Do I have a sense of belonging now?
  • Do I want to belong?
  • Do I have friends?
  • Is there anyone who is glad that I am here?
  • What makes me sad and angry?
  • Is there anything else we can do to make this a place that we like and belong to?
  • How do we connect our different lives and worlds?

Several years later

  • What do we remember of our transitions?
  • Do we have the same memories or are they different?
  • What did we gain?
  • What did we loose?
  • What helped us gain a sense of belonging?
  • Does it still happen that we feel that we don´t belong?
  • Is there anything else we can do to gain a stronger sense of belonging?
  • What did we need as children from you as parents?
  • What did we as a family need from others?
  • Where we able to connect during transitiontimes with each other in the family,
  • or did the distance in between us grow?
  • Are we able to grieve together?
  • Is there anything from the transitions that still make us mad?
  • What can we do with our emotions of anger?
  • How can we use the experiences we have got?


Ulrika Ernvik