Raising Third Culture Kids

Parents and carers, moving from their home country, their first culture, to a different country with its own customs and ways of living, are forming a third culture in their daily family life. Are you raising third culture kids? Third culture kid problems at home?

Third culture kid problems at home?

Parents and carers, moving from their home country, their first culture, to a different country with its own customs and ways of living, are forming a third culture in their daily family life. Are you raising third culture kids?

The concept of third culture kids goes back to the 1950s, resulting from the research of US sociologist Ruth Hill Useem. Since then, the world started being aware and more considered of third culture kids or their expat families.

Back then, many times, parents or carers came from one country of origin, from one culture. Nowadays, cultural roots are even more diverse. Many times, the first culture is a diverse mix already with parents and carers bringing in customs and traditions from different home countries. Adding another culture on top of that, from the country of domicile, leads to a unique mix of the third culture within families with children one can imagine.

While many times the diversity of a family with children is acknowledged based on their home countries’ passports, the cultural diversity stashed in their everyday life is neglected, overlooked and underrated.

The cultural mix of families with children living abroad

Which cultural roots of the parental background should be kept alive? Which children's books should we read to our third culture kids? And in which languages should those storybooks be read? How can we bridge the gap between own cultural background and one of our children, which clearly is not the same? It can be hard to realize that our child speaks a different language when it comes to the tone of voice and accents. It is strange to see that rituals from parental cultures play a less meaningful role in the kids’ third culture. And which culture is the one, my kid feels attached to?

To keep this long story short: How can we, the parents and carers of third culture kids, deal with our own emotions, needs, and fears when it comes to the cultural mix at our home’s kitchen table?

Well, it is as easy as it sounds: Let us accept the cultural blend.

And let us get the most out of it. It is a lot for parents, for their babies or toddlers or even for grandparents.

  1. Let us accept our worry that our children do not know where they are coming from. Afterwards, let us make sure our parental heritage remains noticeable while accepting: the kid will never grow up fully in the first culture. However, celebrate Diwali, Orthodox Christmas, Saint Patrick’s Day or Hanukkah. Cook together – Paella, Poutine, Mamaliga with cheese and sour cream, Shish Kebab or Katsudon. Dance Mazurka, Breakdance or Samba and connect to the first culture customs and traditions by including relevant children picture books, which additionally create lifelong memories around the pleasure of reading together and sharing beautiful memories.
  2. Let us accept how much we, as parents, can learn from our kids when it comes to the variety of the second culture. They are soaking up different childhood experiences and we can benefit from their adventures, children's views on life and insights. Is there any better way to learn more about the rituals, customs and habits of your domicile country than by seeing our children being part of it?
  3. Let us accept and embrace building a unique cultural mix within the family. How incredibly funny are the moments, when the two or three languages are spoken at home lead to the most ridiculous misunderstandings? How delicious are the home-prepared meals, influenced by so many different cultures? How diverse are the celebrations throughout the course of a year, when the calendar is stuffed with festivals of all the different cultures?

A child is craving to create memories. We can raise our children in a family’s unique cultural mix, while we create the most memorable moments related to all cultural influences. We need to accept the cultural mix and at the same time, we can direct our focus on all the strong positive effects coming along with being a family with expat kids and third culture mentalities.

CUKIBO supports Third Culture Kids with the personalized children book “Journey to Another Homeland”, a beautifully illustrated and well-thought-out storybook about the modern journey to one of the parent’s home country.

And before I forget: I love being hosted by families of third culture kids.

Where else do we have the chance to learn so many new aspects, tastes and rituals of another culture right around the corner? Roberto’s homemade pizza is unbeatable (50m away from our home) and without Edit and Kristof we would not know that the Christmas tree in Hungary is brought to the kids’ home by the Christ Child (13.2 km away from our home). I know where I can learn how to dance Kalinka, prepare Turkish coffee and get insight on how to celebrate Midsummer as the Swedes do – all in a radius of 200m around my home. This is how we can all look at expat families and their expat children... just saying...

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