J Simens.com

Our Kids: Filtering and Connecting will be hard to do in their lifetime


CCK minority puzzle

Talking to Parents at International schools is the very best way to spend the day!  We had an excellent turn out at ISB of Parents, Teachers and Staff.  Then I got to do a very small presentation to interested students in the High School. Everyone of those kids had an interesting story to tell about their life at a TCK or CCK.

I was very lucky to return to International school of Bangkok this week to share my passion about our global nomads.You can view the Prezi that we covered here.  Use your right arrow key to advance through the presentation.  You can read some of the transcript of the presentation below this Prezi.

This is one of my favorite quotes -it is off the blog Third Culture Kid life by James Mitchener.  On his blog he said, “Third Culture isn’t so much the experiences you had, but the way you adapted to each experience at the time you had it. We aren’t TCKs because of where we have been. We’re TCKs because of the way we absorbed the cultures of the places we have grown. Even now that I have left Hong Kong, I still relate to it closer than any other place I’ve lived. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back, an idea that can easily make me sink into quite a severe depression, but I do know that I will carry the culture of the city and time that I lived there for the rest of my life.
Of course, that would make sense to a Self Aware Third Culture Kid. While I have been a TCK since I turned 4, I didn’t know it until I was 15 or 16 years old. And even then, I didn’t understand it until I was 17 or 18. Why? Because I have known no other life.”

My World

Having worked with over 8,000 families as they move around the world. I am aware of many of the concerns parents have as well as the issues the come up with our cross cultural kids. I used to always talk about third culture kids but as I see more and more children the term I am more comfortable with is cross cultural kids or global nomads.

I raised two children in the following countries, Australia, Indonesia, Nigeria, Switzerland, Thailand and a small part of the time in the USA. They are not like anyone in their extended family…they are not even very much alike as siblings because they didn’t share several years of their high school with each other.

Filtering – Connecting and Choosing

The topic that I want to share with you and cause you to think about is will our children have trouble with filtering – connecting and choosing in their lifetime.  I believe that they will.

Identity Development

To understand the international school child we need to see how they form their identity. There are five steps of global nomads identity development.

  1. Pre-encounter just living life as you all know it (wonderful holidays-excellent learning experiences) My children’s education took them to trips to Greece, France, Buthan, Russia and even a week with the elephants. This was their normal every day life.
  2. Encounter – can be at anytime, but if often when kids are off on their own living their own life without mom and dad around for support.
  3. Exploration -This is the time to try new thing – explore. Change friendships back and forth.
  4. Integration – Embrace parts of their cultural identity form the place they have had exposure to.
  5. Recycling – most global nomads talk about this happening in college but that is because this is often the first time they are totally on their own and this is also a high time for self-reflection.

Wen’s excellent project on identity development

Here was a great project made by Jessica Wen at Maryland Institute College of Art. She worked with other TCK or CCKs on the topic self identity. Each person’s story was made in to his or her own mini accordion book.The covers were all marked TCK – the idea is that each child, on the surface looks just like an ordinary person with an ordinary background,  however once the reader opens the book you start to see the unique international perspective this person has.

Why “corporate” needs to get involved

I knew that working with parents would help a lot of families but I wanted to see how we could help more and more families, so I had to go corporate. This year I have taken a year off from being a counselor and have been busier than any “retired” person should be. I was lucky enough to be invited to speak at an event in Hollywood during the summer. It was a blast. The outcome of that talk was a book called Ready, Aim, Soar.  The editor said “life in the 21st century is volatile and unpredictable. Unprecedented advancements in technology are transforming the global business environment as well as every day life, making many traditional practices and techniques that guaranteed success in past decades no longer viable today.”

I hope more and more corporations understand that their global children are as important as their employee.

Understanding the needs of our children in this world is very very important.

Understanding your filtering – The filtering processes are key and often very hard to do. It takes a real knack to be able to zero in on what’s most important. I ask families to focus on the stuff that success is made of: emotions, confidence, interaction skills, thinking. I even like families to think about, attacking and defending arguments, also problem solving and cultural knowledge. I feel we all will have a real challenge deciding on what to focus on for real growth in their family. Filtering will be paramount. For example, a family might come in with the over lying concern about their child’s lack of friends. But the family is missing the larger picture of their own connection time with each other. A family must connect while the kids are young because it gets harder and harder to make authentic connections as children get older. Yes, they do have a concern about the child’s friends but they need to filter out things that are surface level concerns and not the real issues.

Unsure of how to connect – Social media for sharing is a continuous process in so many people’s lives, but it does not have the same effect as a close one to one contact. Our kids are so connected (600 + facebook friends) but are these real close connections? Then we have another concern…Many kids might use face book or tweeter to talk about personal feelings or situations that would have been disclosed privately in the past and only to people in their physical social circles. Now it is world wide news. Online disclosures can make a person feel raw. Kids have to know where and how to move forward. What is also key is how you are going to connect with your child. Start habits that are going to build in lifelong skills. Don’t fight technology – connect!

Issues of choice – trying to instill your own values at times runs up against the values of the people your kids hang around with. It happens with adults too. As families absorb more and more cultural norms of other people they might move away from their core beliefs. The option of choices of values will clash if people are not careful. I love Michael Jospehson from the Institute of Ethics, he says, “The longer you wait to adjust the trajectory of a rocket that is going off course, the more sever the adjustment will have to be.” This is so true for our children.

Tips that might help your child

Please take “Foreign” out of your child’s vocabulary. When we use it to describe a policy or use it as ‘foreign polices’, this is acceptable. When your child (or you) uses it referring to a person, it is not acceptable. Calling a person a ‘foreigner’ is offensive to most people in the world. If your child has this mindset it automatically sets them aside the other person as an outsider. It makes it seems as if that someone doesn’t belong. You wouldn’t want your child to be referred in such a negative way. Most kids just want to fit in regardless of where they are living. Help them out by not letting them use the word foreign.

Please take out ” Overseas” as a common word in your global nomads life. Remember they don’t cross-oceans each time they travel to a new country. Many people prefer the term ‘abroad’. Now days, more and more people use worldwide or abroad in lieu of saying ‘overseas’.

If you are coming from the USA do you kids a favor and don’t let them use “America” as a common word. When we refer to “America” as a country some people around the world can get very confused. Are you meaning, North America, Central America, or South America? It is wrong for your child to think they are from THE America, it seems so negative. It seems acceptable for citizens of the United States of America to refer to their country as America, but when your child is abroad, it is seen as ethnocentric and in poor taste. Teach your child to say “United States”.

Introduce “Yet” into your family

Kids love to announce that they’re not good at something. They usually do it just after they try something new and challenging, and they say it with finality, as if issuing a verdict. “I’m not good at math! I’m not good at volleyball.”
At that moment, your mom instinct is to fix the situation. You say, “Oh yes you are!”
HINT  – This never works, because it puts the kid in the position of actively defending his or her ineptitude. It’s a lose-lose. As a parent, ignore the instinct to fix things. Instead, simply add the word “yet.”
Add the “yet” in a matter-of-fact tone – “I’m not good at math becomes You’re not good at math yet.”
“I’m not good at volleyball” becomes “You’re not good at volleyball yet.”
The message is: Of course you’re not good  because you haven’t worked at it. But when you do, you will be good. “Yet” tells a clear story about the value of effort and struggle, and that story is aligned with the way the brain grows.

  • February 7, 2013 at 11:34 am

    Thank you SO much including my TCK accordion book project.
    This is such a great encouragement for me! 🙂

    For more detailed description and images for my project…
    please visit:

    http://www.behance.net/gallery/Third-Culture-Kids-(TCK)-Self-Identity-Accordion-Books/6900617

  • February 7, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    Great points you made Julia!
    I’ve just come back from a trip teaching young TCKs aged 11-15 and resetting “Chameleon, the Experiences of Global Citizens” production adapted to them using their personal TCK/CCK stories as the springboard for the production that was performed at the end of the weeklong residency. There’s something enlightening when you give young people particularly young TCKs a voice to retell their stories through spoken word, movement, dance, and performance. All of the students I worked with during that week had breakthroughs in their character development. The reserved shy students opened up, the natural born leaders stepped up and took on the role of leaders, the creative types flourished, and the loud chatty students honed their story-telling abilities into a creative outlet that they wouldn’t have otherwise explored. It was amazing!
    Most important of all, for young TCKs, they are living their cross cultural experiences and as teachers, mentors, counselors, leaders, speakers, and parents, we have to be sensitive that they may be grappling with a frustrating cross-cultural identity crisis and encourage them to open up in a way that will help them understand it all for themselves.