22 February, 2014

TCKs and Grief

This last week we had some special events at school about TCK (Third Culture Kids) issues.* I didn't get to any of them, but I've been to similar events in previous years and am well aware of the challenges that face our boys, especially as we make a big transition in four month's time. All of our boys did get to go to age-appropriate seminars about transition. I'm not sure how much they got out of them, but at least they've had the opportunity to reflect specifically about the issues.

One of the things that they talk about is building a RAFT, which stands for
Reconcile—trying to resolve any conflict before leaving 
Affirm—telling important people how much they are valued before you leave 
Farewells—not just to the obvious, but also to places, pets, etc. 
Think and talk destinationdevelop realistic expectations about your destination
This family are friends of ours who were here for only a year.
They came, we spent time together, they left. Life
on the mission field and at CAJ is littered with
such stories!
I think we do fairly well on at least the last one. Not so sure about the others. But we'll need to try to do what we can. What's not in that acronym is praying about the future, especially I like to pray that God will prepare friendships and opportunities at the other end for my boys. Those are things you can't particularly control, but are very important.

For example, last time we did this big change, our eldest was 11 and just starting to make friends at school here when we went to Australia (he'd only been at CAJ for two years when we left). He struggled to make friends in his new school. 

One of the key things he used to do at school here with friends was play basketball at lunch-time. That opportunity wasn't there at his new school: the basketball court was out-of-bounds for primary schoolers. He hated this, so we explored other options. We signed him up to a basketball club and he trained and played with them for the rest of the 12 months we were in Australia. It definitely helped. He also gradually made some friends at school which made a difference too.

It's challenging as a parent to see your kids struggle over the friends issue. Even harder when you know that it is your job that has caused some of the problems, and that you don't have much control over it.

The population at a school like ours is quite fluid. Friends come and go, even if you aren't leaving yourself. That makes relationships more than the usual level of challenge.

The other day I came across an excellent article about third culture kids and grief. I especially like this quote at the beginning:
One of the major areas in working with TCKs is that of…dealing with the issue of unresolved grief. They are always leaving or being left. Relationships are short-lived.At the end of each school year, a certain number of the student body leaves, not just for the summer, but for good.It has to be up to the parent to provide a framework of support and careful understanding as the child learns to deal with this repetitive grief. Most TCKs go through more grief experiences by the time they are 20 than monocultural individuals do in a lifetime.”  Dave Pollock

* A TCK is a child who's spent a significant period of their formative years in a culture that is not their passport culture.  I've written a little bit about it before, here's one post.

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