Where’s home?

International kids are different. Everyone who has raised these children – or been one – knows this to be true.

In this Tanager Talk, we ask Mary Langford, Director of Langford International Education Consultancy and an expert on the issues facing globally mobile families, to help us understand what makes these children unique and how we can best support them.

Often described as Third Culture Kids (TCKs), these are children who have spent a significant part of their developmental years outside the parents’ culture. The third culture referred to is the ‘culture’ they have in common with other children who have that same experience of growing up outside their passport countries and a life of mobility.

According to Mary, there are many benefits for international kids growing up in a multi-cultural world. They learn how to adapt, accept differences and manage change, all key 21st century skills. But, they are growing-up in a very different way from children who have lived in one place with a stable social, educational and cultural environment.

Mary emphasizes that as children move around the world, it is important for parents to become the guardians of their children’s legacy. When a child moves to a new place the parent may be the only one who knows that they could, for example, swim fast or play the piano brilliantly or speak an exotic language and it is important to help these children retain these experiences.

When asked about families that return ‘home’, Mary describes it as “the toughest move for most people – parents as well as kids.” TCKs aren’t going home, they are leaving home and often look at ‘home’ as just another foreign country. The trouble starts when the locals expect them to act like locals, which they are not.

Mary advises parents to be patient if the child feels out of synch with his peers or experiences a delayed adolescence as statistics show that TCKS tend to do well in areas such as educational attainment with 81% achieving bachelor’s degrees, 39% graduate degrees and 11% doctoral degrees. Research also suggests that TCKs have a propensity to be more creative – in terms of generating and developing new ideas, concepts and products.

But parents and people working with these kids need to understand the many pitfalls they face and how to manage the challenges.

To learn more about the third culture kids, you can listen to the entire interview below. You can find out more about the services offered by Langford International Education Consultancy here including information about the upcoming conference Developing Creativity in International Schools: Nurturing Students in Transition mentioned in the interview. Mary can be contacted by email at mary@langfordiec.com and via Twitter at @Langfordiec.com.

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