Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Q & A with Tanya Crossman author of the book "Misunderstood" The Impact of Growing Up Overseas in the 21st Century

As you probably know I love books and especially on the topic of growing up abroad. I am pleased to announce that a new book on the topic is about to be released and the author Tanya Crossman has agreed to answer some questions specially for you. Thank you Tanya! By the way if you want to know what children or young people say about growing up abroad then you have to read this book. Now over to Tanya.
  1. Please tell us about your book “Misunderstood”. Tell us about how you were inspired to write the book?                                                                                                                                   I spent a decade mentoring TCKs (third culture kids), listening to them and learning how they
    felt about life. Parents began to ask my advice, and I saw lightbulb moments as they saw their children's situation in a new light. When asked for resources I pointed to lots of great books, but couldn't find anything that did what I did – stand in the gap, and explain the TCK perspective. That is what Misunderstood does: explain how international life affects a child, often in their own words (I interviewed nearly 300 TCKs for the book, plus conducted a survey of 750 TCKs). Misunderstood shows TCKs they are not alone, and helps those who care about them provide more support and understanding.
  2. What is the most important message you have for parents of TCKs? What would you like to say to every TCK?
    Being a TCK isn't a bad thing!! Over 80% of the TCKs I surveyed for Misunderstood were glad for their experience, and only 2% would take it back if they could. But TCKs do have a different experience of the world to their parents, and understanding that experience is essential for supporting TCKs well. 
  3. Many people want to write a book someday, but you did it! What was the key to success?
    The key to my success has been other people! Wise people I listened to, leading me in directions I would not have gone alone. A mentor read my first attempt and told me I could do much better – that I needed to put my passion in it. A close friend approached me about having my book published professionally, and did the work to make that happen. Then the team at Summertime Publishing helped make Misunderstood better.  
  4. What's your advice for other TCKs or anyone wanting to write a book?
    Know why you want to write – what do you care about, and why does it matter? What gap exists that you want to fill? Find anything similar out there, read it well and work out if you have something new and different to say. Secondly, benefit from the experience of others. Cultivate relationships with people who challenge you with wise advice – then listen to them, even when it's hard. 
  5. In which countries did you live as a child and what age were you at the time?
    I grew up in my passport country (Australia) but also lived in the US from age 13-15, with my parents and my two younger sisters. As an adult I lived in China for over ten years and also spent a lot of time in Cambodia.
  6. What was the reason that you were living abroad? If it was work, what kind of work did your parents do?
    My father worked for a multinational technology company. When he was assigned to work in the US for two years, our whole family went along. We lived immersed in the local life (local schools, etc.) but we all found a cross-cultural friend or two. 
  7. What did you most like about living abroad as a young person?
    I enjoyed engaging with a new physical environment. The houses, food, trees, birds, animals, and seasons were all different. I hoarded new sensory experiences – the crunch under my feet walking across our frozen yard in winter, the soft twilight in summer, the bouncing tails of squirrels – and filled myself up with them. 
  8. What was most difficult?
    Learning new cultural norms (especially when people didn't think of me as coming from a different culture) was really hard. Simply existing outside my house was tiring! I didn't have words to express the difficulties I experienced, so I had an unhelpful tendency to blame my frustrations on the entire country. It took me years to unravel my feelings. Now I'm very thankful for my time in the US, even though it was hard.
  9. How did living abroad influence your choice of career or study?
    I think it showed me there's a whole world of opportunity out there, and not to limit myself to what is “normal” in Australia. 
  10. Which languages do you speak? Do you have advice on learning languages for families living abroad  now?
    English is my native language, and I am fluent in Mandarin Chinese. I've forgotten most of the other 10 languages I've studied, but I have basic survival skills in Khmer, Thai, and Indonesian. My biggest piece of advice is to embrace your ignorance – give it a go knowing it won't be perfect, and be humble about your lack of perfection. Another thing that helped me was watching and listening to native speakers doing life – by copying them I picked up the language as it's actually used, rather than stiffly repeating what I'd read in textbooks.
  11. When and where did you first hear of the term “Third Culture Kid” (TCK)? How did you hear of it and in which way did it help you?
    When I first started working with TCKs I didn't know that there was such a thing as a TCK! I quickly realised there was something different about these kids due to their unique situations, but it was still two or three years before I started reading literature on the topic. David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken's classic “Growing up among worlds” was eye-opening. What really struck me was the section on repatriation – I kept thinking “that's me!” For the first time I realised my time in the US was a TCK experience. It helped me understand why it had been so hard to “go home”. 
  12. How was it to return to your “home country” (passport country)?
    HARD. Both times. When I left the US at age 15 I was excited to “go home and be normal”. I was stunned to discover that although in the US I stood out as Australian, to Australians I sounded American. It was quite a letdown. It took less than a year to re-acclimatise but it was still a significant experience. When I moved to Australia 18 months ago after 11 years in Asia as an adult, I was more prepared for what repatriation might be like, and blogging about the process was really helpful for me. The funny thing is that this time I found it comforting when people thought my accent didn't quite sound Australian! 
  13. With which countries do you feel a bond? Where's home?
    Ah, always a tricky question! I am definitely Australian – it 's an important part of my identity – but Australia doesn't really feel like “home” anymore. Beijing feels like home – but I have no family there and no legal right to be there, so I don't feel like I'm “allowed” to call it home. I guess neither one is completely home – so the Third Culture is very important to me! 
Thank you once again Tanya for answering these questions but in the first place for writing the book. You can visit Tanya's website for more information. Tanya is on twitter @TanyaTCK and on Facebook at MisunderstoodTCK. You can preorder the book Misunderstood on Amazon, for more preorder options click here. We will be doing a giveaway of the book soon, so come back and check the blog for more information. What questions would you like to ask Tanya?



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Monday, 25 July 2016

10 tips to help you prepare your child for an international move

Recently I read a post on Facebook. A mother was asking advice on how to prepare her daughter for a n upcoming move from England to the Netherlands. Her daughter is 5 years old and she had said to her mum "Please mum I don't want to leave my home and my school". I am sure her child is not the only one that does not want to move.

The question made me think. What would my advice be? As a child I moved many times in Africa, I
photo by Kelly Morguefiles
wonder how my parents prepared us, there were four of us, I have two brothers and a sister. These days there are so many more resources, we have books, the internet, social media to seek advice. I do think this is a great question because I firmly believe parents can help and prepare their children for an international move.

My 10 tips would be:
  1. Acknowledge your child's emotions. Give her permission to feel sad about the move and about saying goodbye. Give her permission to identify and express her emotions. You can help her by saying "I see that you are sad about leaving your friends". If you want to read more on this topic the Centre on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning have practical suggestions here in this download Teaching Your Child To: Identify and Express Emotions.
  2. Watch the Disney movie "Inside Out" together. The girl named Riley makes a move too and finds it tough. Watch it together and take time to talk about it. The movie is all about emotions.
  3. Make the move an adventure. When the moving boxes arrive let her paint one or decorate it by using stickers, glue, paint, and pretty pictures. She can even decorate the box with a friend (you then include her friends in the process, so they can get used to the idea that she will move).
  4. As part of the adventure search for information about the city and country you will move to. Show photos or a youtube film. If possible make a preliminary visit to the new country. Be careful not to raise the expectations too high.
  5. Let her help pack the boxes. Let her help you sort out which toys she will take along. Let her put her most important toys in the decorated moving box. By letting her make choices you give her some control in a time that many things are "out of her control". You are giving her some influence in this situation.
  6. Maintain stability. In the crazy time before, during and after the move try to stick to family routines. For a child this means that even though many things are changing there are still constants in her life and that can give a child stability and a sense of security.
  7. Make a countdown calendar together to help vizualize how many nights until the move. Suggestions for a creative and fun countdown calendar can be found here. The concept of time, and knowing when the move will take place can be difficult for children. A countdown calendar can help your child understand how many "sleeps" until the move.
  8. Help your child say her good-byes. David Pollock and Ruth van Reken talk about it in their book "Third Culture Kids, Growing up Among Worlds". They mention the need for saying good-bye to people, places, pets and possessions. Plan a farewell party for her friends, make the invitations together. Visit special places as a family. Ask her what she would like to do one last last time. Eat and ice cream in the favourite ice cream parlour or swim in a certain swimming pool. Make photos of these last visits. If there is a pet will the pet come along or will someone care for the pet? Maybe possessions will be let behind. Help her accept that some possessions will remain behind, maybe you will give some things to other people, involve your daughter in the process. You could give her a small treasure box in which she can put special treasures, it could be a small stone from you garden or something else special.
  9. Consider buying her a copy of the book My Moving Booklet by Valerie Besanceney. The booklet has been designed to help children through the initial stages of an upcoming move.
  10. Make a small photo album specially for her with photos of the friends she will leave behind, of the farewell party, of the special places, of house you lived in and lots more. This photo book can be a tool she can use to show and tell others where she used to live.
If you don't have enough time to make a calendar, make invitations for a farewell party, make the photo album then get other people involved in your move. Your friends probably want to help you, try to delegate something. Ask another mum to help you, she will probably feel privileged!\

There are many more things parents do to help their kids, I would love to hear your suggestions. Please share them here. Thank you so much.

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Saturday, 19 March 2016

Starting a Third Culture Kid Society at University

In my last post I let you know that I was preparing for the Families in Global Transition Conference (FIGT). Well the conference has taken place in Amsterdam. It was the first time ever that the conference took place in Europe. How exciting! By the way the FIGT conference will take place in the Netherlands again in 2017, maybe you can join us?

There is so much I could say about the conference but I just want to start by telling you about a session I 
attended in which two university students told us how and why they started a third culture kids society at Bristol university. We had the privilege of having both co-presidents Dalia Abuyasin and Anna Skoulikari from the Third Culture Kid Society of Bristol University tell their story.

On the TCK society Facebook page they start with a definition of a third culture kid: A Third Culture Kid is defined as 'a young person who has spent a significant amount of time in their developmental years outside of their family's country of origin'. Often people that identify as third culture kids reply to the question "where are you from?" with "it's complicated". 

The TCK social society is a place to meet, connect and share unforgettable experiences with others. It is a place that is open to anyone and everyone interested in spending time in an international environment. You do not have to a third culture kid to join the society. The society was started by Dalia and Anna. They had no idea how many others students would be interested or had lived abroad for a certain amount of time. Now there is a thriving TCK society in Bristol. They even had short videos so we could hear from them members what it was like to transition to university.


It is even more interesting to hear the members tell about what the third culture kid society has meant to them. They did not need to explain things. It felt so familiar. It felt like "home". This is a short video of about 3 minutes. Listen to what the students say:


Dalia and Anna explained to us that they want to encourage other students to start TCK societies at their universities. They want to develop a toolbox to help you and make it even easier to start a group too. It would be really great if they manage to develop a toolbox.

As you might know I transitioned from Zimbabwe to the Netherlands when I was 19 to go to university. It was a very difficult transition. On the MaDonna's Raising TCKs blog I wrote about leaving the African "nest". I hope third culture kids these days have easier transitions to university or college! As you can understand this is a topic I am really interested in. A while ago I wrote a post on 10 tips to transition well to university (specially for TCKs and their parents). I wish there had been a TCK society like this one at the university I went to years ago, it would have made my transition easier.

Did you transition globally to university or college? What was it like? Do you know of other universities with groups specially for third culture kids? Please share them here.

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Sunday, 31 January 2016

Preparing for the Families in Global Transition Conference 2016

At the moment I am preparing for the FIGT conference which will take place in March. It's the first time ever that this conference will take place in the Netherlands. It's the first time it will take place in Europe. It's the first time I will attend the conference and it's the first time I will be presenting at the conference. Very exciting! By the way the conference schedule is available and the presenter biographies. As you can see there are more than 50 presenters, I expect that they will represent all the corners of the world.

While preparing for my session I was searching the internet for new information on third culture kids. I found a nice short video made by teenager Alison. She's a third culture kid herself, she explains what it means, has done some research and she gives advice. It's worth watching.


She conducted a survey and it revealed that the TCKs find leaving friends and changing school the most difficult. It took them a couple a months to adjust to the new surrounding. She encourages TCKs to meet new people and learn the new language. Her last advice is: Stay open-minded and resilient and moving can enhance your life.

By the way I hope you are attending the Families in Global Transition Conference in Amsterdam too. Please let me know if you're coming so we can meet up. 

Related posts: 
My 10 advantages of growing up abroad
Interview with graphic design student Jessica Wen on her third culture kid book project
Interesting interview with researcher and adult third culture kid Rachel Cason 

Monday, 30 November 2015

Families in Global Transition Conference 2016 will take place for the first time ever in Holland!

Maybe you have heard the good news: the Families in Global Transition (FIGT) Conference will take place in the Netherlands next year. The conference is from the 10th of March to the 12th of March 2016 in Amsterdam. For the past 2 years I have been wanting to attend this conference but the conference was in Washington, USA. I had to take days off from work, fly to America and I just was not able to arrange it. I am so excited that the conference has moved to Europe, and even better it has moved to the Netherlands, Amsterdam to be exact. Now I can take the train and attend! If you want to attend the conference and save money make sure you register before 4th January 2016.

By the way the theme of the conference is "Moving Across Cultures: Bringing Empathy and Expertise to the Evolving Global Family". I like the word empathy.

What does empathy do according to the Greater Good Science Center? Empathy:
  • reduces prejudice and racism
  • reduces bullying
  • promotes heroic acts
  • fights inequality
  • is good for healthcare
  • cuts against self-interest, people with empathy are more likely to help people in need
Wow that sounds very promising! Then add all the expertise in too and it is a recipe for success.I have heard that the author of the book "Global Mom" Melissa Dalton-Bradford will be one of the keynote speakers. She is a mother of 4, a writer of books, essays, poetry and a blog. As a family they have lived in 10 countries. She has also written the book "On loss & Living Onward", I think I have to read one of her books before the conference. You can see the trailer of the book "Global Mom" here.

The conference will take place at De Bazel Cafe & Conference Centre, Vijzelstraat 32 in
Beautiful Holland photo by DrieCulturen
Amsterdam.


Good things seem to happen at FIGT conferences. Killian Kröll, the current chair of the FIGT board grew up as a third culture kid (TCK). He was unaware of the impact of his upbringing. During a seminar he first heard the term TCK. That moment changed his life and he found his tribe. 2011 was the first FIGT conference he attended and then he was really sure that he had found his tribe. Read more of Killian's story and the FIGT conference 2015 as written by Lauren Owen.

Just in case you have not heard of Families in Global Transitions, you can visit the FIGT website for more information. The first FIGT conference was held in 1998 and Ruth van Reken the coauthor of the book "Third Culture Kids Growing up Among Worlds" was one of the initiators.

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