We’d like you to meet Kath Williams, Interserve Australia’s new TCK Advocate. We sat down for a chat to learn about some ways we can support TCKs!
What are TCKs?
TCKs are Third Culture Kids. There’s a first culture: that of their parents and their passport country. And there’s a second culture: that of the place they are living in. But these kids grow up in a third culture, a unique mix of the first two. So they are called Third Culture Kids.
They can thrive in a multicultural and international environment, and connect with people across barriers of religion, language, and age. TCKs acquire all sort of skills, from bartering in the marketplace to catching planes, to speaking other languages. And they see global issues like poverty or human trafficking from a very personal perspective.
Can you give some simple suggestions on how we can support TCK overseas?
While they are overseas, pray for the TCKs you know – that’s simple, and crucial! Pray for good relationships to develop between kids, parents, friends and supporting churches, so that they can understand and encourage each other.
Sending letters and packages is a great way for a church to connect with TCKs. Learn about the kids and what they are interested in and include stuff they will appreciate. Perhaps ask some kids of similar ages in your own church family for advice.
Also, read up on TCK issues. There are lots of resources out there to help. Get in touch if you’d like some suggestions!
How about when TCKs come back to Australia?
Keep on praying for them. Transitions are not just a cultural challenge but a spiritual one. It’s easy for kids to get lost in the materialism of Australian life and the ‘easy-believism’ of some Australian churches.
Offer practical help. If they come back to Australia as young adults without their parents, help them to set up. Take them driving, especially if they need to get their license. Show them how to cook, if they don’t know how to cook and clean. Help them negotiate Centrelink and public transport. Take them to the shops – if you’ve grown up going to a small local market all your life, walking into one of Australia’s shopping malls is overwhelming.
I think the biggest thing we can do is listen to them. Ask them, “What were the things you loved about growing up overseas? Tell me more about the place you lived.” Give them time to get deep and meaningful. One girl I was journeying with would get homesick for the place she left. She rang me up, and I said, “that’s okay, you’re allowed to cry. You’re allowed to be homesick.” We would go out together try to find the food she was missing. It was just about being there for her and understanding that she was grieving.
Remember not to say, “Welcome home.” For TCKs, home is the place where they have grown up. Australia might not feel like home.
I would love to build up a network of people willing to be mentors to TCKs as they transition to life in Australia. Would you consider being a ‘big brother’ or a ‘big sister’, to catch up regularly with a young person going through transition? Contact me to learn more.