|Life Lessons, Relationships
We’d like you to meet Kath, Interserve Australia’s new TCK Advocate. We sat down for a chat to learn about what she’s up to!
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.
What are some of their unique needs?
One of the biggest issues for TCKs is loss and grief. They may say goodbye to someone they care about every six months – sometimes unexpectedly. Some kids become reluctant to make friends, because they’re scared that friend will leave. Kids also grieve their stuff. When they first go over to a country, they might have tons of Lego but they can’t bring it with them. They lose culture too – one of my youth girls said “I don’t understand how girls and boys relate in Australia”. They even have to learn a new language – Australian teenage slang.
What’s involved in being a TCK advocate?
TCKs need to have someone willing to listen to them and to speak for them. My heart is to see that kids are socially, emotionally, physically and spiritually healthy.
Part of my role is to help equip parents and families as they prepare to take their kids overseas. I’ll be helping out with Missions Interlink’s ten-day Transition Training twice a year, specifically to help kids transition to new environments. I’m also working on resources for churches.
Another part of the role is personally supporting kids re-entering Australia. The role is being developed as we speak and will continue to evolve. I can see the way God has prepared me. I’m a trained social worker and youth worker, and growing up some of my best friends were missionary kids. My first job was as a child therapist with kids who had experienced abuse and struggled with mental health issues. More recently, Interserve sent me to a school in Cambodia for two years and through that experience I better understand the world that TCKs live in and the challenges and struggles they face.
What’s it like being a voice for these kids?
Sometimes kids are not able to share what’s on their hearts because they’re afraid of what their parents will think. So I ask, “If you can’t say this to your parents, are you willing for me to say it?” In that way I can be their voice, and help facilitate communication within the family.
Or I might be a voice for them in their church. Church families think TCKs have come back home – but home for them is the place where they’ve grown up. There are heaps of ways people can support TCKs – prayer, practical help, a listening ear. Learn more.
What’s your favourite thing about being a TCK Advocate?
Listening to the stories of our young people. I love to hear their experiences of life in other places. I think listening is one of the most important ways to building a relationship so they feel comfortable to say, “This is how really I feel”.
It’s exciting to see where God’s taking this role. It’s God’s journey and God’s dream. I would always be underprepared if it was my dream. But this is God’s idea.