Third Culture Kid Issues

Our plan, God willing, is to return to the USA in December and be based out of the USA while our older children attend college. So we are preparing for a major transition and move after being in the Philippines 8 years. We would appreciate your prayers for us as we transition.

David Pollock, a well regarded expert on "third culture kids," emphasized that the children of missionaries demonstrate some very positive traits and generally grow up contributing to the
growth of God's church. At the same time, he has identified several major issues impacting the lives of missionary kids:

Missionary Kids feel different from everyone else,never quite fitting in

. Their parents may have returned to the States and are now co
nsidered former missionaries.
But third-culture kids can never say they are former th
ird-culture kids. They will always be hybrids, the offspring of two cultures. They think differently. They act differently. And they are different in the way they are put together. These differences
are very real, regardless of how much they might try to act like mono-cultural children around them.

Missionary kids encounter confusion about identity issues
. The mobility that characterizes the missionary lifestyle presents a feeling of rootlessness for Missionary Kids (MKs), the sense that no place is home. That feeling extends beyond geographical
considerations to issues of personal identity. Is the MK a
n American? ...... From which culture shall she choose a
mate? What set of values will she adopt? Why does she sha
re her parents' sense of patriotism when she sees Old Glory waving over the American Embassy? Who is she,
anyway? Sometimes MKs surprise themselves at how much they
have identified with the host culture. "I had fooled myself into thinking I was an American through and through (fair skin, blue eyes, blond hair), but I was surprised to find what little I had
in common with Americans."

Assimilated global experiences define MKs for life.

Missionary kids likely suffer from unresolved grief
. Living outside their home culture presents opportunities for new experiences and friends. MKs learn the value of
adaptability and the virtue of a new challenge. But
changes also mean loss. Going "home" can mean grieving over friends and places they may never see again." A
prerequisite to belonging is grieving over not belong
ing and repeated loss. That stands to reason: It is necessary to break down the old immunity to attachment
before one can become attached to something new.
And belonging more than anything else, is about attachment."

Missionary kids often feel lonely
. Because they feel like a Yankee in King Arthur's
Court and because they may be uncertain about who they
are, MKs experience a
sense of isolation. They yearn for someone to understan
d them, which is almost
impossible task unless one has gone through a similar
experience. "The freedom of the nomad is the loneliness of disconnection."

Missionary kids are sometimes wounded
. Our tendency is to think, "You can do
anything with kids and they bounce and they adjust." Sure they do. We're all made to adjust, and adjustment does take place. Whether or not it's good adjustment, and whether or not it leaves a residue of pain, is a whole different matter.

excerpt from article by Dottie Schulz, Ph.D. and Bob Waldron, D.Min.
Missions Resource Network