For the last 18 years I have moved around the world in various countries with three growing children. Besides this being an awesome experience I realized how children in transition adapt so differently from adults. In order for children and teens to ‘re-root’ in a balanced way in their new environment, it is important to have an understanding of where they come from.
- In other words what their own cultural set of norms and values is. By creating this awareness they will be able to address new and different behaviors like:
- Why are the math annotations at schools different in Brazil?
- Why do American children change their clothes in a separate room? or
- Why do the Italians kiss once when greeting you while the Dutch kiss three times?
- Why do Japanese kids always agree with you? And how come Saint Nicolas is celebrated on December 5th in the Netherlands unlike Santa Claus who only just arrives late that month?
- What freedom and restrictions is there for teens when living abroad and how does this impact them.
By addressing cultural awareness in trainings for youth and teens they will become increasingly curious about all these new behaviors instead of getting confused about them.
As they move around the world together with us, our children not only take their own culture set, their bag pack, filled with norms and values. Also they seem capable of seamlessly blending in the new local culture set having different norms and values. When children and teens are being facilitated in this process they, unlike we as adults, are capable of adopting new norms and values. They mix and mingle the new and local norms and values from their new environment as well and blend this with the previous set acquired at earlier stages in life. In doing so they create their new and unique culture set and that is why these children, your children are the so called ‘third culture kids’.
Let’s take color this concept by the following simple example. Suppose the culture set from your country has the color blue and you will be relocated abroad to another country with your family. And now suppose the local culture set over there is the color red. What will happen to us, being adults, we will adapt to the red on top of our own blue color. So we will adapt and behave blue/redish. Your children, just like you also will take the blue culture set with them. Interesting enough, what will happen to them is quite differently, they will so to say adopt the local red color, they will mix the red with their blue and so as a result their new culture set will become purple.
What happens to our children is much more interesting when they move with us over the world is a very interesting process different from our process. In their process of adaptaion, not only do they bring their own set of norms and values developed over the course of their lives, also they create their own unique cultural global set. They, so to speak create a their third unique culture.
This process I noticed with my own children over the years and how they, now all being teens, have their blended sets of perceiving the world.
Let’s continue our earlier example on colors, now suppose after a couple of years again you and your family will be relocated to a third country. You will take of the red culture set upon moving to this new country and bring your initial blue culture set. The culture set of this new country you are relocated to is white, so guess what happens to your own culture set….. It will become blue/ whitish. And to your children, what will their new unique culture set become?