Raising Third Culture Kids

Lately I’ve been thinking about what Ruth, Clara, and Hudson will experience in their normal childhood… and how their normal will be vastly different from other kids.

Kids who grow up in a culture different from their parents’ are often referred to as third culture kids. By definition, they have spent a significant part of their developmental years in another culture. They are familiar with many different cultures, but don’t necessarily have ownership or a sense of belonging in any of them.

Before Ruth is six she will have lived in Alaska, France, and Togo (Lord willing). None of our children will attend kindergarten in America. Ruth might remember Alaska, but Clara and Hudson likely won’t. Not the snow, not our dog, not the first house we bought.

The “normal” childhood Allen and I had will be very different from their “normal.”

The sites and sounds of West Africa will be normal. Babies carried on mamas’ backs instead of in car seats. Potholes the size of our dinner table in dirt roads. Eating sugar peanuts out of used glass bottles. Monkeys as pets, lizards climbing on bedroom walls, fans running constantly at night, and buying fruit from people on the side of the road.

Those things don’t happen in Alaska.

It’s a little hard to think about, to be honest. We have no idea how to support our children through these crazy transitions that are coming up. I mean, we’re hesitant to visit Seward for a weekend because we know it will throw off our kids’ sleep for a few days! How are Allen and I supposed to support three little ones when we move to France for language school and Togo for long-term missions when we can’t speak the languages and are totally out of our comfort zone?

I’m not sharing these thoughts in a frantic feeling of despair or fear. Rather, I’m writing them down so that when we do it – when we are settled in France for a year, when we transition to Togo, when we realize that our kids turned out to be so cool/fun/interesting/brave that we can’t even handle it – I’ll be reminded of this:

I love this particular translation because it mentions submitting to God, not just acknowledging Him. We trust that He has good plans for our lives and for our children’s lives. So as we submit to Him, trusting the plans He has (even when we can’t see them), He will make our paths straight.

As we trust in the Lord, as we lean on His understanding, He will guide us and our third culture kids.

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