An unsettled but very happy Third Culture Kid: Part 2

In Personal stories, Repatriation, Reverse culture shock by Carole Hallett MobbsLeave a Comment

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A TCK life – part 2

After her nomadic upbringing described in the previous post, it’s time for Cecilia to move back to her ‘home’ country.


Cecilia enjoying her travels; Pisa, Italy

Cecilia enjoying her travels; Pisa, Italy

Moving back “home” to the U.S. was one of the worst experiences that I had to go through as a child. My dad belongs to the suck-it-up camp and my mom is accommodating to the point of distraction, so they gave me a healthy middle ground to get over and indulge my frustrations. In spite of their efforts I was miserable. No one understood me in school and they could not relate to my upbringing.

The most exciting activity that they engaged in was going to the mall. I got to bathe an elephant. It was a trying period of my life. Thinking on it now as an adult, I do not know that anything would have fixed how I was feeling. I kept in touch with old friends as best I could, but this was the world prior to Facebook. AOL was just becoming a thing and I had to rely on snail mail. It was difficult feeling alienated from the people around me and I constantly had to learn how to be an American.

Tips to help your child repatriate

As a parent facing repatriation with your child, if even for a little while, there are a couple of things that you can do to make it an easier process. I do not think it will be completely easy because big moves never are:

  • First, make sure that your child has some way of keeping in touch with the friends they left behind. Whether email, phone calls (buy a Vonage subscription), Skype, FaceTime, Facebook, etc., definitely ensure that your child will not feel cut off from his or her past.
  • Second, encourage writing, crafts, or some other outlet so that they can express themselves. If they do not feel like anyone in school understands them, they will have this one place where they can express whatever they feel in that moment.
  • Third, find activities for them to do. Get them in dance classes, art classes, sports, music, whatever they are interested in. This will put them in a situation where they can find people who relate to them on something other than shared history.
  • Fourth, introduce them to the local popular culture. This will likely be less of an issue in this day and age, since the world is much more interconnected than ever before, but it would not hurt to know about the latest pop singers, movies, and books.
  • Fifth, let them decorate their room. If you are moving back permanently and you bought a house, let them do all the permanent decorations that were forbidden to them during your years with temporary housing. If you are moving back temporarily, you can still allow them to decorate in a non-permanent fashion. The important thing is for them to have a space where they feel in control and that will become a point of familiarity. Just so you know I still look forward to the day that I can personalize permanently.
  • Sixth, just listen and be as understanding as you can. Remind your child that different experiences are worth having, if only so you can look back and laugh at what a horrible time it was (or use it to write an award-winning novel, true artists are never happy). Do not dismiss their discomfort, but try not to let them wallow in it too often because it will make them less likely to want to open up to those around them.

There is no antidote to loneliness or unhappiness, but finding productive activities to engage your attention is a good way of working past the mental blocks and it will slow down, if not halt, a slide into depression.

Continued here…

by Cecilia Haynes 

Cecilia is a diplobrat who was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Calcutta, Taiwan, Beijing, New Delhi, Virginia, Chennai, and Manila. Finding that repatriation did not agree with her, she moved to Hong Kong after graduating from university. From there she ate a trail through Lhasa, Dharamsala, and Xining before finding a wealth of sun and food in Alanya, Turkey. Her itchy feet have stilled in the Mediterranean Sea, at least for the year. 

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