When the parents are struggling…
“Mom!” whined Hannah. “Do I have to go to school? Can’t I just stay home and you teach me? I hate going to new schools, and this is the third one in a year!” June, her mom, sighed heavily and shoved her and her brother, Karl, out the door to the car.
June just couldn’t handle the kids being home right now. She had a mountain to unpack, plus she had to figure out where to buy groceries and decipher the local language enough to get by. Her husband, Marc, had already gone to meet his new boss and get settled into his new job at the base, leaving her to figure out (once again!) all the logistics of making the house their home.
It all seemed impossible, and she was exhausted.
She did NOT need the kids underfoot, even if she wanted them nearby. She simply did not have the energy, inclination, or patience for it. Home-schooling on top of all that? No way!
June drove them to the school, hoping that she could clear up school transportation, meet a teacher or two, and get a sense of the schedule. The school’s website was a mess, and she was left with a lot of questions.
Did the kids have to take public transportation? Was there a school bus? Was it up to her to get them to school? Did they need to pack a lunch?
Only one thing was a relief: Google Maps worked here, and she could at least find the school. Except navigating the traffic was a nightmare. One more thing to deal with. Sigh.
Fitting in can be so hard on the kids…
There was numb silence in the back, punctuated by Hannah’s sniffles. As an introvert, she hated meeting new people and trying to figure out where the bathroom was, or lunchroom (did they even have one?), or navigating the school halls.
Was she dressed right? What were the styles here?
She had tried to do a Google search, but you never knew. There were always surprises, and that unnerved her. She hated not fitting in, not being certain about expectations… but one could never plan for everything.
Karl, on the other hand, seemed to breeze effortlessly through it all. He was naturally gregarious, fun, and eager to meet new people. He was embarrassed by his sister’s tears and worried that she would immediately ruin his reputation as someone exciting to be with. He was already planning his exit strategy from the car to put as much distance between them, hoping no one noticed they were siblings – at least not right away.
The changing relationships and meaning of family…
On the ride to school, Hannah remembered how her family used to be close. But it seemed the constant moving had created fractures, bringing up their worst selves. They were supposed to live in this new place for only a few years, and she hoped that things would return to normal soon.
The last year had been crazy, and she was quickly sinking into depression.
Where was home?
She and her brother used to have fun together.
Who was he now? Why did he avoid her?
Her mom used to care about Hannah’s feelings, but now she just seemed too preoccupied with her own life. Hannah caught her crying a lot more or staring off into the distance, disconnected from what was going on around her.
Her dad was the same, it seemed. Maybe it was because the military provided him with routine, with stability, with expectations that were lacking for the rest of the family. But she sure wished he would loosen up his strict rules for once. Sure, he said he wanted them all to be safe… but she chafed at it anyway.
Third culture kids struggle with identity, depression, anxiety, and belonging.
Just moving from one house to another is challenging all on its own.
Adding the change of culture complicates things to an exponential degree, and it can have a long-term negative impact on the family if it doesn’t have adequate and appropriate preparation and support.
Some organizations and corporations provide that – to a degree. But most third-party assistance focuses on the logistics of moving and settling, and less to do with the emotional and mental health needs of the family.
I understand these struggles and can help.
My practice is dedicated to help families with those needs.
I offer ongoing support via online coaching for those who are overseas… or counseling for those who live locally.
I grew up as a third culture kid, so I know that lifestyle and the challenges it presents.