Monday, 12 December 2011

Who You Are and Where You "Belong"...

Current research identifies two dominant themes that Expat Teens have difficulty with as a direct result of the transient nature of their lives; 1) developing a sense of identity and 2) developing a sense of belonging. Walker (2005), quotes Gleason (1970), who examined where Expat Teens felt most at home. Thirty to fifty percent of this group said ‘more than one country’. Pollock and Van Reken (2009) say TCK’s (Third Culture Kids) are at home everywhere and nowhere.

Consider this example (please note: names have been changed to ensure confidentiality and anonymity of individual):

Siblings, John, Sara and Max, are holders of two passports but never lived in either of the two countries. They have lived in a total of 6 different countries and have been exposed to diverse cultures, foods, languages and religions. The eldest has attended a total of 12 different schools, whereas the youngest has attended 6. Although the children have visited the two countries of which they hold passports on numerous occasions, they do not identify with the histories, cultures, social norms, foods, school systems, public transportation, politics or the day-to-day ways of life in either country. They do, however, identify with Muslim traditions, enjoy Middle Eastern food, appreciate Chinese culture and traditions, and speak fluent French, ‘survival’ Russian, and a few words in Arabic. All three teens express that being asked, ‘Where do you come from?’ is a very challenging question. When John was 5 years old and was relocated to Jakarta, Indonesia from Cairo, Egypt, a volunteer mother visiting the school engaged in a discussion with John and asked him if he was Egyptian. John responded, “No, not anymore - I am Indonesian now.”

This real-life example provides evidence of one child’s response to defining his identity in a very different way to that of a monocultural child of the same age. Adapting to new countries, environments, languages and cultures are only a few examples of the change that Expat Teens are confronted by as a result of their transient lives.

Expat Teens Talk’ will be available SOON and will provide solutions, advice and support on how to deal with these ‘common themes’, reminding every Expat Teen who reads our book that he/she is not alone in terms of how they feel.

In the meantime, TALK to us via our “Comments” section and let us know what’s on your mind…

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