What's a TCK, and Who Cares Anyway?
What's a TCK and Who Cares Anyway?
There are a lot of children on the mission field. A LOT. Often a Pioneers team will email or post a team photo, and it’s commonly a handful of adults swimming in a sea of their own children. Some are born on the field, some come along with their parents as small children, and all of them are TCKs - Third Culture Kids. They are neither fully-fledged members of their parents’ culture, nor are they fully-fledged members of the host culture. They hover somewhere in between – in a third culture of shared experiences that is unique to children worldwide who have spent a significant portion of their formative years in a culture other than their parents’ home culture.
"They hover somewhere in between - in a third culture of shared experiences..."
TCKs have a different set of needs to other children, and as such, they need a specialised type of care. From a very young age, TCKs experience grief and loss – painful goodbyes to extended family, homes, friends on the field, etc. They usually feel as if they don’t belong fully to one place or culture. If not cared for properly, they may feel that their wants and needs are unheard, or that they are less important than the ministry. They can develop unhealthy coping strategies and even fall prey to all kinds of abuse.
Caring for our TCKs and equipping parents to care for their own TCKs is a high priority for Pioneers globally. We aim to provide not only reactive care but equally important preventive care. Providing regular debriefs gives our mission kids time and a safe space to process the grief, loss, identity and belonging challenges they experience besides other challenges. Here are ten ways we care for our TCKs...
1. Remember them
We make sure to send cards and gifts for life events like birthdays, graduations, baptism, new home, etc. TCKs are also invited to chat with our TCK member care coordinator whenever they want to over a secure messaging platform.
2. Support parents
We take evert opportunity to provide parents with advice on educational resources, tips and methods for parenting a TCK, including lots of information about a TCKs unique needs.
Prayer is a vital part of supporting TCKs. Any time we pray for parents, we also pray for the children by name and often with specific requests. Children are often a big part of their parents’ ministry and therefore subject to the same need for covering in prayer.
Sometimes TCKs find it easier to open up to an adult who is not on their mission team. We provide a safe space for them to share their thoughts, experiences and feelings.
5. Ask questions
TCKs often feel that they play second-fiddle to the ministry. We aim to be curious and ask questions and about each TCKs life, as they see it.
6. Acknowledge, affirm & comfort
Every TCK deals with loss and sorrow. It’s part of the territory. We aim to acknowledge their feelings and affirm them as legitimate and provide the comfort they need as they process different emotions and events in their lives
7. Provide coping strategies, tools and resources
Having heard a TCKs thoughts, fears, feelings, hopes etc., we can then provide them and their parents with coping strategies, tools and resources to help with their unique needs.
8. Bring awareness
When we have known a child or young person over time, we can see coping patterns and habits developing in their lives. As an ‘outside’ observer, we can help them see these patterns and either reinforce or redirect them.
9. Child Safety
Sadly, TCKs are vulnerable to all kinds of neglect and abuse, both inside and outside the home. We have a robust approach to child protection, both proactively and reactively. Our aim is to help each child feel safe in the home, and to prevent neglect and abuse.
10. Reassure them
More than anything, TCKs need a sense of belonging and identity. They need to know that they are deeply loved and that they’re not alone. We take every opportunity to reassure them and to help parents reassure them too, keeping in mind the Gospel message that Jesus loves them more than anyone and if they trust in Him, they have an eternal identity in Christ as His precious child and heaven as their ‘permanent’ home that remains constant.
I'm an average person who’s just had sufficient so I can support someone else doing a job that I can’t do, like supporting my church minister. It just seems natural! Why should I only give 10% to God? It’s all His anyway. Far better that I keep a little and He gets the rest.
Grace is a widow with numerous dependents. The money she has earned through the card project has enabled her to pay their rent, pay for medicine for her epileptic daughter, pay for school fees, and for basic food. Through the encouragement of the project, Grace testifies to knowing God’s timely and personal provision.
What though if your inner life is in turmoil? Is prayer possible when we experience crisis, whether personal tragedy or some larger catastrophe which shatters our hope and shakes the very foundations of our faith? This, of course, is the point at which the biblical tradition of the prayer of lament is so crucial.