What's a TCK, and Who Cares Anyway?

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.


3. Prayer

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.

4. Listen

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.


For more information or suggested resources for caring well for Third Culture Kids of all kinds, contact Susie at [email protected]. This article originally appeared in the Spring 2023 edition of Reach Magazine, The Art of Care, which can be accessed through our Resources page or online here.


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