Tag Archives: art

Helping TCKs see the Masterpiece

I recently read an old post on the blog Peter’s Wife. It’s a blog for the wives of missionaries raising TCKs. Anyway, this old post was a guest post by grown-up TCK Kim Holland,  looking back on her experience, and sharing some tips for the parents of TCKs on how to help their kids make the most of their international experience. You can read the original post here.

Kim compares the TCK experience to an impressionist painting:

My favorite artists are the Impressionist painters. They use millions of brush strokes, apparently without rhyme or reason. Up close, the painting looks like a mess of color without meaning. It is not until you back away that you see the completed masterpiece, full of subtle textures and forms, all expressions of the Master’s mind. TCK’s frequently feel like these random brush strokes, not appearing to have any connection to anything. Each event and each new move, beautiful in and of itself, seems unrelated to the whole of life. Frequently, the end result is a feeling of chronic disconnection.

She offers four tips for parents. I think these are great reflections for youth leaders working with TCKs to keep in mind. We can’t help with all of these, but it gives us an insight into some of the things our kids are struggling with.

1. Connect the brush stokes: As parents, we can help our children connect each place and experience to the previous ones. We do this by allowing children to grieve through each experience and move completely. Then they can begin accepting and appreciating the beauty of their experiences.

This is a great word picture. The individual brush strokes of an impressionist style painting can seem disjointed, unconnected, but they are part of a greater whole. Connecting this to grieving the conclusion of one experience and being open to the next one is interesting.

2. Teaching the value of diversity: I cannot emphasize enough the need for TCKs to develop strong personal bonds with nationals. Appreciation of the people from each culture and location will later allow your child to see each experience as part of their “life painting.” Encourage TCKs to experience the culture through these diverse relationships. Occasionally allow them to do this without you around. Some of the most rewarding brush strokes of the masterpiece of my own life are my relationships with national people.

I found this one of the most interesting points. I haven’t see much emphasis put on national relationships in the expat circles I’ve experienced. Sounds logical to me, but I don’t know what it looks like it practice. I’d be interested to hear other thoughts on this one.

3. Mark a point of reference: Every great painter knows that in order to keep perspective you have to go back to your center point of reference. For PWs and TCKs, the centerpoint is home. It is vitally important for TCks to label some physical place on the globe as home, regardless of how many times they move or how long they actually live in that place.

I think it’s easier for TCKs who can point to a specific place and call it “home” even if it isn’t as simple as that. Having a place they can use as the surface answer to “where are you from” (other than the longer explanation of the real TCK experience) helps.

4. Learning to step back from the painting: Depending on the developmental age and maturity of your child, stepping back to look at the entire picture may be difficult. Frequently, in casual conversations, remind your child that they are having a “unique” experience. God has created them and has a plan that only they can fulfill. Beware of over-verbalizing this point, however. If we spend so much time telling our children that they are special and unique they may consider themselves failures when they are not called to be the next Billy Graham. Instead, they should be realizing that they are part of a larger plan and be content in the part they have to play.

I happen to think each of my youth group kids IS special and unique. I can see how TCKs can feel a pressure to excel. Let’s face it, a lot of TCKs have high academic expectations placed on them already, especially those following the IB curriculum. They can easily take a lot of implicit expectations on board, too – beliefs about what exactly their parents expect from them, what “success” looks like.

Anyway, that’s some of my thoughts. I’d love to know what you think!

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Posted by on March 16, 2011 in Leading Youth, TCKs


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TCK self-portrait project: capturing the essence of “home”

Denizen is a magazine for TCKs. It has some great resources and I recommend it to all TCKs. A new project this year is seeking submissions from TCKs everywhere – the challenge is to submit a self-portrait that explains where home is for you. There are some really interesting and creative pictures up already! They are aiming to get 365 submissions – one for every day of the year. Read more here.

You may want to point the TCKs you know to the project, and encourage them to submit a portrait. I think it’s a great way to reflect and express that reflection creatively.


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Posted by on February 9, 2011 in TCKs


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When chameleons grow: TCKs and the Arts

Haikaa Yamamoto is a Japanese woman born in Brazil who also spent significant time in the US. She was interviewed by the examiner in relation to her upcoming music project “Work of Art” which features a song recorded in 19 languages. I found some of her comments about her TCK experience to be poignant and worth sharing/discussing.

During my teens and early adulthood, I really had no idea who I was or where I belonged. I developed a sort of Chameleon like personality that would adapt depending on the setting.

Those of us who work with TCKs have seen this “Chameleon like personality” on numerous occasions. It is a natural mechanism which many TCKs turn to in their search for identity and just trying to make life go more smoothly. Most of the TCKs I’ve met could fit in easily with adult company, many were expressive listeners who put others at ease, and were great at welcoming others with warmth.

This is often interpreted by adults as a sign of maturity and a well-rounded person secure in their own self-image. I disagree. I think that a TCKs ability to relate on a surface level has very little to do with their emotional maturity and the development of their personal sense of identity. TCKs learn to mimic behaviours in order to fit in. It’s a survival skill for those who bounce from place to place, or those who are required in interact in a variety of environments.

It was a tiring form of existance and after some time, I decided I wanted to know who I was regardless of where I was. I wanted to develop characteristics that I could take with me and that would serve me regardless of the environment that surrounded me. I realized that values such as generosity, fairness, honesty and emotions like love, happiness and courage were what really mattered to me.

I love watching TCKs undergoing journeys of self-discovery – what do I believe? who do I want to be? what matters to me? For many, the journey is precipitated by (yet another) move – especially those starting college, or those who move in late high school.

I believe that one role of TCK youth worker is to help spark this journey of self-discovery. I believe that one of the most beneficial things we can do for TCKs is encourage them to explore their unique identity – separate from where they live, what their parents do,  where they are “from”. This can be a difficult journey, with many deep questions arising. I think it helps for teens to explore this when they are in a “safe” place – with family and well-developed friendship and youth leaders (mentors) in place to walk through it with them.

For some, of course, the safe place happens after they leave home and strike out on their own. For others, home is comfortable enough that such a journey seems like a lot of unnecessary effort. In either case, maintaining mentoring relationships from a distance can help. I have spent a LOT of hours talking with TCKs via skype, IM, email and facebook as they process their identity in a new an unfamiliar place, far from the comforts of home and family. I feel so deeply for them as they struggle, and rejoice jubilantly as they begin to come into their own.

I think that being an artist had a lot to do with my search for who I am. During my  “Chameleon” era, I think I grew very numb because the only way I could change so much my personality was by hiding my feelings or by not feeling at all. And when you sing, you can´t not feel. You can learn all the vocal techniques in the world but you can´t be taught to feel. It was a very intense process of acknowledging, accepting and discovering who I really was. I think that being an artist has given me the perfect stage for growth and self-acceptance. It has taken me completely out of my comfort zone and I almost gave up several times but then it would chase me in my dreams and later become songs and lyrics etc.

I found this very interesting. A lot of TCKs I know are devoted and talented artists – painters, photographers, videographers, musicians, dancers and a host of other fields. I wonder if expression of the self through art aids them in the process of self-discovery and personal growth.

My own chosen artforms (music and painting/drawing) certainly helped me through a difficult period of adjustment upon re-entry to Australia at the start of grade 11 following two years abroad. I turn to artistic expression in periods of introspection and emotional growth – and it helps me.

I wonder if the arts should be deliberately encouraged (as a form of expression, not something to excel at) among TCKs both abroad and when returning?


Posted by on February 7, 2011 in Leading Youth, TCKs


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