Tag Archives: global nomad

The place of Christian Coaching in youth ministry

I recently attended a 3 day workshop on coaching. Christian coaching is a process of mentoring that consists mostly of asking questions and allowing the coachee to come up with their own discoveries and goals. There are two things I really love about coaching:

  1. The emphasis on trusting the Holy Spirit to to be the one at work transforming.
  2. Coaching is a process that empowers the coachee to set their own growth goals – a great reminder that I don’t have to have all the answers.

Coaching is a great tool to add to our tool belts. The seminar was focused mostly on peer-to-peer coaching and how to use these skills in informal settings.  The big questions now in my head revolve more the application of these skills to my own ministry context – working with youth. How can we use the principles of coaching, and the art of powerful questions, in youth ministry? What is the role of formal coaching in our work mentoring youth?

Most long term youth workers have spent time considering what makes a “good question” during group teaching times. It’s a big topic – probably best to spend a whole blog post talking about that alone. In the context of coaching, we talked about asking “powerful questions” and the risk of asking open-ended questions. We have probably all experienced the crazy tangents that can happen in small groups – and even large groups – when an interesting question derails the whole discussion.

If we really believe that personal discovery is more powerful than being told the right answer, it seems to follow that we should strive to set our kids up for personal discovery. Instead of teaching them the right answers,we should be learning to ask powerful questions that lead them to think their own way through to those answers.

Parents and Coaching

The principles of coaching might provide some valuble tools for parents, especially as they work through changing relationships with their kids. Coaching speaks to kids the message I have confidence in you. It makes lots of space for positive feedback and recognition. Although parents may never formally coach their kids, the techniques can be used to  help their children think through their decisions, the consequences and, and setting their own goals.

Formal Coaching in Youth Ministry

I think one of the most vauble roles of formal coaching in international youth ministry would be as a transitions coach for students who have graduated and are moving back to their passport countries.  Think about all the changes that happen January to January – preparing to leave the host country, graduations and farewells, a summer break, and then moving into  uni and settling into  a new life…  How valuable would it be if we intentionally coached our students through this process? Not just being intentional about checking in but also giving them a dedicated hour of our time – to listen to them, and give our assurance that they have within them the resources needed to set and meet goals. Coaching actually works well over skype, and many professional coaches actually prefer to use skype.  For students in transition, this means that the coaching can remain a constant during the months leading up, during, and after the move.

One of the factors that Fuller Youth Institute has identified as helping highschool students make a success transition to college or university is continued contact with their highschool youth leader*. How much more valuble would  this be for international youth like the ones we work with? They are not only facing the challenges of the transition from high school to college but also the extra pressures of an international move, and entering a “home” country they may not feel at all at home in.

What about you?

What experiences have you had either formally or informally coaching teens? Either as a youth leader or parent?

*A note: I am currently studying at Fuller Theological Seminary. The Urban Youth Ministry program I am doing was created by Fuller Youth Institute. A concept they have spent a lot of time looking at is “sticky faith” – helping students build a faith that lasts beyond high school. More resources here.

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Posted by on April 1, 2011 in Leading Youth, TCKs, Youth Resources


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Tanya’s guest post on Expat Explorer

We wanted to make sure you didn’t miss Tanya’s guest post on Expat Explorer on Friday. It is an overview of TCKs – who they are, and some of the difficulties they face. Here’s a quote from the post:

One of the most distinctive features of TCKs is an uneven maturity. Most of the TCKs I’ve known can fit in wherever they need to – with adults, with teens, in different countries and settings. They acquire external behaviours as they do languages. Body language is just another language to add to their repertoire, with different dialects for different countries. . .

In most monocultural teens, these external behaviours are acquired gradually, over time, as they grow in emotional maturity. In TCKs, these external behaviours are NOT signs of internal emotional maturity. The internal and the external are quite separate. This gulf between internal life and external behaviour creates a great loneliness in many TCKs. Many say that they feel no one understands them – except, perhaps, other TCKs. This makes the pain of the frequent goodbyes to close friends that much more painful.

Expat Explorer is a blog focussed on the expat lifestyle but they’ve done very little on the topic of TCKs. Pop over and take a look, and maybe comment on their blog – let them know what we know: that TCKs rock!

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Posted by on March 8, 2011 in Expat Life, Guest Posts, TCKs


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Reverse culture shock

Apply Gidley is a self-proclaimed “life-long global nomad [who has] never repatriated”. I recently read a piece she wrote for the UK telegraph on the culture shock experienced by those returning “home”, something we often call “reverse” culture shock. Since I recently posted about culture shock, it seemed appropriate to address the other side of the coin. Also a good follow on from recent posts on helping kids say goodbye.

Expatriates and repatriates experience equal doses of culture shock; the distinction is that the latter often don’t expect it. Forums are provided for the expatriate but not always for the repatriate.

Even expats who know about the reverse culture shock phenomenon can be surprised by the strength of it when they return “home”. One woman I know returned home after 6 years abroad with her husband and children. She had heard about reverse culture shock, but honestly didn’t expect it to affect her. She thought their annual visits to their home city were enough to stave off culture shock upon their permanent return. However, a lot had changed in 6 years – everyday things that weren’t apparent on short term holidays.

Repatriation brings about a lifestyle change that can have many repercussions from unsettled children, to jobless spouses and hugely increased expenses to just not feeling at home, at home.

The sense being “different” is common to both the expatriate and the repatriate. When you first move to a new country, the culture is obviously different to your own – you expect things to be different. Upon the return “home”, however, there are two sets of changes.

Firstly, the home culture has changed. The repatriate has missed shared country-wide events, like a natural disaster or change of leadership. Their emotional resonance with such pivotal events in the history of their country will be very different to that of other nationals. The repatriate is also behind on pop culture – something that can greatly affect TCKs going “home”. They aren’t familiar with the same TV shows, movies and musicians that their home country peers are. These missed events and others make the repatriate feel disconnected.

Sometimes it seems as if “home” has changed, or maybe it hasn’t. Maybe it is just that we have changed, grown to incorporate, often without realising, elements of our life abroad.

The overseas experience has also changed the repatriate. They have seen and experienced things their home culture peers have no understanding of. They may speak another language, be accustomed to different food, or enjoy different social activities. Even a year, or even less, spent abroad can widen a person’s horizons so far that they no longer fit in the same “hole” as before. The Mr Roundhead story is a cute illustration of this concept, especially pertaining to TCKs.

New words, often foreign, have joined the family vocabulary that members of the extended family back home have no notion of; and do not understand the reflective mood and quiet smiles those words might bring. They feel shut out, and indeed they are, though not intentionally. Just as we are not excluded intentionally from conversations revolving around the last family get-together, the one we missed because we were climbing Kilimanjaro or maybe just surviving in an alien environment dealing with new schools, new hospitals and so on.

It’s important to remember that this feeling of being left out can go two ways. I lived in the US for two years as a teenager. Upon my return to Australia I talked about what it was like to live in the US. This was natural, since all my experiences from the previous two years happened overseas. Sharing stories is a great way to build familiarity and grow a friendship, but my none of the people I was talking to could relate to my stories. Instead of building closeness, they alienated people.

The repatriate often feels left out, and wants someone to take the trouble to get to know them and their different perspective. It’s important for the repatriate to understand, however, that part of the burden falls to them. They must also try to understand how their home-culture friends see the world.

It takes time to adapt back, just as it took time to adjust to living in a new country. We might be back in the home country but we are looking at it through different eyes and have to allow the same adjustment period as when we expatriated.

It takes time. Just as culture shock is a process that takes time, so is reverse culture shock. The adjustment period will be different for everyone – factors like daily routine, length of time away, and age will all play a part. Each individual will work through it differently. It takes time, and grace, but it doesn’t last forever.

For those working with TCKs, helping them prepare before their return – warning them of some of the struggles they may face, and equipping them to cope – can go a long way in reducing the impact of their reverse culture shock experience. This is especially true of TCKs who go overseas (especially to their own passport country) to attend college; going away as an individual, without the presence of a family sharing the same experience, can make the readjustment harder.

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Posted by on January 28, 2011 in Expat Life, TCKs


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Impossible Choices

I put on a DVD the other night and a line in one the previews grabbed me:

“Make a choice: you’re either Korean, or American.”

Now, I have no idea what movie it was from – I wasn’t paying that much attention – but the line really struck a chord with me. Maybe it was in part because the day before I’d been helping one of my kids prepare college applications.

Pauline was born in America, to Korean-born parents, moved to China at the age of 10, attended a local Chinese school and then an international school; she speaks three languages fluently. Were she forced to choose one piece of her heritage, her culture, what makes her, well, her – how could she?

When Pauline and I go shopping at a local Chinese market we both speak to vendors in fluent Mandarin. They often ask us where we’re from. When I say I’m Australian they nod and smile and maybe say something about kangaroos. Should Pauline say she’s American, she is met with confusion and many follow up questions. If they accept that she has an American passport, they’ll still insist on asking where she’s “really” from. They see my white face and think the label “Australian” fits. They look at her Asian face, however, and think the label “American” doesn’t fit. So Pauline usually answers, after a short pause, that she’s Korean. It’s a good compromise – still a foreigner, but with a label that “fits” an Asian face. It’s not a lie, really, and it’s definitely a lot simpler than explaining a more complicated truth to someone who will struggle to accept it anyway.

Ting is another kid living between labels. She was born in Taiwan, adopted at age 9, lived in the US for two years with her new family (white parents with two older biological sons and three younger daughters adopted from China), before moving to a town outside Beijing. Her US passport lists her name as “Ruth” (with Ting as one of her middle names) but as a newly adopted child who spoke no English, she refused to answer to it. Ting has a US passport, but has lived there only two years of her life; she speaks excellent Mandarin, but with a Taiwanese accent. Ting is American, but that label only tells part of the story.

Ting, Pauline and Tanya eat squid at Nanhu market in 2008

Ting, Pauline and Tanya eat squid at Nanhu market in 2008

Pauline and Ting are just two of many, many kids I know who have struggled with multiple labels, none of which fit them completely. The term “TCK” can be very powerful, and empowering, because it is a category in which a mix of countries, nationalities, and languages makes sense.  When one TCK asks another “where are you from,” they generally aren’t expecting a one word answer. The “third culture” of a “third culture kid” is all about living between labels.

Owning the TCK tag sets kids free from having to make those impossible choices. It’s easier to choose to label yourself differently for different audiences when you have something else to hang on to – a deeper label that is more meaningful, and more accurate.


Posted by on January 26, 2011 in TCKs


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Helping youth deal with the loss of leaving

“Most TCKs go through more grief experiences by the time they are 20 than monocultural individuals do in a lifetime.” David Pollock

Anyone who has lived in an expat community knows that transition, change, and leaving are constants – sometimes the only constants. Whether you are the one leaving, or the one left, it can be painful.

Two guest speakers came to the youth groups in Phnom Penh in early December last year. They spoke about the changes and transitions faced by both the “leavers” and the “stayers.” They spoke on the RAFT model and how that process is an important one to think and act through whether you are a leaver, or a stayed who needs to farewell someone leaving.

They did an excellent job at leading the youth through some guided reflection, but it stirred up in me another thought – mostly that you can say good bye well – but then you are still left to live with the loss.

I think part of what becomes so wearisome is that these changes are constant – a constant stream of hellos to new people and a constant stream of goodbyes to old friends. And as blessed as we to have facebook and skype, nothing can take the place of a hug, a cup of coffee, a late night talk, a shared glance that speaks an entire conversation, the little everyday exchanges that are so important.

I LOVE the movie UP; it shows this so well. The characters are living with loss and grief. The old man has lost his wife and throughout the movie we see him missing her, the sense that “she was supposed to be here.” Russell has also lost his Dad and he mourns the loss of the little everyday things – “I might sound boring, but I miss the boring stuff the most.”

Russell’s new friend learns to see past his own hurt, his own sense of direction, and is willing to have a new adventure with Russell. And at the very end of the movie when he returns home, he joins Russel in watching the cars go by.

When Kris Rocke spoke on pain and loss, he said that it is only by facing our own pain that we are free to enter the pain of others. So I suspect my role as a spiritual caregiver is twofold, (and not only as a spiritual caregiver, but also as a child of God).

  1. Help youth acknowledge their own loss – not only the loss of a friend, but the loss of that friend’s house as a safe place to go, the loss of a group of friends. Sometimes this loss is cumulative; even familiar places can become hard to visit, as it brings with it the reminder of times when others were around. Grief is a process – one that takes time and energy. Unfortunately, at the end of the school year when so many people are leaving,  both time and energy seem to be in short supply. In the midst of exams and end of the year celebrations and goodbye parties, TCKs need to somehow find time to grieve in their own way. As adults, we can model this and be open about our own grief processes.
  2. Help youth move into a place of entering others’ pain – becoming compassionate, caring individuals and remembering that others’ losses are significant. We, and they, can learn to come along side others and give of ourselves. Like the old man in UP how we can move from focusing on our own situation into helping another person in need.

Posted by on January 24, 2011 in Leading Youth, TCKs


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What does “TCK” mean?

“TCK” is a phrase that will be used a lot in this blog. If you don’t have a clue what that means, this post is for you!

The term “Third Culture Kid” (abbreviated to TCK) is attributed to Ruth Hill Useem, a sociologist who lived in India with her husband and three children in the 1950s. TCKs are people who are raised in more than one culture. They are different to immigrants (and their children) in that a TCK does not have an expectation of permanently settling in the host country. The term “third culture” refers to a blend of a child’s home culture (passport country) and of their host culture – a blend that creates a “third” culture”. Another popular term is “Global Nomads”.

These kids do not fully belong in either their passport country OR their host country. TCKs from two different passport countries living in two different host countries will often have more in common with each other than they will with kids from their home cultures. TCKs experience a lot of change and a lot of loss. Even kids who live in the host culture for a long time will experience loss as friends move away.

“Most TCKs go through more grief experiences by the time they are 20 than monocultural individuals do in a lifetime.” David Pollock

TCKs sometimes struggle to answer questions like “Where are you from?” or “Where is your home?”. While some will have a standard answer they give to people, it probably doesn’t fully represent their experience of growing up. Many TCKs simply don’t have a single place that gives them a true feeling of home. They probably have a “home town” in their passport country, but may have little emotional resonance with it since many of their formative years were spent elsewhere. Home could just be wherever they live currently, or perhaps where their parents or other family members live. Or it might be a nostalgic idea of a place they spent much of their childhood, but which they have few current connections to.

TCKs often live rich and rewarding lives, but they also have struggles and challenges. Their joys and struggles are often very different in nature to those of peers in their host country or their passport country, making it difficult to connect. Re-entry is very painful for many TCKs.

“[TCKs] typically will find that they do not fit into the cultural mainstream of the society that they have been raised to consider their own. They often find themselves to be ‘hidden immigrants’ and experience themselves as ‘terminally unique.'” Barbara F. Schaetti and Sheila J. Ramsey

Many TCKs come from high performing families (most have at least one parent with an advanced degree) and with their overseas experiences can contribute a lot to the global community. Unfortunately, resources for TCKs tend to be somewhat fractured. The parent’s sending organisation may provide support, and there may be some form of community available on re-entry (some universities have programs and organisations specifically aimed at returned TCKs), but all too few receive ongoing support targeted to the unique challenges of the TCK life, especially while in their host culture.

“The great challenge for maturing Third Culture Kids is to forge a sense of personal and cultural identity from the various environments to which they been exposed.” Ruth E. Van Reken

If you want to learn more about TCKs, there are plenty of resources available. Here are some good places to start:

  • The wikipedia entry on TCKs.
  • At Home Abroad” is a great article from the New York Times written by a TCK.
  • An article from 1999, “The Global Nomad Experience: Living in Liminality” by Barbara F. Schaetti and Sheila J. Ramsey, can be found on the Transition Dynamics website, along with other good resources.
  • A short (117 page) book by Kay Branaman Eakin tilted “According To My Passport I’m Coming Home” (1998). It focuses mostly on the children of those employed in American foreign service, but is still full of good information and interesting quotes.
  • If you buy one book on TCKs, this is the one to get: “Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds” by David Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken. The updated edition came out in September 2009 but the original has been around for over a decade.

Posted by on March 1, 2010 in TCKs


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