What now: what I would say to you in our home countries and people who work with TCKs:

by mendibpng


I am certain that my particular thoughts may not apply all TCK’s so please feel free to disagree with me…better yet, please feel free to say so in the comments section!

  1. Please don’t put us in a box. I find it really difficult when people make statements like “Oh, you do ….. because you are a Missionary Kid.” or “All missionary kids feel …” or “All missionary kids hate….”  Perhaps it’s the tiny bit individualism in me that doesn’t like to be lumped into one category, but that makes me really frustrated, particularly if the statement isn’t true for me. If I try to argue, then it looks like I’m just in denial with that person’s perception of  ‘truth’. So, let TCK’s tell you about themselves, rather than making statements about them. I am not disturbed by all generalizations, it is more the emphatic ones that I find annoying.
  2. Don’t assume you know why TCKs did something. Depending on how questions are asked in their culture, they may not appreciate being asked directly why they did something a certain way or being asked “couldn’t you just…”  Instead, if you are saying something like “can you help me understand this…” it might come off a little better. (A side note here: my oldest son told me that wouldn’t mind being asked directly but he wouldn’t like it if he felt forced to answer the question!)
  3. If you don’t know TCKs well, please don’t force them to talk about their life. They may take some time to trust you, and asking too many questions initially before they have volunteered the information may not go over well, although I have noticed in some individualistic cultures that asking questions can be a way to show someone that you are interested in them.  This may not apply to all TCKs (see #1!) so you can take this or leave it. You will likely be able to tell by the person’s body language if they are uncomfortable; however, for a people pleaser like me, this is really hard to confront.
  4. Don’t walk on eggshells with your TCK friends. Just be yourself. If you notice your TCK friend lacks some things (like independence) in order to cope with life in your home country, you can provide opportunities to walk through those things with him/her. I guess what I’m trying to say is rather than being a ‘teacher’ the best approach with a TCK is ‘learner.’ One of my friends, who I have learned a great deal from, took that perspective with me early on, and I feel completely safe to say anything to her or ask her advice about things because I don’t feel threatened at all by our differences.
  5. If you have the resources, you can help college students whose families are still on the field. Take them to the grocery store and show them how to go through the self-checkout. ( I still get panic attacks thinking of this task!) Have some clothes ready for them when they arrive in their home country so they don’t feel ‘out of it.’ Take them out to eat.  Just remember, they may not have a lot of experience being ‘out’ or eating in a restaurant so keep that in mind if they step on your cultural norms of doing things. I had a lot of anxieties before I went to college but my sister took me shopping for all of the things I needed in my dorm room and it gave me some relief. At least when you go to college, all the freshmen (first year students) are new!  This is a tiny tangent, but I remember feeling really confused when a girl at college was crying because she left home, 20 minutes away. At the time it cost me $3 a minute to call my parents 1/2 a world away in Indonesia!
  6. This last suggestion is from my wise dad,

    Listen to the MK/TCK’s story and be really interested…how often do the MK/TCK and missionary start to talk about their life in the village or culture of where they have lived and in just a few minutes people drift away uninterested because it is not football or basketball or etc.?  A true friend of a MK/TCK will want to hear their stories.  I heard you gals say that you stopped talking about Indonesia because people were really not interested.”  

Again, my disclaimer: please feel free to disagree with me on any of the things I have written—I am only writing from my own point of view and know that I have a lot to learn. This post is very much my thoughts and not supported by any literature I’ve seen yet. (I’d like to read about it if anyone wants to suggest some!)

This is my last post on this series for now…time to take a break from blogging and rest a little bit! Thank you for joining me on this journey and thank you for your comments and emails! I have really enjoyed the interaction I’ve had with so many people–new friends and old ones!


7 Comments to “What now: what I would say to you in our home countries and people who work with TCKs:”

  1. Mandy and Ben, and all the Pehrson TCKs–I think it’s really true what you said in this blog about treating TCKs as individuals and not lumping them into labeled the categories of “all MKs think that way,” or, “all MKs act that way.”
    When you reflect back that God is The active Creator, that He “wires” us in His particular ways , and that He has created the family and home/country/culture settings we live in, it’s a denial of God’s creativity to label. How much better it is in all our interactions with God’s people to discover the gift and uniqueness each one provides. It’s like discovering or gazing at a new beautiful thing in God’s natural creation that you had never encountered before. I have always felt that way about my daughters and try to view other peoples’ children that same way. Yes, TCK’s have unique lives, but they are still God’s children who respond to the basics of love, understanding, and care. Blessings on you all, (Mandy’s) Mom Anne.

  2. I’m a TCK, mom to 4 TCK’s and a counselor who works with TCK’s. I’m about to make a generalization, so apologies in advance. I’m hoping it helps home-country readers. The single biggest issue I see with TCK’s is grief and unacknowledged loss. And, in my experience anyway, a lot of the need that TCK’s have, to keep mentioning their village, and talking about how wonderful their overseas home was, is connected to that pain. And often there is a real need to have the losses acknowledged and grieved through. And the person is in great grief while also trying to figure out how to buy cereal and toothpaste at Walmart, and transition to college (which is a huge deal for everybody), and spend their holidays with relatives they don’t know, and they can’t get their parents on Skype because the internet connection is a mess in the middle of nowhere. It’s a lot to handle, and often TCK’s have to handle it on their own. Thanks, Mandy, for doing this series. It’s great stuff!

    • Oh, yes Kay, I agree with you. What I was reacting to in my first ‘suggestion’ are statements like “All M.K.’s hate America.” Yes, some may. But others of us may like it or feel ambiguous about it. I do think it’s fair and real to say that we all have “losses acknowledged and grieved through,” like you said. YES. Thank you! If any of you want to read more about issues like grief and loss and how to work through them, I’d highly recommend Kay’s blog http://kaybruner.com/blogs/ It’s really good!!

  3. Mandy, you have said it well. Thanks for helping us to understand TCKs and what makes them tick. God bless!

  4. Some good stuff here. The question that still, at 50, gives me the greatest pause is “Where are you from?” or worse, “Where’s home?” Long pause. “It’s complicated.”

    • that’s a good answer! I think having an answer ready is what helps–I will have to remember this for my kids when we head to the US again in 1.5 years.

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