Understanding Third Culture Kids

Learning happens best in a community of emotional safety and a climate of mutual support.

American School of the Hague was delighted to recently welcome Ruth van Reken, international expert and world-renowned co-author of Third Culture Kids, The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds.

April 18th of this year saw Ruth sharing a full day with the students, parents and staff of American School of the Hague, discussing what it means to be a Third Culture Kid and how families and teachers can help children that are moving from one country to another through the transition process. A Third Culture Kid is defined as “someone who, as a child, has spent a significant period of time in one or more culture(s) other than his or her own, thus integrating elements of those cultures and their own birth culture into a third culture.”

In this increasingly global world, we and our children travel more frequently and can live in second, third and often more locations, learning the language and culture of each of the countries we move to. What does this mean for our children – what nationality are they and what do they call home? Figuring
out where home is and understanding that each family member may feel at home in a different country is no small task.

Today’s transient population – students, parents and teachers alike – can feel disorientated and lonely, dealing with the loss of friends and family they leave behind or who have moved away, facing cross-cultural confusion, or experiencing misunderstandings or conflicts within their new learning situations and living environments.

American School of The Hague has a long-standing, tried and tested approach towards supporting families and staff through this type of transition, under their umbrella group of volunteers and committees, called A Safe Harbour. The members of A Safe Harbour work hand-in-hand to help each member of the school community with all aspects of arriving, orienting themselves, integrating and departing. The main objective: to help maximize the opportunities that are inherent in the experience of international relocation and cross-cultural mobility. New families are welcomed by parent ambassadors from their own country, new students are paired up with a student ambassador prior to their arrival so they can learn more about daily life at the School and in the Netherlands, and most importantly, goodbyes are handled with as much care and attention as the hello’s – as the key to a good arrival at your next destination is, of course, a good departure.

With more than 68 nationalities learning and working together at the School, helping ASH community members figure out how to enjoy the many benefits and manage the challenges of growing up multi-culturally, is just part of daily life at the School.

Hosting guest speakers and workshops are just a few of the ways in which American School of The Hague aims to address the unique needs of each of its students. The day of workshops with Ruth van Reken culminated in a fascinating panel discussion with a group of Third Culture Kids, students from the High School, who shared their views on the challenges and opportunities they face in their increasingly mobile worlds. Interestingly enough, some of the younger students were the ones who came up with a simple, but valuable, solution when faced with the prospect of deciding which country to represent on International Day at the School – one student was heard to say that he would be Dutch this year and Irish next year. We should all take note that, sometimes, complex issues can be addressed in the most simple of ways.

American School of The Hague nurtures and inspires character, commitment, creativity, and learning

Rijksstraatweg 200
2241 BX Wassenaar
070 – 512 10 80

Lesley Murphy
2011 Summer

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