Turkey Kalkan Roads

EXPAT KID: Help your expat kid in a Global Pandemic!

Your Road Map to Working through Culture Stress with Your New TCK (aka- Third Culture Kid)

September is well underway, which means that a new school year is upon us. This year in particular, school may look very different from years prior. You may find that your kids tire quickly, are more easily frustrated, and gravitate towards their comfort items more.

*[Ahem… You may notice that you do as well!]

One of the reasons for this is with so much changing in the day to day ways we interact with our world (geez, thanks COVID-19) that our brains no longer work on “auto-pilot” and now have to spend more energy to make decisions. 

The same is true for those entering a new culture, which is why this blog post is helpful for not only ex-pats raising TCKs (Third Culture Kids), but also all parents during the coronavirus pandemic.

This concept is explored more in this article shared about how the stress of living through the COVID-19 pandemic is comparable to culture shock.  Also, I recently read Lauren Wells’ book “Raising Up a Generation of Healthy Third Culture Kids” and I highly recommend it for any parent of a TCK.

In this post, I want to share a guide for working through culture stress with TCKs that I learned from this book and from my research and observations of TCKs in general.

Read on for your 3 tips to work through culture stress with your TCK.

Turkey Kalkan Roads

What’s the destination for TCK? What is the goal of working through culture stress?

The first step to reaching any destination is knowing where we are going. The goal of working through culture stress with our children is that in the end, our children are integrated aTCKs who love diversity, are highly adaptable, resilient, and emotionally healthy

Let me break down what I mean by that a bit.

  • Integrated: our kids are a part of the community in which we live, they have a place and feel a sense of belonging and capability in their environment.
  • Love of diversity: one day our children will be adults who either fear or are excited by diversity. In working through culture stress with our TCKs, we are teaching them to become people who see the beauty and effectiveness of diversity, and who cultivate diversity in the spaces they occupy. 
  • Highly adaptable: by teaching our kids how to adapt to their new culture, we are giving them tools to adapt to any culture and any circumstance that life may throw their way.
  • Resilient: children are not naturally resilient in the way we often assume. They have to be taught resilience, and that’s where parents, caregivers, teachers, and mentors come in! We can teach our kids how to handle difficult situations.
  • Emotionally healthy: Children who can name and regulate their emotions will become adults who are not ruled by their emotions.

Now, how do we get there? 

A destination is a good place to start, but without a plan, it’s very hard to arrive where we want to go. So what is the “roadmap” to reach the goal stated above?

Below I walk you through 3 tools that will enable you to reach that goal.

1. Prevention: 

“An ounce is better than a pound of cure,” the saying goes. And it’s true!

Having a car that has been maintained properly makes getting to your destination SO much easier, and prevents innumerable disasters that could come up along the way. 

But what does prevention look like for culture stress?

The most important thing is to have systems in place to talk about feelings without invalidating those feelings, but teaching kids to work through emotions in a healthy way.

What does that look like?

  • Make space for kids to voice their needs and listen to what they’re really saying.
  • Have a time during the day when you check in with each of your kids; what are they experiencing, and how do they feel about it?
  • Practice asking good questions of your kids and really listening to their answers.
  • Maybe every night at dinner, everyone in the family shares the high and low points of their day.

Another prevention tool is helping your kids set expectations. Verbally prepare your children when you are going into a new situation, and give them ways to appropriately communicate their feelings to you.

  • Maybe your self-conscious child gets stared at for their different skin or eye color when you walk to school with her, or even has her skin or hair touched by strangers.
  • Maybe your sensitive child gets overwhelmed by the all the sights, sounds, smells and textures of the market.

As much as possible, give them a way to know what to expect and how to communicate what they are feeling in those moments with you. Of course, since you are also still learning what to expect in your host country, it is important to do the work of learning together.

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2. Partnership:  

When I’m taking a road trip, I always prefer having someone with me, experiencing things alongside me, helping me navigate my way to the next pit stop, and just for the company on what could otherwise be a lonely ride. 

The same is true of entering a new culture.

We can do the work of being a student of our host culture together, alongside our children, rather than excluding them.  Talk about your observations of the culture with your kids, being careful not to pass ethnocentric judgment. “What is something you’ve noticed today that happened differently than you expected?”

We can learn together how to navigate this new way of life, and present it as an exciting opportunity for our children.  You may be surprised…kids are incredibly observant! Two (or three or five) heads are better than one. Your kids can be great assents to your own culture-learning process, and you to theirs, if you partner together in this opportunity. 

Also, help build a community for your kids with local friends who can help you and your kids learn more about the culture you’re adjusting to. Making friends with families with kids similar ages as your own can be helpful in allowing the whole family to enjoy time together in your host language and culture, making your kids feel more at home in their new culture.

Basically, the more you can do together, the better!

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3. Parroting: 

Teaching by modeling to your kids is like giving them a clear map with a highlighted route, or clear road signs that show our kids what to expect ahead. 

When it comes to parenting, you already know: much more is caught than taught.

With regard to cultural learning, it is especially important to remember this. Your response to culture stress informs the way your children will respond to culture stress in a greater way than the way you tell them to respond to culture stress.

In other words, kids are much more likely to “parrot” your responses to the culture, whether they are positive or negative. When you are frustrated with the stress of the overwhelming feeling of just wanting one thing in your life to feel normal again, remember to be careful with how you respond. 

Be honest with your kids about your feelings: “Mom is feeling frustrated right now because I’m still learning to navigate the systems in this culture. But I’m going to take a few deep breaths and try again tomorrow.” Narrate your own feelings as well as your child’s, and remind them (and yourself) that emotions in themselves are not bad, but are indicators to us, like road signs.

Just because we are frustrated with the way our host culture does something, doesn’t mean that your feelings or the culture are wrong. The more we can identify our emotions without attributing blame to our host cultures, the more healthily we can interact (and model interactions for our kids) with our host culture.

This also works with narrating your kids’ emotions. “It seems to me that you are disappointed right now. Would you like to talk about what you were expecting and what happened instead?” Keeping the door open for communication is key to parenting, and especially when navigating a new culture. 

Let’s sum it up!

The more we learn to read the road signs, the more aware we become of our subconscious beliefs and motivations. Using these three tools of Prevention, Partnership, and Parroting will ultimately, enable your TCK (AND you too) to become the most emotionally healthy TCK they can be!

Your Turn!

  • Do you have TCKs?
  • What do you find is most helpful when working through culture stress with them?
  • What books have you read on the topic?
  • What from this blogpost have you found most helpful?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Nia McRay from @Tastes_Like_Turkey

I am a lover of words and stories, student of culture, amateur photographer, adult cross-cultural kid, English tutor to TCKs (Third Culture Kids), and aspiring foodie. We will probably be instant friends if you give me good coffee, invite me to cook with you, or start a conversation with me about personalities, culture, and how the two intersect. I’m a life-long nerd, believer, and creative-in-the-works. I am all about the journey, so traveling and cross-cultural living is always something that has captured my heart and inspired my imagination. 

In 2016, after teaching in an inner-city school and needing a change of pace, I spent a year abroad in Izmir, Turkey with a friend. I absolutely fell in love with the city and the people. The conveniences of a big city with a friendly, slow-pace-of-life atmosphere is all found between the mountains and the sea. What’s not to love? So, after my year of adventure, I knew I wanted to come back to Izmir to live. 

Positioned on the perch of Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, Turkey is both a mix of cultures, and a unique culture all its own. The more I learn, the more I want to learn, and this desire to learn is what drives me to write. As a pretty quiet person, I write to learn, to discover, and to process. As someone who grew up in a cross-cultural context, Turkey’s diversity and mix of cultures is something I personally relate to. Plus, if you’ve ever tasted Turkish food, you know that it is definitely something to write home about. I’m really grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the Funks’ blog and to grow and learn in the process.

IZMIR: 5 Things to do in Izmir, Turkey

Note: This article was originally guest-posted for Yabangee.

Having lived in Izmir for over a year, I can say that I truly love the expat life here. Many people ask what the city is like and if it is worth visiting. And my answer? YES!

Istanbul or Cappadocia fare better in terms of tourism, but Izmir has things to do that are true to Turkish culture without having to fight the crowds. Also, the people of this lovely city are known for their friendliness and open-mindedness towards foreigners. If visitors are looking for the culture and experience of meeting with locals to truly understand what makes Turkey so wonderful, Izmir is your go-to location.

Here are just a few of the things you can do in Izmir.

Izmir Chronicles: Izmir is Worth Visiting (Part I)

Visit Izmir Clock Tower
Konak is home to one of the most distinctive landmarks in the city, the Clock Tower. Built in 1901, the white marble tower and North African style patterns on the columns marks the 25th year of Ottoman sultan Abdulhamid II’s reign. Additionally, Konak’s established touristic center of Izmir offers historical mosques and many small streets with cafes, restaurants, and bars.

Shop ’til You Drop at Kemeraltı Market
Kemeraltı is the little ‘Grand’ Bazaar of Izmir. Anyone who has been to the noisy, maze of stalls in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul will prefer this one after a quiet, calm visit! Still a massive maze of stalls, find traditional Turkish gifts and more for a cost much less than Istanbul. Kemeraltı is also full of great, inexpensive restaurants. On a hot day, enjoy a fresh squeezed juice for around $1 in the nearby juice stalls.

Ride the Asansör
Asansör, which literally means elevator, was the first elevator built in 1907 to help people travel between the top of the cliff to the seaside. Just a 20 minutes stroll from Konak square, reserve a table for a sunset dinner at the top of the Asansör. The delightfully classy Italian cafe not only provides one of the best views in Izmir, but the prices are very reasonable as well.

Stroll the streets of Kadifekale
Kadifekale, or Velvet Castle, built by Alexander the Great into the Izmir hillside provides panoramic views across the city both towards the seaside and the land. Travel by taxi up the monstrous hill to the historic site to have more energy to explore the old walks and towers. Requiring less of the imagination than the ruins of Smyrna, visitors can see the layout of the castle while enjoying a bit of shopping in the shade of the tall trees. Walk back down the long hill or take a taxi again if you prefer.

Photo by Catie Funk

Be a Local and Drink a Beer by the Shore
Whether you are in Alsancak or Karşıyaka, this is Izmir! Gençler, or young people, can be found sitting along the seaside enjoying the breeze at the end of a hard work day. Friends and families picnic or drink a beer while others enjoy a walk or bike ride. Free concerts provide entertainment throughout the year.

Izmir’s gems are easily overlooked. However, once visitors engage in the history of this coastal city, visitors discover places and activities not offered anywhere else in Turkey. Its secrets lie with the locals and give visitors the best experience of Izmir. While exploring the areas of Izmir, don’t forget a mid-morning snack on a gevrek or two, a traditionally brewed coffee in a small cafe, and a peaceful stroll along the Kordon.

I would love to hear from you! Comment below or on the video answering one of the following questions:

1. Have you been to Izmir?
2. What sites did you see?
3. What did you find interesting?

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ADOPTION: The Funks are adopting!

We have some big news to share with everybody!

Are you ready?

We’re adopting!

That’s right!

So let’s start at the beginning where is the beginning…. oh, goodness, where’s the beginning?  

I’m gonna chat about 3 things:

    1. Why we want to adopt
    2. Why we want to adopt now
    3. What that process will look like for us

Why we want to adopt

Let’s start with why we want to adopt in the first place. Both of us, even before we knew each other – before we started dating or got married, we’ve both had a desire to adopt. If you ask my parents if you ask anybody who knows me well, it’s always been something that I have had a passion for and have desired to do in the future. A desire to add to your family, not from just biological kids but adding through adoption. Taking care of other children and have them in your home, to become part of your family, is something that I’ve always wanted to do. Also, we hope to be able to make a better, lifelong change for a child who, through no fault of their own, lost their family or their family couldn’t provide for them.  We hope to provide for a child like that and give them a hope in the future – a safe place to grow up.

This desire for adoption is also something that’s really important to us in our faith. We believe that God adopted us as His children, and likewise, we too are called to provide and adopt other people into like our lives and into our homes – one way to do that is through adoption

Why we want to adopt now

Currently, we don’t have any children of our own and it is something that we do desire and hope one day we will have. However,\ at the same time, we have wanted to have adopted children. Whichever one comes first for us is just as equally exciting. Since we’re of the age where we want to have children and we want to start a family, we know too that the adoption process can take a while. These factors lead us to decide that now is a good time to start the process.

We knew that the adoption could take awhile and we thought: Well, if we know we want to adopt sometime in the future and if it’s going to take a few years maybe to actually finish the adoption, we should just start the process now so that in a few years you know we’re further down the trail and we can keep going with it.

Last fall (2017) we started talking about it more seriously and I, in my usually excited nature, have a way of getting way ahead of Jason. To be fair though, I have been asking Jason if we can go ahead and adopt kids since we got married.  Basically, I’ve been fixated on it for quite some time, knowing now is the time for sure that we should move forward.  Regardless of my intuition, I had coasted really far down the road of researching all of these agencies and knowing everything about everything about adoption, and Jason had barely done any research. Jason had to tell me to stop and remind me that we need to make this decision TOGETHER.

From that discussion, we decided to read a book about adoption it’s called Adoptive For Life. The book was really helpful for us to learn about adoption and helped us talk through what type of adoption we should pursue. After reading it we decided, “okay, let’s let’s do this!”

Thankfully, we found some fellow expats who both live in Turkey and adopted. Per their agency recommended and our research, we applied to use them. Since we’re living overseas and this agency knows how to work with people overseas, it seems like a great fit so far.  

What that process will look like for us

The process of adoption looks different for everyone. While there are lots of reasons people go with domestic or international, we have chosen to go through an international adoption instead of a domestic adoption. From reading the book together and talking about adoption together, we felt that while we are living in Turkey, adopting from a nearby country would be absolutely great and easier for us.  

I’ll share a lot more specifics about the adoption as we go along, both via videos first then transcribe it to a post like this one. Right now we’re still pretty early in the process and so there’s a lot of things we just don’t know yet. Some of those being:

    1. we don’t know we don’t know how long it’s may take
    2. we don’t know who the kids are
    3. how many kids we’re going to adopt (yes, we get to decide!)

We are really excited about the adoption and there are going be ways that y’all can support us through this journey. We asked right now for your support and your encouragement.  

As well we hope to encourage other people too who want to adopt – especially those who live overseas. We hope you will consider. Just because you live in another country, doesn’t mean that you can’t adopt.

***Watch a video of our announcement HERE.

 

Questions for you folks out there! I want to hear from you!

Have you adopted before?

Do you hope to adopt in the future?

Any positive words or tips you have for us as we go through this process?

 

Note about adoptions in Turkey: Adopting from Turkey is basically impossible for us. That being said, we didn’t even try to adopt from the Turkish system, and we don’t actually know if it’s impossible for us. We’ve heard from many other people who have lived here as expats that adopting from Turkey that is extremely difficult, if not impossible. Some of the rules make it hard for even Turks to adopt.  However, it can be possible to have a private foreigner to foreigner adoption through the courts, but it is not easy to come by. It is something we hope to be considered for in the future.

Share our news via Pinterest for others to join in on our journey!

RAMBLINGS: Are systems and workflows truly productive?

(Welcome to Day 1 of a 31 day challenge to write 500 words or more.  For more on that click here:  goinswriter.com)


Running together is like, his least favorite thing to do. But talking while running is worse which usually means I promise not to talk to him if we run together.

Yet, my loving husband found himself on a run with his wife NOT listening to his podcast like he prefers but instead, once again was helping me process how to be more productive with my work/life balance.

He was encouraging me while doing the thing he least loves, twice over.

You see, I was yet again discouraged and hard on myself for not staying on task and in return not making very much progress to my to-do list. It’s not the first time we have had this conversation and in fact, I thought I WAS doing well at it. That morning, instead of writing, I found myself finishing my Christmas Card list, Christmas shopping, and spent way to much time on my phone.

How did I get distracted when I had started with such good intentions?

We work backwards…

How did I start on the Christmas Card list? I was looking for Christmas gift and remembered I needed to send the card list to my sister.

How did I think about the Christmas gifts?  Jason has sent me text message thanking me for taking care of the gifs.

Message = Trigger

Ugh. Totally not his fault.

But really what has started this problem was I was ALREADY distracted before starting to write. WHY? My phone. I usually bring my phone out of my room and jump straight onto everything that I missed while I was sleeping 9 hours ahead of the states.

Real Trigger = Opening my phone before I finish my morning routine.

Other Trigger = NOT moving from my reading chair to my work area.

So we had this conversation about creating routines and systems to help me ‘have a plan’ and ‘know exactly what do to’.

 

Here are the questions that continually plague my mind:

How does a distracted and jumbled mind work productively?

How do you move past feelings to do your hard projects?

How do you tackle projects that seem too big to manage?

What is the trigger to keep me from doing the things I need to do? Is it environment? Is it my phone? Do I just say yes to every thought that comes to mind?

How do you move past wanting to take care of tasks that trigger my thoughts… that I want to do but can wait until later?

 

It seems SOOOO SIMPLE.

Just do them…

Just start your big project…

Just forget about feelings and move forward.

Just start…

But sometimes it IS NOT ENOUGH.

and

Sometimes, we are, *um* I am like a 5-year-old and can’t seem to resist the temptations, like NOT looking at my phone… or Instagram… or anything else.

 

So you know what? I am starting to put the Triggers out of hands reach. 

What does that even mean?

 

Here are a few guidelines I will work on to help create triggers and boundaries:

I will leave my phone in my room until I finish my morning routine and 1-hour writing.

I will start my writing at my desk or dining table.

I will start changing environments for different task –

  • Consider using a coffee shop right after Turkish lessons to do my homework so I don’t put it off.
  • Consider another writing location for Monday’s and Friday when I do most of my writing.

I will create a task list the night before to know what my next morning will look like

I will place that task list in front of me so I know what my top 3 are for the day.

I will have a list of random thoughts that come to mind while I am working.

 

Who’s with me???


Questions for you:

Who else has this problem?

Who will keep me accountable?

What tips do you have for me?

2017 FunkTravels Catie Funk Singapore Fisherman's Wharf

GOING HOME SERIES: 6 ways to make your expat visit ‘home’ more enjoyable (Part 1)

If this is your first time living in another country, you maybe find yourself going through reverse culture shock when you return home. It is possible that feelings of frustrations and bitterness towards friends and family who may not have kept up with your life abroad.  You may also find it hard to explain the culture and life you have lived in for the last year. Because culture and questions about everyday life usually overshadow the conversations, the harder it will be sharing the deeper more meaningful moments that happened to you. In addition, personally, I have found the longer you live abroad, the less you want to talk about the small details of culture anyways.

Because culture and questions about everyday life usually overshadow the conversations, the harder it will be sharing the deeper more meaningful moments . Click To Tweet

If you are just wanting to prepare for a better return trip to your native country, preparation is key. Know that you are returning back to your native home where life has moved on without you. While you may consider your transition to be harder or greater, remember that your friends and family have also conquered their own battles. And if they have never visited your new home (or traveled much), the questions may be harder to form. Generally, the offense is unintentional.

While you may consider your transition to be harder or greater, remember that your friends and family have also conquered their own battles Click To Tweet

With preparation, expats can adjust their expectations of their friends and family back home. With even more prep, they can adjust expectations of themselves and how to help the conversations move toward the direction they need as well. 

2017 FunkTravels Catie Funk Singapore Cruise Tour

Here are 6 ways you can help those back ‘home’ understand better:

  1. Think of what questions they will ask you when you get back. (ex. What is the best and worst thing about living overseas, etc.)

Much to Jason’s sadness, I am a reflector and evaluator – see here and here (link to review post). I love setting goals even if I can’t achieve them. I like to see what we have done over the past year. All this means that we do a lot of questions answering ourselves about the good, the bad, and the ugly. In turn, it has made going home much easier because we don’t have to think about the answers to the question others will ask us!

And now, much to your advantage, I also wrote a list of them here. Take these questions and work through them alone or as a family. If your friends or family are thoughtful with their questions, your answers should be respectfully thoughtful in return.

  1. Short answers that answer the questions swiftly.

A friend of mine spent a summer in Africa, and in 6 short weeks, she grew into such a different person. Upon arriving home, she spent the next 48 hours (minus sleeping hours) talking about all that happened and what she learns. Unfortunately for her (and us), we probably tuned out about 1 hour into it.  Your friends and family are capable of lengthy discussion, but sometimes without the context to understand all you are sharing, it could be hard for them to follow along. So instead of talking about what the 30 types of olives are at the weekly market, consider talking about the market and that there are olives there. Help build a base so later you can go deeper.

Help build a base so later you can go deeper. Click To Tweet

  1. Short stories can be powerful.

Sometimes you only have 5 minutes with friends. Those passing meeting can be some of the most rewarding conversations if you prepare for them!  The usually questions begin: “You’re back! Where are you living now? Do you like it there? and how are you?” Instead of just saying “Ummm… good. It’s great”, consider a different approach.

The company I was a part of my first international move shared a great tip for expat returning home. For more meaningful short interactions, prepare 4-5 3 minutes stories that have grown you over the last year to year. Your friend says, ” How are you?” You may say, “ok” OR you can say “Actually, I have a 2 minute story to tell you about how I have learned to…. in the past year. Do you want to hear it?” Then proceed with your story.

For more meaningful short interactions, prepare 4-5 3 minutes stories that have grown you over the last year to year. Click To Tweet

 

2017 FunkTravels Catie Funk Singapore Merlion

 

  1. Plan to visit people before you get to the states.

When we first booked our 4 weeks in the states, I thought, “oh, we have plenty of time!” The first week in Louisiana felt too short, then halfway through the 2nd week in Iowa, I melted down about how we didn’t have enough time! Our problem wasn’t enough time. Our problem was not planning ahead and we assumed people would contact us or make time for us. Remember: Your friends, while they want to see you, are busy with their normal lives! If you really want to meet with people, reach out to the most important ones first. Then if there are others, meet them in groups or with other people as well.

  1. Make a mini photo book and have it ready to show people

Walgreens ran a free mini photo book (maybe 40 pictures) sale right after our wedding and I bought one for all the parents in our family and ourselves. That first summer we traveled to Turkey together for the first time and saw old friends. That photo book was so handy and I whipped it out every time we talked about our wedding. I regret to tell you I did no such thing this last visit to the states. We assume this day in age, that our social media lives are followed by everyone and that all should know what we did during our expat year. But unfortunately, that is not the case and honestly, people just forget. Having a photo book is a natural and easy way to share your lives visually with others. (Read more ways to document your time abroad.)

We assume this day in age, that our social media lives are followed by everyone and that all should know what we did during our expat year. Click To Tweet

  1. Give others AND yourselves grace.

No matter how long you spend visiting your home country, time escapes all of us. There will always be places we did go, things we didn’t do, and people we didn’t see.  And in fact, I would suggest that you do have that list of what you did and things you are thankful for while you visit. Your time home also needs to refresh you and help you process your time living in another country. So be ok with saying no and instead, resting for a day, going out to a movie or just staying home to spend time with your expat family.

 

  • Do you live in another country other than your native one? If so, where?
  • What ways do you prepare before going back to your native country?
  • Which one of this 6 tips stuck out to you?

 

Like this post? Share with a friend on Pinterest!

 

 


 

P.S. – This is the first post of a 6 part series called EXPAT GOING HOME SERIES. Stay tuned for the following articles: