It is now common for children to travel overseas with their parents on holidays, but what about children who live and travel internationally? Global Nomad Kids are young people whose parents are in professions that require them to move outside of the country they were born, and to move frequently throughout their childhoods.
What makes a Global Nomad Kid different?
Global Nomads have a strange connection to their citizenship country, especially if they have not really lived there. Global Nomad Kids often have a confused sense of identity, whereby they feel their “home”, may not be where they were born. Global Nomads are exposed to a number of cultures and gain valuable experiences by moving around. They learn how to adapt to new surroundings, gain language skills, develop an understanding and respect for different cultures, and get a unique education from their international upbringing. Global Nomad Kids also have the advantage of making friends all over the world.
What difficulties do Global Nomads experience?
Difficulties faced by Global Nomad Kids may include; trouble finding a sense of belonging, not feeling able to set down and grow strong roots or friendships, feeling disconnected from others, feeling helpless and not in control of where they are, feeling alienated in a new culture and grieving for the lost cultures and places they have been separated from.
A big question that Global Nomad Kids face is “where are you from?” Often a Global Nomad has spent a limited amount of time in their passport country and feels more connected to their host country. Despite the bond, the Global Nomad Kid cannot fully own the identity of their host country, maybe due to not speaking the language, or not having the expected racial appearance. This means that while the Global Nomad feels a connection with the place they live, they may also experience a sense of alienation from it.
What do Global Nomads Kids say?
When interviewing Karina, a nineteen year old half British, quarter Chinese, quarter Filipino girl, who grew up in Hong Kong, I asked her if she thought she would ever live in the United Kingdom, which is where her father is from, and where his side of the family still lives.
She replied that she wouldn’t, as she doesn’t “feel British”. This is a common sentiment held by children suspended between different cultures, especially those of mixed race or those who have spent years of their childhood outside the country of their birth.
(Click here to see the full interview on Facebook)
Being a Global Nomad can be quite overwhelming and upsetting, and expatriate parents need to be aware that the experience of starting a new life in a new country may be a difficult process.
Preparing the young Global Nomad for their next move:
- Keep anxiety levels low by communicating with your child and letting them know, with as much advanced warning, when you may move.
- Allow them some time to farewell their friends and favourite places and perhaps help them collate a special box of pictures and memories so that they may have comforting objects nearby.
- Let them know that they can come back and visit their friends, or help them set up an email account or social networking account to allow them to keep in touch.
- Help them research the new destination and find out fun things you can do as a family, or activities they can become involved in when they first arrive. This may lead to some new friends and can help ease the transition.
Being a Global Nomad Kid means being bonded to a special group of people who have had similar experiences. Though it can be a hard process and may take some time to get used to, the cultural exchange experienced by Global Nomads and their different host countries is invaluable.
Remember to include your child in discussions, and listen to their fears or concerns about the change of environment. It may be that what their really afraid of or sad about, is something you can explain or talk through.
Join the discussion at the Quirky Kid Huddle!
There are a number of websites and forums about Global Nomads which you and your child could explore together which may help to make them feel less isolated. Some of these will be listed on the Quirky Huddle, as well as the full interview with Karina.
We would love to discuss with you your Global Nomad Kid stories, or techniques you’ve used to make transitions between countries easier for your child.
This article was written by Paris Herbert-Taylor, Quirky Kid Creative Writer
Source Mary Langford’s Chapter Global Nomads, Third Culture Kids and International Schools from International education: principles and practice (1998). http://www.tckid.com/. Radio discussion of Third Culture Kids hosted by Richard Aedy http://www.abc.net.au/rn/lifematters/stories/2009/2583257.htm