Third Culture Kid

Third Culture Kid

Third Culture Kid (TCK) refers to individuals who grow up being influenced by three cultures: the heritage culture(s), the host-country culture(s), and the culture of expatriates and other TCKs. Although elements from each culture are assimilated into the TCK’s life and identity, these individuals often have a greater sense of belonging with other TCKs and the international community rather than with the host or heritage culture (Pollock et al., 2010).

Growing up as a Third Culture Kid (TCK) can be a unique and enriching experience, but it also presents its own set of challenges. TCKs are individuals who have spent a significant part of their developmental years in a culture different from their parents’ home culture. This hybrid upbringing often results in a diverse cultural identity, but it can also lead to feelings of rootlessness, identity confusion, and a longing for a sense of belonging. In this article, we will explore the common problems faced by TCKs and discuss strategies to overcome them, ultimately fostering resilience and a strong sense of self.

Identity Crisis and Cultural Confusion:

One of the primary challenges TCKs face is the struggle to define their identity. Growing up immersed in multiple cultures, they often find themselves grappling with questions like “Where do I belong?” and “Who am I?” This identity crisis can be overwhelming and lead to a sense of detachment from any specific culture. To overcome this, TCKs can embrace their unique cultural blend, recognizing it as a strength rather than a weakness. Engaging in self-reflection, exploring their heritage, and connecting with other TCKs can help them develop a robust and multifaceted sense of self.

Transient Lifestyle and Loss of Roots:

Frequent moves and a transient lifestyle are common for TCKs, as their families often relocate due to work or other reasons. This constant uprooting can result in a profound sense of loss and difficulty in forming long-lasting connections. To overcome this challenge, TCKs can focus on building a sense of home within themselves. Developing a strong support network of friends, both within and outside the TCK community, can provide stability and a sense of belonging. Engaging in activities that cultivate personal interests and passions can also create a sense of continuity and purpose, regardless of the physical location.

Emotional and Social Adjustment:

Adapting to new environments, languages, and social norms can be emotionally and socially taxing for TCKs. They may experience a sense of isolation, struggle to make friends, or find it challenging to communicate effectively across different cultural contexts. Developing emotional intelligence and cross-cultural communication skills can be invaluable in overcoming these challenges. A comprehensive systematic review found that

TCK were more open-minded, respectful, and flexible toward other cultures compared to their local counterparts (Gerner et al., 1992) and factors that improved adjustment outcomes were emotional stability (Van Oudenhoven et al., 2007) and self-efficacy (Ittel and Sisler, 2012). Alternatively factors that hinder adjustment were repatriation anxiety (Miyamoto and Kuhlman, 2001) and ambivalent attachment styles.

TCKs can actively seek opportunities to engage with diverse communities, attend cultural events, and participate in volunteer work, fostering empathy and cultural sensitivity.

Educational Transitions and Academic Challenges:

Changing schools and educational systems frequently can disrupt TCKs’ academic progress and pose unique challenges. They may encounter variations in curriculum, teaching styles, or language requirements. To overcome these hurdles, TCKs can cultivate resilience and adaptability. Seeking support from teachers, utilizing online resources, and embracing a growth mindset can help them navigate educational transitions and thrive academically.


Being a Third Culture Kid comes with its share of challenges, but with the right support, mindset and strategies, these challenges can be transformed into opportunities for personal growth and resilience. By embracing their unique cultural background, building strong support networks, and developing adaptable skills, TCKs can navigate the complexities of their upbringing and thrive in an increasingly interconnected world. Ultimately, by embracing their diverse cultural identity while staying true to their core values, TCKs can forge a sense of belonging and create a meaningful and fulfilling life wherever they go.

If these feeling are relatable and you find yourself struggling to feel like you belong, exploring this with a counsellor might help give you a greater sense of who you are and what values you hold close. Ultimately helping you to achieve your full potential.

Monisha Dadlani

Haslberger, A. (2005). Facets and dimensions of cross-cultural adaptation:refining the tools. Pers.Rev. 34, 85-109.doi: 10.1108/00483480510571897

Haslberger, A., and Brewster,C. (2009). Capital gains: expatriate adjustment and the psychological contract in international careers, Hum. Resour.Manage. 48, 379-397. Doi: 10.1002/hrm.2028

Ittel, A,. and Sisler, A. (2012). Third culture kids: adjusting to a changing world. Diskurs Kimdheits-und Jungendforschung/Discourse. J Childh. Adolesc. Es. 7, 21-22. doi:10.3224/diskurs.v7i4.1
Pollock, D. C., Van Reken, R. E., and Pollock, M. V. (2010). Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing up Among Worlds: The original, Classic Book on TCKs. Hachette UK.

Monisha Dadlani & AM Team

MsC., MoC. Member of: ACA, BACP

Please refer to the AM articles page for Elise and the AM Team articles.

Please complete the AMindset intake form to start therapy with an AM team member. Our therapists offer a FREE 20-minute introductory session for new clients.

If you are not quite ready, please click here to subscribe to the AMindset Newsletter with articles and podcasts to learn more about your mental health and how AM can help you.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.



Planning a Baby? Be Proactive not Reactive

Planning a Baby? Be Proactive not Reactive

Planning a baby?

How to be proactive and not reactive 


When planning a family, a couple usually sees their GP or their OB to ensure that they are fit and healthy. They take the necessary blood tests and vitamins, time their cycles and go for scans. Several initiatives are proactively made to care for the physical demands of starting a family. But what is done for the mental preparation of starting a family? 

Having a baby and starting a family might be the next natural step, but becoming a parent is a major life milestone for all. Having a baby is probably one of the most life-changing events you can experience.

During pregnancy, the focus is primarily on ensuring you are eating right and the baby is growing well. There is usually little mental preparation on how priorities, values, and expectations will shift (sometimes dramatically). This shift may take others by surprise, including family, partners, employers and friends. It is important to understand that this is a normal part of making the transition to parenting, and will likely come with a wide range of emotions, from excitement and joy to ambivalence and fear. Because the process ties strongly with our expectations of ourselves and what our life will be like, it is important to explore the changes and what they might mean.

For some people, this can bring up many challenges. The decision may involve serious discussions about what life will look like regarding work, childcare and shared values. These are important conversations to have, and working through them with a counsellor can be helpful. The right counsellor will provide a safe space for you to unpack your thoughts and unspoken fears, help you each to consider your belief systems about having children, and even enable you to understand feelings you may not have addressed.

Counselling can be for individuals or couples. I have counselled women who step into pregnancy because they think it is something they must do to reach “the next step” or because their partner wants them to. Many of these women find the transition difficult because the changes feel like big sacrifices that they did not sign up for. Losing their identity, giving up working to manage a home, and living in a body that doesn’t feel like their own are just a few issues that, when addressed and discussed, help to mentally prepare and accept the transition. If couples are present in therapy together, then sometimes, when the other partner hears these underlying fears or concerns, they may be able to reassure their partner that things could be different and more positive for them.

Preparing mentally and emotionally before and during pregnancy can reduce the risk of mood disorders, including antenatal and postpartum anxiety and depression. According to the NHS, 25 per cent of women will experience stress and anxiety during pregnancy, and approximately 80 per cent of new mothers experience mood swings, sadness or anxiety soon after childbirth. Whether or not you feel prepared to start a family, it’s hard to know exactly how you might feel once your baby arrives, so some helpful tips to help to prepare mentally for this new transition include:

  • Manage expectations – understand that the media portrayal of “perfect pregnancy” is a facade and that all transitions come with some bumps along the way.
  • Connect with your partner – Spend time doing fun things with your partner while also making space for important conversations.
  • Establish parenting values – What is important? What do the individual parenting roles look like? Understanding these values will also clarify how important decisions are made regarding how finances are managed, what activities you want your child to engage in and where holidays are spent. It’s far easier to have these discussions on different parenting topics before and far more difficult when you’re stressed and sleep-deprived.
  • When to Worry – Discuss each other’s fears. Fear has a way of activating our nervous system in unhealthy ways. Bringing fears out in the open helps build a deeper understanding of how to support one another. Unmanaged fear is closely associated with anxiety and depression. Set aside a block of time solely devoted to nailing down what, specifically, about the situation or possible outcome is evoking fear or stress. Doing so allows you to appraise the actual concern realistically and also allows for problem-solving.
  • Overestimate recovery time – It took you nine months to get here; give yourself nine months to return. Societal pressures of bouncing back post-pregnancy are not only unrealistic but also stressful. 
  • Try to sleep – no good decisions are made when sleep deprived. Most parents are not truly prepared for the chaos without some good sleep. As much as possible, plan ways to ensure that you get rest after the baby arrives. Enlist help from your partner, family, a paid specialist such as a night nurse, or friends. If you can take a break and rest, you’ll be better able to care for your baby in the long run.
  • Build social bonds – Create a tribe of people who can support and listen to you. This can be both in-person or online. Take time to see friends and pursue passions or hobbies to help retain a sense of self. This can start off by being something small you do for yourself. Read a book, meditate, listen to music, meet a friend for lunch or get a massage. Something that is just for you. 

We have been taught to believe parenting is intuitive. It is not; it is a learned skill. It starts by working on yourself. by Monisha Dadlani

See more about Monisha

If you would like to speak with a counsellor about how Monisha or AMindset can support you, please contact us.