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Interview with Dr. David Pollock, Director of Interaction International, Inc. 

By Beverly D. Roman, Publisher, BR Anchor Publishing.

BR: Many people are confused by the term TCK. Would you describe a TCK for our readers?

DP: In order to understand the term TCK (Third Culture Kid), one must first understand the concept of the third culture. Living abroad for an extended time changes one sufficiently so that individuals are no longer as they would have been had they stayed in their home country (the first culture) but neither are they like the people in their host country (the second culture). The result is that they form a new community of people that we call the third culture and the children from that community are third culture kids. Thus, a third culture kid is an individual who has spent a significant part of the developmental years (0 to approximately 18) in a culture other than the parent's culture.

BR: What do you see as the biggest challenges for teens moving to a different country?

DP: Certainly one of the great challenges is leaving friends. During the teen years individuals develop their sense of identity, which is usually related to their friends. To leave those friends is a loss of a sense of security, well being and affection, as well as the loss of the security of knowing what to do, when to do it and having the information and "social currency" to relate well to one's peers. With loss always comes the issue of grief and the intensity of those relationships predicts the level of grief that one will experience. In addition, they have another challenge in learning another culture including language, customs and cultural rules.

BR: What do you consider the key elements for teens and preteens to prepare to leave their friends, settle into a new location and return to their home country?

DP: Preparing teens and preteens involves the whole process of deciding to leave right. Leaving right involves four very basic issues that I refer to as the RAFT model: Reconciliation of conflicts, Affirmation of important relationships, Farewells performed in culturally appropriate ways and Thinking realistically and positively about one's destination. Key to learning well in a new culture is being a willing learner and having a good mentor, one who explains the culture in detail and who represents and introduces the newcomer to people living in the community. Returning to one's home country requires the same process (building the RAFT) and having good mentors. Whichever direction people move (going overseas or returning to a home country) it is important that they recognize that there will be new things to learn and adjustments to be made in order to fit into either place.

BR: How can parents best assist their children in transitions?

DP: Parents can strongly encourage children and provide opportunities for them to build the RAFT. Making certain that "rights of passage" are observed (graduations, farewell parties, etc.) assist children as well. However, for most teens, the greatest help can be an understanding and patient parent who listens well and empathizes with the pain the teens are experiencing.

BR: What are the best support systems that you suggest for expatriate and repatriate families?

DP: Take advantage of expatriate written materials, workbooks, videos, transition seminars and the like that are provided when moving into a new place and repatriating.

BR: What do you recommend as the best communication strategies for young people?

DP: Ask for help and admit that there are many things that they don't know; it opens the door for other people to truly be of help. This takes a degree of humility, but there are some very wise young people who learn well and adjust quickly because they are open about their need to learn and humbly accept correction and assistance from trustworthy people.

BR: What do you consider to be the most overlooked aspect of relocation preparation when families are transferred overseas?

DP: I think there are two overlooked aspects: one is the failure to be very careful and intentional about selecting mentors and the second is the failure to communicate children�A"o^s relocation histories to people in key positions in the school, community, etc. Children�A"o^s previous residences, curricula, achievements and stresses and traumas should be shared with people in new locations so that they are able to respond appropriately.

BR: Are there any rituals that could help families strengthen their bonds during relocation?

DP: Helpful rituals involve the review of the transition process. The model that we developed over the years helps individuals to understand a bit of their own responses and behavior, the behavior of people around them and the mental or psychological issues that they may face at any given stage in the process of transition. When people understand that what they are going through is normal, they are better prepared to understand and be patient with one another as well as with themselves

BR: What benefits do you believe organizations or companies can experience by assisting children who are moving?

DP: Help with the development of future leadership. Third culture kids with their larger worldview, cross cultural skills, language abilities and overall experience have the potential of becoming the cultural bridges and the cross-cultural informants necessary in the global business world.

BR: What do you find most gratifying about your work?

DP: After more than 30 years of working with young people moving cross culturally, I have seen the positive results of the RAFT system. Many individuals have reported that leaving right truly does enhance entering right. We are also seeing organizations and agencies do a better job in caring for their personnel and thus helping them to be more efficient, effective and enduring

Cultivating an intercultural orientation has much to offer expatriates and repatriates &emdash; employees, spouses, and children as well.


Reprinted with permission from BR Anchor Publishing, Wilmington, NC. First appeared in Relocation Today, Vol. 5, No. 6. 2004. Written by Beverly D. Roman, publisher.

Contact her at broman@branchor.com or + 910.256.9598.

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