Why You Should Consider Raising Kids Abroad
We both considered the white button-down shirt as I held it up for inspection. It (like almost everything else in the trendy clothing store) was made out of an inexpensive grade of cotton, required daily ironing, and would undoubtedly shrink the first time it we washed it. All this for only $29.99.
“I know it’s kind of expensive, but can we get it Mom?” my sweet 17-year-old daughter pleaded.
We raised our now bilingual daughter abroad, which helped her land a great job at a nearby hospital. This was the type of shirt she needed for her position, so even though she and I usually hunt for bargains, I bought the shirt.
Our children spent their formative years in Costa Rica and have both grown into thrifty, empathetic, confident, and bilingual teenagers. They’re TCKs!
TCK: Third Culture or Trans-Cultural Kids
According to the website, TCK World:
“A TCK is an individual who, having spent a significant part of the developmental years in a culture other than that of their parents, develops a sense of relationship to both. These children…who live abroad, become ‘culture-blended’ persons who often contribute in unique and creative ways to society as a whole… A TCK can never change back into a monocultural person. Parents of TCKs can return ‘home’ to their country of origin, but the children, enriched by having shared life in their formative years with another people, will find characteristics of both cultures in their very being. Acceptance of this fact frees TCKs to be uniquely themselves. In fact, TCKs have tools to be the cultural brokers of the future.”
Our children were five and seven when we moved to Costa Rica, and we’ve found this glowing description of TCKs to be spot on.
Let me share a little of what it was like raising our children abroad:
During our first couple of months in Costa Rica, we helped our kids make the transition into the schools (where the majority of courses were taught in Spanish) by providing some language tutoring. This tutoring, combined with the daily immersion at school, helped our kids quickly become fluent in the language and flourish in their studies.
All of the schools our children attended (both private and public) did not have air conditioning – just ceiling fans in various states of disrepair. Fortunately, our kids had no memory of air-conditioned modern classrooms in the US, so they contentedly considered each day’s weather conditions (even in the jungle) as just what to expect that time of year.
Most people in Costa Rica are rarely in a hurry, so our children became incredibly patient. Like the Ticos (the preferred term for Costa Ricans), they would wait without complaint in the inescapable hour-long lines at banks, government offices, or utility companies. This was even more remarkable because cell phone use is not allowed inside of banks, even to play a game.
Instant gratification is unheard of in Costa Rica, and Ticos understand that life is rich and should be savored. It took a while for us to learn how to slow down and…