Welcome!

reading.jpgWelcome!

My name is Tanya Crossman and I am the author of Misunderstood: The Impact of Growing Up Overseas in the 21st Century. On this blog I discuss different aspects of international life, with a focus on children and young people – how they feel about, and are shaped by, their global experiences.

Perhaps you have come here hoping to learn more about raising children internationally. Perhaps you were raised overseas yourself. Perhaps you have read Misunderstood and want to know more. In each case, a good place to start would be my post on Third Culture Kids, which lays a foundation for a lot of what is discussed here.

However you found your way to the Misunderstood blog, I’m glad you’re here. I would love to hear from you, hear your story, and your questions. We’re all learning, and we all have something helpful to contribute. Please add your voice to the conversation!

Tanya Crossman
Sydney, 2016

Initial reflections on FIGT 2017

The Misunderstood blog has been very much on the backburner the last six months. I poured a lot of energy into it around the book’s release, which put me behind in my studies. I’ve been working hard to catch up and keep up – and 2017 has been jam-packed so far!

Attending the Families In Global Transition 2017 conference in The Hague (Netherlands) a few weeks ago reminded me that supporting TCKs and expatriate families is what I really care about, the field I want to work in. So despite the busyness of student life, I’m hoping to get into the expat headspace more often from here on out.

figtlogo

FIGT 2017 was an amazing three-day experience. It was my first time attending the conference, and I met a lot of incredible people with whom I had inspiring conversations. Some were people I had already “met” online – I had read their books and blogs, they had contributed to Misunderstood, or written reviews of it. I felt very lucky to have the opportunity to turn online connections into Real Life connections.

(I hung out on twitter a lot throughout the conference, reflecting on key moments as they occurred to me and to others in attendance.)

I was stunned to discover that some of the very authors I consider giants in my field (such as Ruth van Reken and Linda Janssen) were actively looking to meet me! One of several surreal moments was being asked to sign a copy of Misunderstood for Valerie Besanceney – an author I greatly respect and whose books I regularly recommend. There were also people at the conference I met for the first time and who turned out to have already bought and read my book, or had been hearing about it and bought a copy while at the conference. It was quite astonishing to me!

Also astonishing – my book selling out! Misunderstood was stocked in the conference bookstore, and the recommendation was to bring up to 10 copies. Those sold out in the first day, so I went through my suitcase and brought along the six copies I had with me – which sold out on the second day.

Beyond the Misunderstood connections, FIGT was a wonderfully enriching experience. I had the privilege of listening to a range of researchers discuss fascinating research they are conducting regarding various issues connected to expatriate life.

I was so encouraged by the work of SPAN to build networks of international schools who actively work to smooth transitions for students as their families move – to create safe passage. (Safe Passage is, not-so-coincidentally, the title of another book I regularly recommend, by another author I was delighted to meet in person – Doug Ota).

I had conversations which strengthened my convictions as to the importance of my work with TCKs and expat families, and conversations with prompted me to think further and in new directions. I listened to thoughtful talks unpacking different aspects of expat life – sometimes affirming things I have experienced and believe, other times challenging me to consider a new point of view.

There were three ideas which impacted me most deeply – which inspired me to think in new or deeper ways. The first was expat empty nesters; the second was dual careers for expat spouses; the third was the experience of being a twenty-something TCK. I’m still processing the things I heard and learned and the new ideas that have sprung from my time at FIGT, but I hope to write a little more about these things as I continue to reflect.

Right now I’m still in Europe, and over the next week I’ll have two opportunities to meet and share with groups of expat parents. I’ll be sharing with them some of what I’ve learned in 12 years spent working with TCKs, some stats and stories from Misunderstood, and taking time to listen to their stories and talk through their questions. I am really looking forward to both times.

After that I’ll be headed back to Sydney – and a pile of study to catch up on! But hopefully I won’t be quite so silent here anymore.

Recommended Reading: September 15, 2016

I’ve enjoyed some great articles and blog posts about expat life this month – here’s a taste of some of the best.

Life Lessons from Rapunzel
Taylor Joy Murray
Yet another fabulous post from the wonderful Taylor. I don’t know what I expected from a post referencing the movie Tangled, but it definitely wasn’t an elegantly accurate picture of the turmoil of transition. But that’s what this is – and you should really read it for yourself!

‘Blind Spots’ and Other Problems in Globally Blended Families
The Wall Street Journal
While I find the title a little negative, this is an excellent article on biracial families and the experience of mixed race children. Author Tracy Slater includes quotes from several people who have had this experience, and most reflect the same emotions I heard in my own interviews. (There are a few lines very similar to things I wrote in my subsection on Bicultural Families.) One example from Slater’s article: “the hardest part of growing up mixed was not fitting easily within the ethnic identity of either parent.” I particularly appreciated the focus on the different experience of parents who grew up in a racial majority group, and mixed race children growing up as a minority.
“Globe-trotting parents in mixed marriages who grew up in the majority may be aware of racism and may even have faced it themselves, but most still lack a deeper understanding of racism during a child’s formative years.”

My experience is a constant longing for connection
SBS
I really enjoyed these reflections from ATCK Natasha. Her words evoke colour and emotion and the experience of living in between. Here are two of my favourite parts:
“I was always chopping and filtering parts of my identity. Trying to find ways to belong in two worlds and drowning under the rejection from both.”
“Both my homeland and my birthplace are dots on the horizon. So far removed from where I am.”

How to Say Goodbye
Inkwell Insights
This is a really wonderful reflection on the process of saying goodbye – not a list of items to check off, but an attitude toward the world around me. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it put so well into words before, in a way that I resonate with so deeply:
“Goodbye is a perspective. It’s noticing the moments passing and embracing them while you can. It’s acknowledging the apprehension and excitement tangled up inside you as you consider your future and knowing they are both valid, natural, healthy. It’s slowing down for the view you may never see again and still speeding up for the one you’ve never seen before.”

Creepy Critters We Have Known
The Foreign Service Journal
I love this collection of “creepy critter” stories from around the world! I particularly related to the gecko stories – I have a few of my own gecko stories from Cambodia…

How to Travel Light as a Family
Knocked Up Abroad
Great practical post with travel tips for young families. Actually, some good tips in general. Some of these are things I do and I don’t even have kids!

Books on moving and transitions for TCKs
Kid’s Books without Borders
This is a really fantastic resource – a long list of books suitable for children of varying ages, most of them illustrated. The post also gives short descriptions of each one. This site itself is also a great cause: “The purpose of Kid’s Books Without Borders is to send books to families living overseas who have little or no access to bookstores or libraries with children’s books in English.”

 

What do you think of Misunderstood?

It’s been an exciting couple of weeks – Misunderstood was released and people around the world started receiving their own copies. I have received a lot of messages from people telling me they just ordered theirs, or just received it, and even photos of people showing me it had arrived! Thank you all so much – it is an honour to know my words are there in your hands, all over the world.

misunderstood-arrived2.jpg

Copies of Misunderstood in Australia, Cambodia, China, New Zealand, the UK and the US!

Even more exciting, I’ve started to hear from people who have been reading Misunderstood. I really believe in the message of Misunderstood, but it’s very different hearing it from people with no need to say so.

For those of you who have already started reading, I have a favour to ask. Could you write a short review of Misunderstood? It doesn’t have to be long or detailed, but reviews help people hear about books and choose to read them. If you are finding Misunderstood interesting, helpful, or otherwise useful – someone else will too. Please help them find it!

So, you’re willing to write a review – now what?

You can start by writing a sentence or two to answer these questions:

  1. Who do you think should read Misunderstood?
  2. Why do you think they should read Misunderstood?

For example:
I recommend Misunderstood to ____ because ____.
Misunderstood is a great book for ____. It ____.

If you even write that much, it will be helpful! If you want to write more, try to explain why Misunderstood matters to you – how it made you feel, something you learned from it, what resonated with you.

Now you have a review, the next step is to share it!

There are lots of ways you can share your review. Here are a few ways to start:

  • Post your review on Amazon. Even if you bought your book another way, you can still post a review on Amazon. If you did buy from Amazon, sign into your account so it shows as a “verified purchase”. (You may even receive an email inviting you to review your recent purchase.) Amazon’s main website is based in the US, but there are lots of country-specific sites as well. While the main site is the best default, if you live in/bought from a particular country, it’s also helpful to review on that site.
  • Post your review where Misunderstood is sold online. Amazon is big, but there are lots of other sellers – and I know some of you are using them! This list will take you to the Misunderstood page on many online sellers.
  • Post your review on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn – anywhere!) Don’t forget a link to Misunderstood – either tag the Misunderstood account on the platform you’re using, or link to the website. This helps people find the book if they want to know more.
    • Facebook: misunderstoodtck
    • Instagram: misunderstoodtck
    • Twitter: tanyatck
    • Website: www.misunderstood-book.com

Thank you so much for your support and encouragement! I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts as you get a chance to read Misunderstood.

Recommended reading – September 8, 2016

It’s been a while, but here’s my latest collection of recommended reading – posts connected to international life that I think are worth a second look. This catches me up on most of my list of saved posts “to read later” from August – bring on the September reading!

Dear Expat Parent
The Culture Blend
Yet another great post for expat parents – this one an encouragement that you aren’t alone! Other parents also struggle with the added complications that international life brings to the parenting journey. Includes some great short-and-sweet advice, like “your normal is not their normal” and the encouragement that kids get “something rich” from their expat life.

Want your children to grow into more empathetic adults? Travel with them
Quartz
Great article written by an ATCK looking at research and talking to experts about how international travel and cross-cultural experience (even domestically) can affect a child. The conclusion that such experiences deepen empathy reflect something that came up in my own research – Misunderstood includes a sub-section specifically about empathy.

Daybreak
A not so Turkish Life
Beautiful reflections from a mother of young bicultural kids. I really appreciate her perspective on what their lives will be as she looks ahead to their family’s future. She recognises that she and her partner have different cultural experiences to their children, and is already thinking about how to bridge the gap (as I would call it):
“…emotionally we’ll both be out of their loop unless we make a real conscious effort to be in it. We won’t have felt what it is to be a bilingual teenager splitting their life between two different worlds; we won’t understand how that influences decisions, dreams, plans & personalities until we see the boys doing it themselves.”

Suitcase Habits
TCKay Rambles
I enjoyed this little post about a TCK and her “suitcase habits” – I saw reflections of my own relationship with luggage! I think most frequent travellers have their own tips and strategies and even subconscious connections with bags.

Identities at once
Yukiko and a book
In this lovely personal piece a TCK considers the construction of identity – that it is something shaped by experience and not just handed over at birth. I love this conclusion: “I’ve accepted that simple identity arithmetic is just too simple to be totally representative.” The other line that really grabbed me concerned education – what it means to be schooled in another country/culture’s education system: “I was taught stories and histories which were not my own”. Great thoughts.

Dear Nairobi
Hannah Ras
I love this poem, written by an ATCK who grew up as an MK in Tanzania and Kenya. Her poem reflects something I heard in many interviews – feelings about places which sounded like feelings about people. In this poem, Hannah speaks to Nairobi as to a person, expressing her loyalty to another, and eventual openness to a new “relationship”.

Hello Goodbye
Bunny and Jules
This is raw (with a little language in that vein) but beautiful. This is a TCK heart laid open, along with the connection of people-like-me, and the power of storytelling. Love it.

The Loneliness of the Modern Nomad
Greater Good
Kira’s review of Melody Warnick’s book “This Is Where You Belong” is sweet and touching. Kira explains why she is making the change from constant moves to settling in a place – and shares what she has learned about creating belonging.

TCK Summit: Cultivating the Mind

Recently I recorded a ten minute talk for The Change School‘s TCK Summit. The TCK Summit is a series of short talks hosted on youtube discussing different aspects of cross-cultural life, especially as it affects TCKs.

September’s TCK Summit talks centre on the theme of “Cultivating The Mind”.

One area of focus for The Change School is lifelong learning. Another is “developing a Global Mindset” so part of what I talk about is what this has looked liked for me.

The core of my talk is about connection to multiple cultures, and why this requires cultivation of mind. There is stress attached to navigating differing cultural expectations, which can dim mental clarity. This is something that came out in a number of my interviews for Misunderstood – TCKs faced with the need to make a decision about the future often experienced anxiety they needed tools to work through.

“The influence of multiple cultures can be quite stressful at times. If you are influenced by two cultural systems that means double the information to take in, double the social rules to learn, double the means of communication to master, double the values to internalise… Knowing yourself deeply, consciously processing emotion, acknowledging difficulties, creating mental space – these are all strategies that make it easier for each of us to grow through our engagement with multiple cultures rather than become overwhelmed by all the noise.”

You can watch my talk on youtube now!

When homeschooling feels lonely

Today I have a guest post up on Velvet Ashes, an online community for women serving overseas. In my post I share some of what I learned from homeschooled TCKs while researching for Misunderstood. There are a few stats and quotes from the book, as I discuss how loneliness can negatively affect homeschooled TCKs – and how parents can help.

As I have mentored and interviewed TCKs, I have seen over and over that parents have the power to dramatically impact their child’s experience.

Homeschooling may be academically daunting at times, but a parent’s engaged and supportive presence makes a huge difference.

Homeschooling may be socially isolating at times, but parents can lead the way in providing access to and encouraging engagement with peers.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please head over to Velvet Ashes to read the full article and comment there.

va-homeschool

Interview on Expat Bookshop

Expat Bookshop recently published an interview with me, talking about Misunderstood, and the writing/publishing process.

Q: What were the highlights of the writing and publishing process from starting to write your book to it being sent to print?

A: The highlights for me were the responses of readers. Throughout the writing process I had test-readers – TCKs who read drafts of short sections and told me what they thought. By the time I finished the first draft, most said they saw their own thoughts and feelings reflected and were amazed to discover that others felt the same way. There were quite a few tears, too! Similarly, receiving reviews from a number of excellent authors was a great highlight. It was very exciting to see my aims for the book reflected in their responses. The point of writing Misunderstood was to help people, so there’s nothing better than knowing people are finding it helpful.

Read the whole interview here.

Why I hope you destroy my book

The other week I read a post by The Bloggess (Jenny Lawson) about when books are loved so well they fall apart. It was a lovely post, called “Sometimes tattered and worn = loved” and I recommend it to you. She talked about how her best loved books are so well used that they become worn and tattered. She talked about looking for second hand books with scribbled notes in margins – markers of a book that meant something important to someone at some point in its history.

It’s certainly true for me and my library. The books I have found most helpful, the books that I have most enjoyed, the books that have meant something special to me – these are the books on my shelves that show significant signs of wear. Now, I have friends who are scrupulously careful with their books. They are plastic covered, with spines uncracked, corners unturned, pages pristine. This is how they show care for their books. But there is something passionate and personal about a book you just have to carry with you – leaving creased pages and scuffed covers. Something about a book that speaks to you so deeply you feel compelled to turn it into a journal, writing your responses, jotting down the way it reflects your heart and your story.

Near the end of her post Lawson told the story of a fan at a book signing bringing out a tattered and worn copy she was embarrassed to present to its author. Instead, Lawson was delighted and insisted on taking a photo of the book. To her eyes, the ripped and worn pages were a sign not of neglect but of great love.

My immediate thought was, “Wow, that must be the highest compliment for an author. I wonder if anyone will ever love my book that much.” Not love as in kind adjectives and deep thoughts, but the sort of love that is shown through scribbles in margins and highlighted passages, torn pages and worn covers.

So as an author, I would like to say – it would be an honour to have my book destroyed. It would delight me to see handwritten notes and smudged paged and scratched covers. It would be a joy to see physical evidence that my words have impacted someone – sparked thoughts, touched emotions.

I really hope I get to see that!

Recommended reading – August 25, 2016

Here’s my latest selection of interesting articles about expat/TCK life. There’s been a lot of good reading around this month, but here are a few I’ve particularly enjoyed.

Brexit, Trump, and Explaining the Unexplainable: When It’s Exhausting to be an Expat
Wine and Cheese (Doodles)
I love this post! It’s funny, and real, but the author also taps into the deeper issue: expats are cultural ambassadors, and also end up translating their culture to outsiders. This means we have to understand it ourselves, requiring an objectivity that doesn’t come when you live in it. And then there are the times our own countries/cultures emabrrass us… just another joy of expat life!

Erasing Expat Ignorance, part 3 of 3
The Culture Blend
This is the final installment in an excellent series of posts about “expat ignorance”. All three posts are fantastics and the last one was just as impressive. Lots of good advice about to accept and correct our ignorance. Jerry makes a good distinction between “ignorance” and “stupidity” which I appreciate, along with good thoughts on humility, engagement and respect.

Don’t Ignore Your Passport Country
A Life Overseas
Good thoughts here about staying connected to the events of the countries we care about. When something happens that is deeply important to a country’s collective memory and experience – and I am not there to experience it with them – it leaves a gap, a space where I am disconnected. Living away means this is going to happen, but it’s worth being deliberate about maintaining some connection.

Staying Well
IMF Family Association Chronicles
Great post on the grief of staying – being the one who watches others leaves, over and over. Sometimes this isn’t acknowledged as a grief experiences, leading to “disenfranchised grief”. It’s always important to recognise that there are two sides to a separation – the one who leaves and the one who stays, and both experience something significant.

7 Tips For Surviving Life After Being An Expat
The Huffington Post
This post is a month old but I’m sharing it because I really related to it. I moved to my passport country 18 months ago and have found each of these “tips” accurate/helpful. In particular, reminding why I chose to leave where I was, and why I chose to move to where I am. Those reasons are a helpful reminder on the (inevitable) tough days. The other really good one is exploring – it makes a huge difference to my sense of connection to my new place when I take time to get to know it.

Mental Festival Brawl
Kriti K. Gupta
A sweet personal post that delves into another element of Third Culture “in between” experiences – local festivals. How do I celebrate the festivals of my family’s heirtage when I don’t live there? Do I continue celebrating the festivals of my adopted home after I leave? How much “buy in” am I supposed (or allowed) to have for each?

Bi-Cultural Couples Find Neutral Ground in Third Countries
The Wall Street Journal
Interesting article. The idea of “neutral ground” for bi-cultural families came up in my interviews of TCKs. A number of them said they found it easier to live in a “neutral” thrid culture, both with their family and as an adult. One reason given was that they were not in a cultural tug-of-war – defending one culture to another, or feeling that one part of them was more or less expressed than the other.

My mum asks, ‘Why do you keep leaving?’
The Irish Times
Lovely personal reflections on the balance of expat life – there are huge gains, but there are also things we miss out on. Each place we connect with has different attractions – and often different downsides.

Recommended reading – August 19, 2016

Welcome! Here are a few posts I’ve read recently which shed interesting light on the expat/TCK world…

Can you be homesick when you are homeless?
The wondering wandering woman
A peace corps volunteer and ATCK eloquently reflects on the elusive nature of “home” for a TCK, and what how homesickness works when you don’t have a clear sense of where “home” is. I was particularly touched by her expression of the place TCKs have in the Third Culture: “I cannot simply say, “I am from here and this is who and what I am” but when I meet someone who is also a Third Culture Kid, I can look at them and say “I am like you” and that is something remarkable enough in itself.

Global Nomad Parent Challenge #4: Fostering Resilience Part II of IV
4 Gingers On The Go
I couldn’t go past the latest from Anna, whom I linked to in my first recommended reading post. This post is about coping strategies. It includes fantastic practical advice for parents on how to help children develop healthy coping strategies. This is hugely important for developing resilience in children, especially for families on the move.

The Nomadic Child – Cheryl Achieng Okuthe
The Diaspora Baby
I only recently came across this beautiful post from July. In it guest author Cheryl’s reflects on growing up between transitions and cultures. She graciously holds both the difficulties of her upbringing and the advantages she gained from it – both valid, neither dismissed. Many of her words reflect those I’ve heard from dozens of TCKs – very much worth a read.

Heading Home
4 Kids, 20 Suitcases and a Beagle
I love this reflection on the many places that can be “home” at the one time. I appreciate the phrase Kirsty uses to describe this – her “geographical schizophrenia” – and that she recognises her kids have a different relationship to “home” than she does. As her daughter said, “Mum, home isn’t a place. It’s a feeling”.

When is it a diaspora?
Public Radio International
There are a lot of words related to international movement of people, and often there is confusion surrounding the different meanings of each. This is a great piece explaining the real meaning of “diaspora” and its historical significance.

Want more recommended reading? See previous posts:
Recommended reading, August 2
Recommended reading, August 9