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

Recommended reading: October 17, 2017

I’ve read some great TCK/expat resources lately, so I decided that after a year of quiet (during which time I’ve been burying myself in studies and unexpected life complications) it was well past time for another “recommended reading” post!

Third Culture Kids: Tips on Belonging & Identity for Expat Children
Sassy Mama – Singapore
This is a helpful little post about a tricky little question – “where are you from?” This is the question that turns an eloquent TCK into an awkward stammerer. But in this post Sarah gives parents tips on helping children prepare to answer with confidence, walking through two different approaches. One particularly good insight: a child may feel most connected to a different country than their sibling or parent – which is not only perfectly okay, it’s totally normal!

From School Abroad to School Back Home
I Am A Triangle
A great little article about the transition to a new school in a new country – when that new place is the one you’re supposed to call “home”. Every school has a different culture, different norms and expectations. The difficulty of the transition for a TCK starting school in their passport country can be minimised or overlooked by teachers and school admin, but this post has great tips for parents seeking to better support their child’s re-entry transition.

Expat child – a gift or a curse?
Expat Child
Obviously I say “gift”, but there are corresponding difficulties connected with expat life that need to be mitigated. This was a great read, discussing the emotional impact of moving abroad and offering solid advice. Corporate families in particular often lack organisational support to guide them in the emotional consequences of an international move.

Why I don’t worry about multilingualism
The Piri-Piri Lexicon
I really appreciated this post, and it’s stress-less approach to developing multilingualism in children. The basic point is that if languages are part of daily life, they’ll be picked up, and if they’re not, it’s not worth the effort to impose them artificially. If multilingualism is important to you, for your family’s identity or any reason, then make it part of your regular life – and relax. A great quote that sums up a great post: “if multilingualism is to truly work, it needs to be natural. You cannot force anything. If you impose a language on your kids for whatever reason, it won’t work (not in the long run anyway). For me, it is just like forcing your child to learn to play the violin when all they want to do is play football. They might do it to please you but they won’t enjoy it and may resent it forever.”

5 Ways to Wellbeing for Expats
Cultural Intelligence Collective
A great little post with five simple things expats can do to increase their emotional wellbeing. Trish cites recent research that shows expats have significantly more struggles with mental health than their home country peers. The little things we do are significant – so this is a great encouragement/reminder.

What being stuck between two cultures can do to a person’s psyche
The Conversation
This post discusses ways those with bi-cultural influences (particularly mentioning immigrant families, but also applying to expats and TCKs) can feel caught between or rejected by the different cultural groups they identify with. A particularly helpful quote: “Research has found that people who have a more fluid sense of self are less likely to feel rejected from their heritage culture, compared to those who have an independent sense of self. This is because they are better able to reconcile both their cultural identities without experiencing conflict.”

Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds – Third Edition
Not a blog post, but if you haven’t already heard – the brand new Third Edition of the classic “Third Culture Kids: Growing up Among Worlds” is now available! I’m delighted to have a copy, though I’ve only skimmed so far. (I’m not letting myself sit down with it until the semester is finished.) But I’m already particularly impressed with wider discussion on Cross Cultural Kids and advice for parenting TCKs.

Patriotism and TCKs


My second year in China I was invited to a 4th of July party where a friend made a cake decorated much like this one from Spicy Southern Kitchen

Tomorrow is the 4th of July, which means the American corner of my social media accounts is awash in red-white-blue, fireworks, and food. And, of course, patriotism. Patriotism can be a touchy subject for TCKs. It came up many times during the interviews I did for Misunderstood, with TCKs recounting stories of tension or conflict they experienced.


A few months ago I had a guest post up on Travel Lite discussing the issue of patriotism, the emotional conflict it poses for many TCKs, and my suggestion of a more inclusive view of patriotism. I shared it elsewhere at the time but forgot to post it here!

“Whenever patriotism means loving one specific country, the multiple loves of cross-cultural living can pose problems and lead to conflict – whether that conflict is an argument with a family member, a misunderstanding with friends, or a sense of emotional upset in my own heart.”

Read the full blog post here

Travel Lite later ran a separate piece by David Campbell, an ATCK reflecting on his own experience with patriotism. While recognising the inherent tension TCKs may feel between their international experience and patriotism directed toward one country, he eloquently explains the benefits he sees in TCKs developing a deeper connection to their passport countries.

“Learning to love your country of citizenship is not always easy or simple, but it is worthwhile. Deep interaction with a nation’s history and culture can help you to better appreciate the ways that other cultures differ from one another. And your own cross-cultural experiences can give you valuable insight into the problems that your country faces. Thus, my hope for all my TCK friends is that they develop a sense of connection, not only to a local community and the global community, but also to a national community.”

Read the full blog post here

I really appreciate what Davis shares here. Yes – TCKs can learn to create a sense of home, to put down roots, to choose to connect to a place. There is a section of Misunderstood devoted to exploring this idea, with suggestions on how to work through this process, and why it’s worth the effort.

A TCK who spent their formative years abroad is never going to have the same connection to their passport country as a peer who has always lived there, but that doesn’t mean they can’t invest in and develop a geniunely meaningful connection of their own – at any age.

The TCKs who feel the most at ease with patriotism – their own and others – are generally those who have successfully integrated the different cultural influences in their lives. They are able to balance their loves for multiple places, or deliberately invest in a strong connection to one place. They choose to celebrate a place without denying the other places that are part of their story.

So, this 4th of July, I hope that all the TCKs who have a connection to the US – through passports, geography, or loved ones – are able to celebrate their connection tension-free.

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.


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
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.


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
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.

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.


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!