Those Mid-October Blues

Category: Schools

newTCKkidHey friends, it’s Cami here and it’s almost the middle of October! The thought of that makes me shudder. That’s not because the weather is beginning to cool down, but rather because I remember all too well what it was like to be a new kid in school in the middle of October.

I had returned to my passport country that very summer. By October I thought maybe I would have made a good friend. I actually thought I would have figured out this passport country by now. I was sure I wouldn’t be missing my friends in my other school nearly so much. I was positive there would be no more tears to be shed.

How wrong I was.

By October, the adventure of the new was gone and the reality of not going back to the country I left had set in hard.  When I left my old school it was painful. But nothing compared to the pain I felt in the mid-Octobers. I felt lonely, trapped and a bit hopeless. No one understood what I was going through, and even my mom and dad were getting tired of hearing me talk about the past and complain about the present. No one (including me) seemed to notice I wasn’t talking about the future at all.

No one had a clue what was going on inside of me during that time. I would go to school, smile at nameless faces in the hallway, get fairly good marks on my schoolwork and just establish myself as the new shy girl who is a little “off”. Funny thing is I didn’t feel like smiling at all. I wasn’t studying but I still had good grades (schools in my passport country were sooo easy). And people had no idea that “shy” would never be a word that would have described me back in MY home. And as far as “off” was concerned, it was this place that was “off”, not me. They did not have a clue about what was going on in the world. All they want to do is eat, shop and play video games. In my mind, no one cared about anything, nor did they have the capacity to.

Sounds pretty bleak, doesn’t it?

As I think back on it now, I sometimes wonder how I got through it. I am also reminded that the same thing seemed to happen just about every time I moved to a new place and a new school. Yet, I did make it and I usually finished my school year with academic and social success. But it took work on my part as well as effort from my parents and even sometimes the school.

So what can be done to get through the “mid-October’s” ?

For Third Culture Kids:

  1. Think back to other transitions. Ask yourself  “how long did it take me to get through the ‘Octobers’”? What did you do that helped? What did you do that made it harder?
  2. Think about what you know now about where you are and compare it to what you knew the first day of school. These are successes though it may not feel like it sometimes.
  3. Make rules for yourself such as: for every negative statement I make about the school, culture or peers, I find something positive to say.
  4. Be careful not to compare your old school to your new school all the time…especially when talking to your current peers. No one likes to hear criticism about their school, home or culture.
  5. Evaluate if the time you are spending on Facebook or Skype is keeping you from making efforts to get to know new people.

For Parents:

  1. Listen to your child’s words. Is your child more negative than positive? Are there never positive statements made? Is it time to be looking for outside help? A teacher or counselor perhaps?
  2. When your child tells you about a success during the “Octobers” this is something to celebrate.  Depending on your child’s age, gender, personality, etc., a literal celebration may be in order. At the very least when something positive is said ask them to tell you about it. Hang onto every word. By this time you need encouragement that your child might be seeing light at the end of the tunnel.
  3. Ask them to think back to when the have transitioned before. Ask them how it is different this time.
  4. If your child is not finding friends, ask what kind of friend they are looking for. It may be time for you to begin helping them find friends. Are there other TCKs in your child’s school, neighborhood, or church? Finding other TCKs is often a lifeline for Third Culture Kids in transition.
  5. Review the issues and timeline of transition. This often helps mom and dad as well as the student know things are normal and part of the predictable process of transition.

For Teachers:

  1. Mid-October is the perfect time to schedule a debrief for all new students. TCKs or not this is often a very difficult for new kids.
  2. Take the opportunity to give a writing assignment for the entire class on a topic that new students can relate to and excel in…."If I could go anywhere in the world, where would I go?", "Home is________", "The best meal I have ever eaten was..." ... etc.
  3. Mention a current issue about the country the student if from. Ask if this is new to him, and what his thoughts are about it. Make an effort to show genuine interest in the country of his heart.
  4. Be patient during this particular time of transition. Often new students get critical and begin to act out during this time. If the student is younger than university age, communicating with parents if often very helpful in developing a strategy for getting through this time.

Remember, for most Third Culture Kids the mid-Octobers are temporary, and they will get through it, but for now, it is just plain hard. As one of my TCK friends said to me just this week, this is the time of year when you not only have homesickness, but you have memory-sickness as well. And I like it and hate it at the same time...

Now I have made myself memory-sick...again! So, over to you. TCKs, how did you survive the Mid-Octobers? Parents, how did you come alongside your children in transition? Teachers and caregivers, what are some creative ideas you have used to help TCKs and other new kids at school survive their transition?



Camilla is a TCK who gets to travel with Libby Stephens. Missed her intro? Meet Cami!

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