In this episode, I talk with Tanya Crossman about Negative and Childhood Experiences, feeling safe, and having a travelling dad.
You will learn:
- 00:00 – Large survey of adult TCKs compared to CDC Kaiser study for Adverse Childhood Experiences
- 07:27 – TCK training educates and supports global families.
- 10:25 – Childhood trauma includes abuse and household dysfunction.
- 13:39 – Our brain flags unfamiliar stimuli, prompting concern.
- 19:03 – New Survey on Positive Childhood Experiences
- 22:27 – Excitedly waiting, then being angry when dad returns.
- 25:42 – Busy schedule, frequent business calls, family adjustments.
- 27:21 – Parental separation impacts attachment.
- 30:44 – Importance of understanding impact of time apart.
- 34:16 – Feeling safe depends on environment and perception.
- 35:56 – Reassure kids about safety.
- 39:13 – Preparing for, navigating, and adjusting during transitions.
- 42:41 – Research and resources available, affordable and accessible.
Resources mentioned in the episode:
TCK Training is doing research on the childhood experience of growing up in a different country. They a’re asking adults what were the hardship and the positives of their childhood experience, and the strengths and struggles they found in adulthood. Add your story by completing the Survey.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:01:01]:
Welcome to Holding the Fort Abroad, the podcast for expats with Travelling Partners. My name is Rhoda Bangerter. I'm a certified coach and the author of the book holding the Fort Abroad. In this podcast, I interview men and women who live abroad and have traveling partners so that we can all benefit from their wisdom and experience. I also invite relationship experts to apply their expertise to this topic. Today, my guest is Tanya Crossman. Tanya is the Director of Research and Education Services at TCK Training. She's researcher extraordinaire into Third Culture Kids, that is, children who live cross culturally and move as children.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:01:40]:
In this episode, I want to go through the positive and negative childhood experiences for third culture kids that I think will be super useful. Also for children who have a parent away, we'll also cover transitions. We're generally going to be talking about Tanya's research and then applying it to families where one of the partners is away, either frequent business traveler or work traveler or living in another country. So I'm really super excited to have this conversation with Tanya. Thank you so much for being on this podcast, Tanya.
Tanya Crossman [00:02:14]:
Thanks so much for having me. I love the work that you're doing and I'm so glad to be a part of things today.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:02:18]:
Thank you so much. So let's just dive in because you've been doing a lot of research in the last couple of years which has come out. It's really super useful on TCK training. I think people can access that research. And you've interviewed adults who were third culture kid. Oh, I think you're never third culture kid. Right. Once you are a third culture kid, you always are.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:02:43]:
Then you become an adult Third Culture Kid.
Tanya Crossman [00:02:45]:
Rhoda Bangerter [00:02:46]:
And you've sort of asked them what kind of negative experiences they've had in their childhood. And using the adverse childhood experience framework, and then you've looked at what can be introduced and what's actually helpful that can sort of counterbalance that. Does that summarize it completely correctly? And then I want to sort of bring that into families that have frequent travel.
Tanya Crossman [00:03:12]:
Yeah, I mean, you've given us a pretty good scope right there. The survey we did in 2021, we had 2000 adults who had grown up with global childhood mobility. As part of their story, we used the question framework from the Adverse Childhood Experiences questionnaire so that we used the exact same question framing so we could compare our results to studies that have been done in multiple countries around the world. So in our second white paper, we actually included one to one comparisons with surveys done in the US, England, Wales, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Philippines and Australia. So you can see what these results look like compared to these other regions of the world using the exact same.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:03:54]:
Question framing, comparing to children who didn't move. Right. Yeah.
Tanya Crossman [00:03:57]:
In different parts of the world.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:03:58]:
Tanya Crossman [00:03:58]:
So it's not just one country. Usually we use the CDC Kaiser study in the US as our sort of control sample to compare against, because that's the largest survey that's been done to date in the world, with 17,000 participants who were a little bit older on average than our participants because it was done a little while ago. But, yeah, it makes a pretty good comparison when you've got that many people in a survey. So we weren't asking them, were you abused? Were you neglected? We asked questions about, did you experience this thing, this concrete, specific thing? Did this happen to you? So they weren't being asked sort of subjective questions, this question framing that's being used around the world, these questions that have been carefully organized over time to try to get a more objective sense of what's actually happening in childhood. The reason we wanted to use this is one, there's been a lot of research done around the aces over the last 20 years, but also there's been research into, as you talked about, the positive childhood experiences and how these create a buffering effect. So some researchers went, well, okay, we know that these adverse childhood experiences are linked to negative outcomes in adulthood, but what about people who have all these adverse childhood experiences but still have a positive adult experience? What creates that buffering? Because it's not a one to one. It raises the risk, but it's not. If these things happen, you, by definition, will have a terrible adulthood.
Tanya Crossman [00:05:29]:
That's not how that works. What helps children to overcome these adverse childhood experiences, and what they discovered were these positive childhood experiences that counteract the experiences of adversity. And so what was fascinating is that most of these positive childhood experiences are things that we would generally consider quite normal, what should be part of childhood: I felt safe and protected at home. I felt that my parents heard me, listened to me, that my emotions mattered. I had two adults who were not my parents, who invested in me, who mentored me. I felt a sense of belonging in high school. I had supportive peers my same developmental age, I participated in community traditions, and I felt belonging in a community, like a multigenerational community, things like that. And so what it does is that this research gives us a lot of hope that even when there are adverse childhood experiences happening, there are things that we can be putting in our family and community to buffer kids, to enable them to succeed and to thrive even when difficult things are happening. For example, if you had six or seven of these positive childhood experiences in place, like, if this whole framework was happening, the risk of developing depression as an adult, if you had had a significant number of adverse experiences, the risk that you would develop depression as an adult dropped 72%.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:06:57]:
Yeah, that's huge.
Tanya Crossman [00:06:59]:
If you had supportive peers, even if you had all these difficult things happen, your risk of negative outcomes in adulthood dropped 20%.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:07:08]:
Yeah. So you only need, like, one or two. You don't need the whole gamut. Even if you have a few of the positive childhood experiences, you have less of a risk, basically. Yeah.
Tanya Crossman [00:07:20]:
Every single one of them makes an impact. And when you get the whole lot in, you see these big. And so what we like to do at TCK training is to educate parents, caregivers, teachers, anyone who has this community space around globally mobile families. How can we be doing this? Because often these things might happen more naturally and just automatically when we live at a more globally sedentary lifestyle, when we geographically are stable. But when we're moving around, it takes a bit more work to feel constantly part of a community, to feel consistently that I've got adults who are investing in my kids lives, to feel that I'm participating in these community traditions when I'm moving every year or two, things like that. And so when we recognize that these things are really important and we then put intentional effort into them, these small things add up to really beneficial impacts for our kids long term. And I think for me, I've been working with TCKs and globally mobile families for getting close to 20 years now. I made a big shift in my career about seven, eight years in when I realized that so many of the parents of the teenagers I'd been working with were feeling a lot of guilt, a lot of anxiety, a lot of stress around parenting and around the decisions they were making. They were unsure if they had made the wrong choice, if the choices that made were going to be bad for their kids long term. They didn't have a picture of what the future would look like for their kids.
Tanya Crossman [00:09:04]:
They didn't have a model of how this looked long term. And I'm sitting there going, well, I've been working with kids for nearly ten years, and I know that how this has looked for them, and there's a way forward. There's a bunch of literature that you're not aware of. I mean, far less then than there is now. And it really led to writing my first book, because I realized that often all we need for hope is to realize that there is a way forward, that we're not just grasping in the dark on our own and that the decisions we're making, we can be putting good things in place.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:09:38]:
Tanya Crossman [00:09:40]:
That our kids future doesn't succeed or fail on one choice that we make as a parent.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:09:45]:
Yeah, and that's why I wanted to bring you on and talk about this framework. And I think it's a lot to take in if you've never sort of come across them, the ACEs and the positive childhood experiences. So hopefully I can put the in the show notes, put the two frameworks. And there's also a quiz that people can take so they can see how much adverse childhood experiences they've been exposed to during their childhood, because it is a lot. And people might want to pause this conversation, go and have a look and then come back, because then it might make more sense because it is a lot to take in.
Tanya Crossman [00:10:25]:
I can break it down fairly simply for people who want to just have a general idea of what we're talking about. There are ten factors in the adverse childhood experiences. Half of those are about abuse and neglect. So what we call child maltreatment, things that happen directly to a child, and the other half are called household dysfunction. So what's happening within the home that the child's growing up in, that can have a negative impact on them. So within child maltreatment, we have physical and emotional abuse and physical and emotional neglect happening at home. So how are the parents and the adults in the home treating the child at home? And then we also have sexual abuse of any kind in the home, out of the home, before the age of 18. On many of these TCKs rated higher, they had higher levels of abuse and neglect than other populations, especially the emotional abuse and the emotional neglect.
Tanya Crossman [00:11:17]:
And again, we didn't ask them, were you abused or neglected? We asked if particular things had happened in a household dysfunction. However, most TCKs, their numbers were much lower than we saw in other countries and environments. The only one that was higher was household adult mental illness, which means there was an adult living in my home who had depressIon, mental illness or attempted suicide while I was a child living in the home.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:11:41]:
That's interesting indicator.
Tanya Crossman [00:11:43]:
And in various ways, when we break it down by different sectors, different ages, things, the lines that sort of correspond with each other are the emotional abuse, emotional neglect, and the household adult mental illness. So what we see when we look at these numbers are loving parents creating a good home environment, who are themselves struggling.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:12:03]:
Tanya Crossman [00:12:03]:
So parents who are stressed, who are depressed, and who do not have the emotional resources to meet their kids emotional needs.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:12:12]:
Yeah. And one of the best things you can do for your kids is to look after your own mental health. Right. Breaking generational trauma, but it's so interesting that it's parents who are moving around. Does that mean that they're experiencing potentially more mental health problems than someone who isn't moving around? Yeah.
Tanya Crossman [00:12:35]:
There was actually a study done in 2011, 2012. I think it was done in 2011, published in 2012 by the Truman Group. And what they did is they studied a group of workers in the same conditions, different positions, but the same conditions, who were living in their home country and who were living abroad. Yeah, same question is same stuff. And through that survey, they discovered that the international, the expat workers, had two and a half times the rate of anxiety and depression.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:13:08]:
Tanya Crossman [00:13:10]:
And those of us who've lived this lifestyle, it makes sense. We are under greater strain living in transition. So change is that line in the sand when we go from I live here to I live there, but transition is this process where we're looking ahead to a change, and then we're adapting to a new normal. And during that stage of transition, where things are unfamiliar, our literal brain chemistry is working against us.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:13:39]:
Tanya Crossman [00:13:39]:
Because the brain is set up in such a way that when something is unfamiliar, it flags it as unfamiliar stimuli. Is this something we need to be worried about? Do I need to be concerned about this different flavor? Is it poison? Do I need to be concerned about that smell? Is something wrong? Do I need to be concerned about this thing that I'm looking at? Is that danger? And that's great. If your house is burning down and the smell of smoke wakes you up, or if your child cries in the night and it wakes you up, that's a really great use of that. But when you've moved to a new place or moved back to an old place, and the different sounds at night stop you sleeping, or the different smell in your house just makes you feel on edge constantly. It's way less helpful.
Tanya Crossman [00:14:24]:
And so, in transition, we're constantly under stress before we.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:14:29]:
And then you're worried about, am I doing this right? Am I becoming a fool of myself? And it's like, literally every single day. And the minute you leave your house.
Tanya Crossman [00:14:39]:
Yeah. So you've got this constant underlying stress, and then we try to push through and do all the things, and then we don't get enough sleep. And lack of sleep is, through various types of research, connected with depression. When your sleep is down, you are much higher risk of depression. And getting enough sleep is connected with people being able to fix their depressive episodes. If you're not sleeping, you're not going to get well.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:15:08]:
It's probably also you have a higher risk of burnout if you don't sleep properly, because all your body gets dysregulated.
Tanya Crossman [00:15:14]:
Because our brains need sleep to reset. But you can see all of these stresses are why it makes sense that there would be a higher rate of depression and anxiety. So we were not surprised when we ran these numbers. And 39% of third culture kids said that, and higher in the younger generations, it was above 40% when you went to those in the millennial. And Gen Z said that an adult living in their home had depression or mental illness. When we got up to. Yeah, Gen Z, some of them were getting up closer to 50% in some sectors, because it makes sense when we know that the risk is so much higher in the expat population already, like existing research was telling us. But, yeah, it was 19% in the US, which was higher than most other countries, and 39% in.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:16:03]:
That's a lot.
Tanya Crossman [00:16:03]:
But the other thing to keep in mind is the starting place of the oldest TCK surveys. Those born before 1960. It was already a third of them. So that was already higher than they were seeing in the US.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:16:17]:
Yeah. It's interesting that on the list of adverse childhood experiences, there wasn't like, moving every two years, or what we would expect, like saying goodbyes to friends all the time. It's something that we, as parents and sort of as sort of laypeople in TCK work, we sort of say, oh, all this packaging that comes with moving as a family, that must be the negative, the adverse childhood effects. But there was something you found about the moving, but not. I mean, you're not wrong.
Tanya Crossman [00:16:56]:
We agree with you. We thought these things were really hard, but they weren't in the ACE questionnaire. So we added questions about things to our survey that weren't part of the ACE questionnaire. And mobility, if you had extreme mobility, so moving, like if you lived in ten or more locations or 15 or more houses before the age of 18, TCKs in general had a one in five risk of having these high. ACE score. So one in five had a high ACE score, compared to a bit more than one in ten in the US, was one in five TCKs.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:17:30]:
Including the additional questions.
Tanya Crossman [00:17:32]:
No just the normal questions.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:17:33]:
Tanya Crossman [00:17:34]:
One in five.
Tanya Crossman [00:17:35]:
So straight up comparison is almost double in the TCKs when we looked at just those who had had extreme mobility. One in three.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:17:49]:
Yeah. This is why it's so important to know about the positive childhood experiences.
Tanya Crossman [00:17:55]:
Yes. We're currently putting together a new survey that we're going to launch later this year. Where we're going to, instead of relying on other research that's been done, we're going to be asking about both the adverse and positive childhood experiences and about adulthood strengths and adulthood struggles. And look at what's actually happening in the TCK population? We know what the risk is in other populations. What's the actual risk in TCKS? So when they have had this much mobility, well, how does that connect to mental health risks or physical health risks or strength in adulthood? So hopefully next year we're going to have some more strong results on that.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:18:35]:
Yeah. I feel like if a TCK or cross cultural kid, for that matter, potentially, who hasn't had a lot of moves but who still grew up cross culturally, I feel like the identity bit is huge. If you don't get stuck on that somehow, I feel like you can move forward.
Tanya Crossman [00:18:55]:
Rhoda Bangerter [00:18:56]:
I don't know if that comes into the positive childhood experiences, if you can create your identity.
Tanya Crossman [00:19:03]:
It's why it's difficult. We're using a framework that wasn't designed for mobility, which is why we used that and then asked a bunch of other questions as well. And honestly, when we put this survey together, we didn't realize how huge it was going to get. We were looking for five to 800 responses and got 2000. So we're putting this new survey together and my aim is 5000 Responses for the new survey, which is going to be more thorough and hopefully arranged in such a way it's not too difficult to answer because there are a lot of questions and we're trying to arrange them in such a way that it's not too difficult to answer because we started doing this because the research didn't.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:19:44]:
Exist, as in the data, real data, like quantitative, and there was no data on.
Tanya Crossman [00:19:51]:
There was stuff about TCKs, there was stuff about ACEs, there was nothing about the overlap. There was stuff about prevention science, but not about TCKs and prevention science. And so what we're trying to do is to bring these two worlds together. We want to be able to leverage research that has been, that has a really strong history. We have 1020 years worth of research that is strong and solid looking at all of these different issues. There is really good research that's been done on mobility within a country and that impact on kids, and there are definite signs of the negative impact that mobility has just when it's domestic mobility. And so we want to start trying to compare this group to that research to build on research that's been done.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:20:42]:
And broaden it in the TCK globally. Right. It's just amazing. I love the words you do it. I'm not the only one. Right. It's just bringing so much clarity for families where one of the partners travels a lot. So it could be commuting Monday to Friday, coming back on the weekends or away for a couple of weeks at a time, or irregular travel or living in another country.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:21:12]:
Okay. There is that difference between living in the home country and your partner's going traveling, et cetera. There are challenges there, but then a lot of expat families and people who live globally have that on. So, you know, you're South African, maybe you're both South African, but you're living in Ireland and your partner travels to China. Right. That is just a very. It happens.
Tanya Crossman [00:21:40]:
I mean, this is a big part of my story. As a kid, my dad worked for IBM my entire childhood and a good part of my adulthood, my dad was frequently gone one, two, three weeks at a time. I don't know if he ever did more than three weeks when I was a kid. He may.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:21:56]:
It was normal, right? It was just normal.
Tanya Crossman [00:21:58]:
He was away a lot. I don't even know all the places he went, because as a kid, dad was away. It didn't really matter where. In the era of no smartphones, no internet, he was just gone. He might call Mum after we went to bed, depending on what time zone he was in. And that was about it. There's a story we have of the first long trip he did when I was about one and a half, not quite two, because it was definitely before my sister was born.
The day he was coming back, I spent the entire afternoon at the front windows where I could see the driveway to wait for him to come home, because I'd been asking all week if today was the day dad came home. He was coming home today. And I spent the whole afternoon waiting at the window. I see the car come in. I raced to the back door to the gate, because there was a stairwell, a stair down to the garage. So I had to wait at the kid, the baby gate, and as soon as he came up, the stairs and he broke into a smile seeing me. I put my hands on my hips with a little grumpy face, and I turned around and walked off and refused to speak to him or look at him night long, like, punishing him for being away. And my mom is trying to console my poor dad.
Tanya Crossman [00:23:07]:
Like, she was actually really excited you were coming back, I promise.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:23:10]:
You know what, actually, you probably felt safe to be able to express that you were not happy that he'd gone, and that's probably a good sign that you felt you could do that.
Tanya Crossman [00:23:21]:
And then when I was 13, we moved to the States and we were there for a couple of years, all as an Australian family. And he was gone constantly. He was in Canada, he was in the UK, he was in Belgium. And the only rule was that he had to bring chocolate back every time because we could not stand the American chocolate. One time he came back without chocolate and we all cold shouldered him for a week for not bringing his chocolate.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:23:48]:
But did you feel like you grew up without a dad, though, or you feel very much?
Tanya Crossman [00:23:52]:
I really didn't. And this is interesting. I love that I forget how much he was gone because when he was home, he was home. I love that now he. And we were lucky. This was before the Internet, a lot of his travel. When we went to the States, the Internet was just really starting. We had our first Internet connected computer in that house and we were always ahead of the curve because he was in tech and had been since computers were punch cards.
Tanya Crossman [00:24:20]:
And so when he was home, he could be home because he wasn't taking calls, he was home.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:24:28]:
Well, even without the Internet, he could have been gone golfing or whatever, but he obviously made the decision.
Tanya Crossman [00:24:35]:
That's true. When he was home, he was home.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:24:37]:
And did he know about what was going on? Like, if he came home after a trip, he knew things were changing or he'd catch up pretty quick.
Tanya Crossman [00:24:47]:
That's a good question. I don't remember him being out of the loop. He was here and he was involved in the family.
Tanya Crossman [00:25:02]:
I was always a daddy's girl.
Tanya Crossman [00:25:05]:
You see, he had three daughters and he was like, all in.
Tanya Crossman [00:25:08]:
I love when Mum was pregnant with my younger sister, everyone would ask him if he was excited to have a son this time. And he's like, oh, no, I really want another daughter. I know how to do daughters. Don't make me change now that's so. But the last two years of the real travel lifestyle, he was genuinely never home because just the way the work was set up, it was rare that he was home. And that time, it really did. We did feel the difference. We felt the disconnect between our parents, felt the disconnect between him and our lives and what was going on.
Tanya Crossman [00:25:42]:
And it was in the Internet era, so when he was home, he would still be working. He had frequent. Once a week he had a 02:00 a.m. Business call because it was people on the other side of the world and because of where his study was in the house. We'd all wake up at two in the morning because we heard the call start, and then we'd usually fall back to sleep because we got used to it, because it was the day of the week he was most likely to be home. He'd often be home two days a week, but then one week a month he was gone, and one month a quarter he was gone, he wasn't home. And it made a huge difference. And over time, it's been interesting listening to, talking to my sisters.
Tanya Crossman [00:26:21]:
It impacted them a lot more than me because as the oldest, I'd had my dad for the first 15 years, 16 years of my life, and they hadn't, like, my younger sister was eleven when that season started. So she, from age eleven to 13/14, didn't have a dad, basically. And it's completely different for her than it was.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:26:44]:
She felt like he wasn't.
Tanya Crossman [00:26:46]:
She felt it very differently than I.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:26:48]:
It's so interesting. The same dad, just different ages and maybe different stages of life. Yeah. So there are no studies, I don't think, like longitudinal studies or anything, to see how that affects long term. Are there for a parent who's away, not the primary caregiver, but potentially one of the parents? I think as long as there's a primary caregiver. Like you were showing me a study earlier, the study that we were talking.
Tanya Crossman [00:27:21]:
About, the limits of parental separation chart, it's really talking about when you are separated from a parent, whichever parent it is, your attachment to that parent is impacted. Right. And so for me, so the chart that we're talking about for those listening in is from a book called High Risk Children Without a Conscience. It was published in 1989 and it was looking at adults who had big issues, and they were using these adults to look back on what was missing in childhood. And what they discovered was attachment issues from having separation from their parents. And they used this to start looking at, they created a chart of what they can call the limits of parental separation. So what's the preferable limit and what's the acceptable limit and the harmful limit for various ages of children from under one year all the way up to age 18? And this is where I think it's interesting when you look at the age differences, right? Kids in the same household, same dad, but at different ages. The limits are different by different ages.
Tanya Crossman [00:28:31]:
So I was over 14. The acceptable limit at over 14 to be separated from a parent is nine weeks.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:28:38]:
Tanya Crossman [00:28:38]:
I never went nine weeks without seeing my dad and having time with my dad. Right. So I never hit that limit. For someone who's nine years old, it's four weeks. My sister definitely went four weeks at nine years old.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:28:51]:
But parental separation, we're talking parental physical separation or parental emotional separation because we.
Tanya Crossman [00:29:00]:
Have to remember this was done in the 80s, pre internet, and to my knowledge, has not been redone in the Internet era to see what difference online connection can make. So I can't speak to that. As far as I know, there's no research doing that. But it's all about when we have that separation, it's affecting attachment. So if we're finding ways that we can really connect and attach in a way that creates attachment over online ways, I assume that it would interrupt that.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:29:33]:
Yeah, I think there's two ways of looking at this. Right? There's the way where, well, some parents have gone a whole year, or maybe two military, but also some humanitarian staff who sometimes are local staff and they don't get the same RNR, even if their family isn't living in the country because of war or whatever, they're going to start maybe freaking out. I think if they can sort of either break it down and find ways to reconnect. So maybe meet in a country in the middle or having this intention. I think that is where it's important.
Tanya Crossman [00:30:09]:
To sort of the intentionality, I think, is always the point. Now, there are cases where we cannot get around this. I have absolutely gone outside these harmful limits myself. As a child at under one year, I was outside that harmful limit at one to two years. I was outside that harmful limit on at least one occasion. At three to five years, I'm pretty sure I hit that harmful limit. And I have a really close relationship with my dad, who I had that limit with, actually had that. I broke that limit under one year with both of my parents.
Tanya Crossman [00:30:44]:
So I'm not saying that breaking this one time is the end of the world. I'm not saying that this is a guideline to help us understand the impact that time apart has on a child's attachment. Now, I just had a conversation this week with someone who was in the military for 20 years and pulled out because they could not get the help they needed for their child, who was suffering from severe separation anxiety from a deployment when she was six. Right. So I think we have to understand that sometimes this stuff is happening and not all kids are as overtly emotional and as you said, feel safe enough to say it in the moment. And so sometimes the impact of the.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:31:35]:
Separation isn't obvious until later, until adulthood maybe even.
Tanya Crossman [00:31:40]:
Yeah. And so recognizing that these limits impact attachment and then being intentional about doing something about that is really important.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:31:50]:
Yeah. And I think it ties back in very nicely to the positive childhood experiences again. Right. It's saying, okay, this is going to be the situation and we're going to be separated geographically for however much time. So let's intentionally put in as many positive childhood experiences as we can booster ourselves as well, like work on our own mental health, because it's a huge stress. It does put us in situations that we cannot compare ourselves with other families who aren't living that. And so I think that's where I wanted to have a look at these positive childhood experiences because I think if we. Yes.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:32:35]:
Working on attachment with the parents, that's away being intentional, looking at maybe smell, leave them leaving something with you and things like that or working on that connection that's regular and to feel that they're nurturing towards you. But I think also having these positive childhood experiences where other adults are feeding into you and investing into you and you feel safe, you feel that you're heard, you feel you can express it in your way. I think it's so precious, so precious for these families.
Tanya Crossman [00:33:09]:
One I love to talk about is the feeling safe at home because it's one that I find is a place that children and parents often don't see eye to eye on, that we can have a situation that parents think is really safe and children feel unsafe.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:33:26]:
Tanya Crossman [00:33:26]:
At the same time.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:33:27]:
Tanya Crossman [00:33:28]:
Because the children's perception of safety is different to the parents perception of safety. Now you're smiling and nodding. So I think this is something that you've recognized as well in your journeys. For sure.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:33:36]:
I think it's a good point because we just plod on and think, no, I'm smiling because I'm going, oh, probably I've been caught out on this one where I thought it was fine and my kids are probably thinking, I'm not going to tell her. So yes, I'm going to go back and double check this one.
Tanya Crossman [00:33:53]:
The number of times I've had TcKs tell me that my mom or my dad is like my super close friend. I tell them everything except the really negative stuff because I don't want them to feel guilty because I love my international life. And if I tell them the stuff I'm sad about, then they'll feel guilty for moving us. And I like that they moved us.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:34:13]:
So what makes a child feel safe? What have you discovered?
Tanya Crossman [00:34:16]:
Yeah, well, so in this case, we're talking about feeling physically safe in their home. Something that's come up a lot in conversations I've had and work I've done with families is when you're in an environment where you've got barbed wired, covered walls around you and complexes and guards and boom gates and locks and chains, all this kind of stuff, and the parents feel much less safe in that kind of environment where you need all these protections and then they move somewhere else. So they've got a beautiful gated community and no walls and nice open streets and yards. And the parents are like, oh, finally, I feel safe. And their kid, meanwhile, is having the opposite experience, because a child who has grown up with all these safety measures in place, see, that is what makes me feel safe. And then they go to this beautiful, open, green space and they feel really unsheltered and unprotected because for them, safety was I had a guard at my gate to let people in or out, and I don't have a guard anymore. Anyone could just walk in.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:35:12]:
That is so interesting.
Tanya Crossman [00:35:13]:
There's no wall around my complex. There's no wall around my house. Anyone could come in. And so you often have this situation where kids and parents, because of the environment they grew up in, because of where they grew up, their idea of what's normal and what safety looks like is completely different. And so parents don't think to have that conversation in what the parent considers a safe environment.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:35:37]:
So there's two safeties, emotional safety and feeling physically safe. And I think it comes again to, it's a good reminder, I should say, that we forget our kids have a completely different experience to how we grew up. Right?
Tanya Crossman [00:35:56]:
And it's why I like to bring this one up, because a lot of people just would never cross their minds that their kid might not feel safe in what is an inherently statistically safe place, because what makes them feel safe is walls. And so I really like to suggest to parents every time you go to a new place, even if that's a hotel room, even if it's temporary accommodation, whenever you are living in a house, just having a really quick, it could be 1 minute conversation with your kid saying, I want to let you know we're staying here because it's a really safe place for us. Let me show you what's safe about this place here. There's locks on these doors or these windows. Mum and dad will make sure that this is all locked up before we go to bed every evening. Or I want to make sure we're going to leave the doors unlocked during the day, but we're going to lock them during the night or whatever is safe where you are. There is a guard in the front of the community, not on front of our door, and that's why this is safe. Or we don't need guards in this community because the crime rate is so low, people don't come in and break into houses in this area.
Tanya Crossman [00:37:02]:
So we don't worry about that. We just do locks on doors or whatever it is where you're living. Just talk through. This is what the safety precautions are here. And that takes a huge weight off kids because they don't have to worry about it because they know that Mum and dad have it.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:37:15]:
It's very interesting because a lot of parents, a lot of moms, when their partner is gone, they sometimes feel unsafe. I think it's fine to do what you need to do to make yourself feel safe also, so that your kids feel safe physically as well. I just want to kind of put that out there and say, if you are, then it's okay to then do what you need to do to make yourself feel safe as a parent and also for your kids, right. That they feel safe when your partner is gone as well, because it changes the. That's again, talking about transitions, where when your partner goes, when they come back, you're in these different states, really, because when you're all together, you're in one situation, or when the partner is gone, you're in another way of living often. And so feeling safe and helping our kids to feel safe is super important. Maybe a quick word on transitions, because that is something that a lot of families with frequent work travel and split Location experience on a fairly high. What's the word? Frequent level? Yeah, transitions.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:38:30]:
You have a course out?.
Tanya Crossman [00:38:32]:
We do have a new course on transitions. I've really enjoyed helping put together this. It's an online, self guided course, so you do it in your own time at home, there's little videos, up to five to 15 minutes, so you don't have to sit down for 2 hours. So you can do a little bit at a time. We've got some reflective exercises so you can think through how does this impact me and my family? There's some resources so you could feel like, oh, I want to learn more about this. We're like, okay, here you go. Here are some blog posts, here are some books, here's whatever you need to know. But the main part of it is to break down transition into sort of pieces that we can get our heads around.
Tanya Crossman [00:39:13]:
Okay, what does leaving well look like? How do I prepare for a move or a change? What does arriving well look like? What does repatriation? So moving back to a place I used to live in and especially my passport country look like? What does it look like for me? What does it look like for my kids, for my family? There's a section in there on unplanned transitions. So I wasn't expecting to make this move. I am not prepared. I did not get to say goodbye. I'm not sure where we're going next. How do I provide emotional safety for my kids in this, but also talking through things like what is normal during transition? I think for a lot of people, we expect ourselves to hit the ground running and be working at 100% of Capacity immediately, which is not realistic. And this goes both for when we arrive somewhere, but also when there's a big transition within the place we're living. So if I start a new job or my kid starts a new school, or everybody we know moves away from us, that's a huge transition as well.
Tanya Crossman [00:40:20]:
So we talk a lot about the red zone and the Green Zone at TCK training. So the red zone being where I'm in, not in a good place emotionally, and I'm not coping. The Green Zone being things are calm and easy and I'm going at pretty much my normal. And so basically we expect that when you start after a big change, that first three months, you're probably going to be in the red zone. Your kids are going to be in the red zone. Things are not going to be normal. As long as that really difficult period is no more than three months, that's normal. You don't need to be worried about that.
Tanya Crossman [00:41:03]:
And then for the next three to six months, three to three months or so, we'd expect it to be improved from that, but still not completely normal. Often around six months, it's a little bit of a slump where things just feel terrible again. But generally in the six to twelve months is where we expect things to get into. Okay. I feel like a person. I feel like myself. I'm reaching normalish. And so I think when we have a more realistic expectation around what transition looks like, it helps us, one, not to get stressed out when things are hard because we go, oh, yeah, this is what's supposed to happen.
Tanya Crossman [00:41:43]:
I can be kind to myself. I can be caring to myself in this season. And two, it helps us know, okay, this is where I do need to get help. We're four or five months in and my kid is still in complete struggle town. We need outside help because this is outside of what's normal.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:42:05]:
Yeah. Okay, great. We have run out of time. I could talk to you.
Tanya Crossman [00:42:12]:
We could keep talking all day, couldn't we?
Rhoda Bangerter [00:42:14]:
But I'll put links to all the resources that we talked about. People can follow you. I missed out in the introduction that you are the author of misunderstood, of course, and I think super useful for people who have lived as TCKs, but also others to see a little bit what it's like, what it means. Is there anything you want to add as we wrap up and how people can reach you? TCK training resources?
Tanya Crossman [00:42:41]:
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, all of the research that we've discussed, if you go to TCKTraining.com research, it's all there. A lot of our statistics, all our white papers are just available for free. There's blog posts, there's white papers that's just available for you there, for everyone. We want to make this available to the whole community. The transitions course we're tried to make fairly affordable, but we also have it available for an organizational price where you can just pay for the year and everyone in your organization can have it because we don't want to make this difficult to access. We want to make this affordable because we think transition is something everyone goes through, not just globally mobile families and having something you can refer back to, I'm like, okay, well, I didn't go through that before, but now that I'm in it, I want to revisit that can be just a helpful resource on your own time. And yeah, I'm on all sorts of social media.
Tanya Crossman [00:43:40]:
Misunderstood, TCK, pretty much. You type that in, you'll find me everywhere. And I would love to hear and to support wherever you are in your journey.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:43:49]:
Super. Thank you so much. Thank you so much, Tanya, for your insights and for sharing from your research and your experience to my listeners.
Tanya Crossman [00:43:58]:
Thank you so much.
Rhoda Bangerter [00:43:59]:
Rhoda, I hope that you found this episode encouraging and that maybe you found ideas to apply in your own situation. Please leave me a review of what you found helpful, what you would like to hear about, and any other comments you would like to leave. This helps other people find this podcast, and it also gives me feedback, so it's very helpful. Thank you very much and until next time.
Rhoda Bangerter is a coach who has lived abroad with a travelling husband for over 16 years. She helps home based mums and dads live an intentional life and build family togetherness even when their partner is away a lot for work.