The Missionary Kid Experience II

In our previous blog in this series, we explored the experience of third culture kids or TCKs, particularly children of missionaries. From the interviews done among missionary kids, the main emerging themes were:

  • Cultural Confusion
  • Self-esteem
  • Transitions and Adjustments
  • Identity and Belonging

 

Self Esteem

The identity crisis that TCKS may have with regard to their sense of self can impact their self-esteem. High mobility and cross-cultural development can create a sense of rootlessness in these children. This makes it challenging for them to develop their identity, particularly in adolescence (Pollock, Van Reken, & Gould, 2001). When they cannot identify with a particular culture, they may experience insecurities or face certain setbacks in their development. This difficulty in identity formation can lead to problems of self-esteem and self-worth (Collier & Petty, 2006).

Additionally, TCKs can often find themselves being ‘different’ due to their multicultural background. This could set them apart from the norm and lead to a sense of discomfort and low self-esteem.

When I moved from the mission field to an international boarding school, I was surrounded by some of the richest kids in the country. I faced challenges with my self-esteem because I had misplaced values. In middle school, I wanted to appear ‘cool’ like the rich kids. I faced self-esteem issues because I had placed my value in speaking as they did, wearing the same clothes they did and having the same connections“- Laura, 21 yrs

Laura’s journey resonates closely with my own, aligning with numerous sentiments expressed during the interview process. The ongoing reassessment of personal values, coupled with frequent comparisons to peers from diverse backgrounds, often gives rise to a pervasive sense of discontent. It requires a considerable amount of time to reconcile with the realization that one’s unique experiences have imparted valuable life lessons, intricately woven into the tapestry of being a Third Culture Kid (TCK)

 

Navigating self-esteem challenges

A question posed to the adults TCKs in the interviews was ‘What would you tell your younger third culture self?”. Some of the responses are helpful in understanding how these individuals coped with self-esteem challenges:

  • Your greatest insecurities will not stem from an insufficiency in material or social resources, but in your own self-limiting beliefs. So reflect on your weaknesses and insecurities, take responsibility for any mistakes and work on them.
  • This experience will give you a richness in terms of life experience. The things that make you different and ‘weird’ to other people can also be used for good. There are many people like you- make friends with those who appreciate your uniqueness (promoting self acceptance)

Having a flexible self-concept can prove to be a healthy and adaptive trait as it has been shaped by a diverse array of experiences and opportunities that afford a nuanced perspective on the world. Embrace it!

 

You can find Part 1 of this series and other blogs here.

 

References

Collier, A. M., & Petty, K. (2006). Characteristics and Repatriation Issues of Third Culture Kids: A Review of the Literature. Journal of College Orientation, Transition, and Retention14(1). Link here.

Pollock, D., & Van Reken, R. (2001). Third culture kids: The experience of growing up among worlds. London: Nicholas Brealey.

Pollock, D., Van Reken, R., & Gould, J. (2001). Always saying goodbye. Journal of Loss and Trauma, 6, 75-81

The Missionary Kid Experience

Missionary children, or “MKs,” as they are sometimes referred to, grow up in an international, highly intercultural environment. The journey of a missionary kid is distinctive and filled with a variety of unparalleled opportunities, challenges, and experiences. We will examine the lives of these “third culture kids” in this series of blogs, shedding light on their upbringing, unique experiences, struggles, identity, and mental health. Excerpts from interviews with people who grew up on mission fields will be included in these blogs (names have been changed to protect confidentiality) and redacted transcripts of these interviews will be provided with the upcoming blog posts for those who are interested.

 

Who is a TCK?

A Missionary Kid (MK) falls under the category of ‘Third Culture Kid’. This term is used to describe a person who has spent a significant part of their formative years outside their parents’ culture. According to the book ‘Third Culture Kids’ by Pollock and Van Reken, TCKs develop links with all of the cultures but do not fully identify with any of them.

 

A Truly Global Upbringing

The MK, raised in foreign countries, experiences exposure to diverse cultures, languages, and ways of life. Traveling between their home and host countries and growing up in a genuinely cross-cultural world can cultivate an appreciation for diversity, adaptability, and flexibility

Jonathan, 18yrs- “I recall being able to adjust in whatever situation I was put into (at least externally). I think a lot of that comes from constantly evolving circumstances and being accustomed to change.”

This global upbringing also involves frequent relocations, language barriers, and cultural adjustments. This might contribute to a sense of rootlessness, which we will explore in another blog. Rich diversity exists alongside the underlying dilemma of where one fits within that diversity.

Rachel, 25yrs- When we moved from one mission field to another, I needed quite a bit of time to adapt. Integrating what I had learned from the previous place and starting from scratch was difficult. I still find it difficult to identify one of these places as ‘home’.

Some of the themes that arose from the interviews were:

  • Cultural Confusion
  • Self-esteem
  • Transitions and Adjustments
  • Identity and Belonging

 

Cultural Confusion

Exposure to and the blending of various cultural norms, values, and expectations can result in cultural confusion. MKs often learn multiple languages and adapt to various communication styles. This can lead to challenges in identifying with a single language or communication pattern.

Sam, 24yrs- “As a five year old, I used to switch between 3 languages in different contexts- one with local friends, one with my parents, and one with my babysitter. I even recall switching languages within the same conversation, and sometimes still do that. It came so naturally to me but I did not identify with any of the three languages.”

 

Managing Cultural Confusion

There is no one-size-fits-all approach as each MK has their own unique experience but navigating this confusion may involve:

  • Embracing Uniqueness– Not everyone gets the opportunities MKs do. Embracing the diverse cultural backgrounds as a unique aspect of your identity can help you use it as a source of strength.
  • Self reflection– Engaging in introspection to understand and clarify your own values, beliefs, and cultural influences.
  • Cultivating flexibility– You might still be navigating various cultural contexts. Embracing a flexible mindset can enable you to adapt, welcoming change and uncertainty as opportunities for growth.
  • Seeking Support– Connecting with other TCKs who share similar experiences can provide a sense of validation and belonging.

 

This research article provides an in-depth understanding of adjustment within internationally mobile families.

You can find more Centre For Effective Serving blogs here.

 

References:

Pollock, D. C., Van Reken, R. E., & Pollock, M. V. (2017). Third culture kids : growing up among worlds. Nicholas Brealey Publishing.

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Our latest podcast episode provides a deep dive into clergy well-being, focusing on the impact of conflict within churches, the loneliness experienced in ministry, and the challenges in ministry formation. These issues are explored with our esteemed guest, Professor Donald, whose extensive research and insightful observations provide a new perspective on these crucial topics.

A key focus of the episode is the delicate balance between work engagement and the risk of interpersonal conflict in religious settings. Unresolved disputes within the church can lead to toxic levels of discord, which have significant repercussions on clergy well-being. Professor Donald provides valuable advice on how to foster an environment of peace, respect, and productivity.

The episode also turns the spotlight onto an often-overlooked issue – the loneliness of ministry. Clergy couples face unique challenges when it comes to finding friends, leading to emotional exhaustion. The importance of relationships and activities outside the church is emphasized, along with the amplified loneliness caused by the pandemic.

Lastly, the episode explores the complex world of ministry formation. Balancing caring for others and self-care is a tricky endeavor. We discuss the mental health burden that comes with the pastoral role and the crucial role of professionals such as social workers, psychologists, and healthcare providers in providing support.

We also touch upon the necessity of integrating formal education with local church formation. Churches can play a significant role in supporting pastors and their families by providing resources and ensuring the curriculum is made more coherent to better equip clergy for their work.

The podcast also explores the increased awareness and interest in attending to the needs of others as well as the lack of knowledge and skill when it comes to self-care. It highlights the complexity of being a pastor and the mental health burden that comes with the role. The episode concludes with a discussion on addressing mental health in ministry. Helpful professionals, such as social workers, psychologists, educators, doctors, nurses, and hospice caregivers, can understand and relate to the struggles of ministry work and help the helpers.

In conclusion, the episode provides valuable insights into the realities of clergy well-being, the impact of church conflict, the loneliness experienced in ministry, and the challenges in ministry formation. It emphasizes the importance of fostering a peaceful and productive environment, nurturing relationships outside the church, and integrating formal education with local church formation.

Catch the full episode here.

Navigating Challenges, Burnout, and Loneliness in Christian Ministry with Dr. Grant Bickerton

Navigating the intricacies of Christian ministry, especially during these pandemic-ridden times, can be an immense challenge. Feelings of burnout and isolation are all too common amongst those serving on the front lines. In a captivating episode featuring Dr. Grant Bickerton, we delve into these issues and more, offering insights and guidance to those struggling.

Christian ministry has seen significant changes in the landscape due to the pandemic. This shift has resulted in unique challenges and taken a psychological toll on Christian workers. The loss and grief associated with these changes can lead to burnout, especially when compounded by the loss of relationships, safety and security, and competence.

It is important to recognize that while burnout is a systemic issue, it is deeply personal for those experiencing it. Dr. Bickerton’s research emphasizes the importance of identifying the systemic issues contributing to burnout while also understanding the role individual factors play in keeping these dynamics in place.

Job satisfaction and wellbeing in ministry were also major points of discussion. It was revealed that a staggering 76% of Christian workers feel isolated and alone, with many reluctant to admit they’re considering leaving ministry. One of the driving forces behind taking on self-sacrificial roles in ministry is the family suffering that occurs. This highlights the importance of measuring and addressing the causes of burnout in Christian workers.

Conflict, bullying, and leadership dynamics within ministry are also serious issues that require attention. The implications of workplace conflicts and potential bullying can lead to a heightened level of vulnerability for Christian workers. It is crucial to understand how to disagree well and remain unified, even in the face of conflict.

Effective leadership is about nurturing and empowering team members, providing room for growth and risk-taking. The importance of regular check-ins with external parties to measure the team environment and the role of personal development and self-care plans are discussed in the context of managing stress and anxiety in ministry leaders.

In conclusion, the complexities of Christian ministry are many and varied. However, with the right understanding and support, it is possible to navigate these challenges and continue to serve effectively. It’s crucial to remain grounded in our identity as image bearers of the divine, taking regular time to rest and rejuvenate. As we face these challenges, let us remember to seek to understand our ministry workers before making changes, and to provide tailored support through genuine interest, empathy, and open feedback.<br><br>The conversation with Dr. Grant Bickerton provides an invaluable deep dive into these complexities, providing much-needed guidance and support for those navigating the challenges of Christian ministry.

Catch the Clergy Well Being Down Under Podcast episode to hear Dr Grant Bickerton’s full episode.

When Leadership Fails

Effective Serving

In the wake of scandals across churches and leaders, the Christian community has been trying to make sense of what went wrong and whom to hold responsible. When leaders ‘fail’, there can inevitably be perceptions of blame and judgement. It could also pollute our attitude towards religious institutions and leave a rather sour taste towards leadership. As we witness this and read regular updates, it can have an impact on our wellbeing. The people we might have perceived as ‘good’ have now turned out to be flawed. In fact, some of them have serious allegations against them. This article aims to help us gain an understanding of how we can process and respond to leaders ‘falling from grace’.

 
Check in with yourself

What am I feeling? Where in my body am I feeling it? This might range from anger to disappointment, from shock to denial. Whatever those emotions are, you can try to acknowledge them and let them ‘sit’ with you. Your emotions have wisdom to them and don’t need to be discarded as unimportant. Take a moment to notice this as your feelings might be quite nuanced. This simple act of checking in will help you be more aware of your internal world.

Ask how this affects you

Are you in the ministry space and now feel like you have to defend all your decisions? Perhaps you are a parent who is trying to help your child make sense of this or a leader yourself who is struggling in a particular area. Whatever your position is, it is important to think through how these incidents impact your day-to-day functioning. Have you noticed significant changes in your mood? Has this contributed to a sense of hopelessness? If your functioning has been impaired, seeing a professional can help in gaining clarity and moving forward.

Remember that leaders are fallible

We can sometimes hold the belief that church leaders have perfected the art of living out every Biblical truth. The reality, however, is that they might make errors in judgment, be susceptible to mistakes and not always get it right. This does not justify unethical behaviour or imply that they should not be held accountable. However, it shouldn’t come as a shock when we hear news confirming that the best humans are humans at best.

Revisit expectations of leadership

It can be frustrating to witness church leaders struggle as we expect them to be representative of the institution as a whole. There are numerous reasons behind such ‘failures’ in leadership. Some of them are lack of accountability and mentorship, lack of flexibility, gaps in communication and boundary violations. Who is a perfect leader? What are my expectations of leaders? It might help to verbalise your beliefs and expectations of leadership, and then redefine the ones that might be unrealistic and sometimes unhelpful.

Have you been experiencing significant difficulties in terms of your wellbeing and find it challenging to move forward from leadership incidents? If you are looking for professional help, you can get in touch with one of our team by filling out the enquiry form on our website.

Professional Practice Supervision

As a supervisor, providing effective guidance and support to those in leadership roles can be a challenging yet rewarding task. Recently, I had the opportunity to provide professional supervision to a leadership executive, where we explored the Formative, Normative, and Restorative model of supervision.

The session was so powerful, if I may so so myself, and it allowed us to identify deeper gaps in the executive’s role and resource needs. The Formative, Normative, and Restorative model of supervision is a framework used in supervisory practice, and I have found it a helpful process in providing professional supervision.

During the formative phase, we focused on the executive’s current challenges. We looked at the observerable behaviours and tension emotions they were experiencing. We formulated where these might have come from. Does it have to do with a knowledge, skill or resourcing gap?

In the normative phase, we examined the situation raised in light of the executive’s professional and ethical responsibilities. This phase helped the executive gain a deeper understanding of their responsibilities and how, if any, this situation was creeping away from their professional standards.

Finally, in the restorative phase, we explored the executive’s self-care needs and how they could maintain their well-being while navigating their role. We discussed strategies for managing stress, setting boundaries, and maintaining a healthy work-life integration. We factored in the professional demands while respecting the personal demands.

Overall, the session was powerful and impactful and as a supervisor, it was rewarding to see much hope it generated, and how the forward flow into resourcing and planning expanded the confidence of my client.

Have you had any Professional Supervision yourself?

Valerie Ling
Clinical Psychologist
Supervisor

The Power of Self-Care and Mindset Mastery for Leaders

“Mastering others is strength; mastering oneself is true power” – Lao Tsu

Leadership can be a challenging and demanding role, requiring focus, resilience, and emotional intelligence. In order to be an effective leader, it is important to not only master your skills and knowledge that set you apart as a leader, but also to take the time to care for yourself, reflect, and master your mindset – truly setting you apart as a leader of others.

Studies on leadership have established that when a leader demonstrates healthy well-being practices and work boundaries – employees thrive. Self-care, therefore is an essential aspect of leadership. It includes activities that promote physical and mental well-being, such as exercise, mindfulness practices, and self-reflection.

Unhelpful leadership behaviour has been linked to the pressure and stress leaders face. Without taking time to pause, reflect on their internal processes, leaders can react poorly to situations and incur damage on culture and trust. By taking care of yourself, you are better equipped to handle the challenges of leadership and make more informed decisions.

Self-reflection is a key aspect of self-care. It provides insight into your own thoughts and feelings, allowing you to identify areas for improvement and make meaningful changes. Regular self-reflection can help you understand your strengths and weaknesses, leading to personal growth and development.

Mastering your mindset is also critical for leadership success. Your mindset influences the way you think, feel, and act, and it can impact your effectiveness as a leader. A positive and growth-oriented mindset can lead to increased confidence, resilience, and creativity. On the other hand, a negative or limiting mindset can lead to stress, burnout, and decreased productivity.

To master your mindset, it is important to identify and challenge limiting beliefs, cultivate a positive outlook, and focus on personal growth and development. This may include practices such as mindfulness, visualization, and positive self-talk.

Self-care, self-reflection, and mindset mastery are critical for leadership success. By taking the time to care for yourself, reflect on your thoughts and feelings, and master your mindset, you can be a more effective and fulfilled leader. So, make the investment in yourself and reap the benefits of a healthy and productive work-life balance.

What you can do right now as a leader :

  1. Schedule Regular Self-Care Activities: Leaders can start by scheduling regular self-care activities into their daily routine. This could include exercise, mindfulness practices, or simply taking time for personal hobbies and interests.
  2. Make Time for Reflection: Leaders can also make time for self-reflection, such as journaling or meditating, to gain insight into their thoughts and feelings and identify areas for personal growth.
  3. Practice Mindfulness: Leaders can start practicing mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation, to calm the mind, reduce stress, and improve focus and clarity. Additionally, leaders can incorporate mindfulness into their daily routines, such as paying attention to their thoughts and emotions during tasks, to help cultivate a positive and growth-oriented mindset.

Psychological contracts in the workplace: gift or grenade?

For many, the return to work will feel tentative. Having spent time in festive mode, enjoying the comfort of home, the safety of all that is familiar and traditional, stepping back in the uncertain landscape of 2023 weighs on us. Dare we exhale. Have our thoughts about our career shifted? Are we uncertain about our new capacities?

The psychological contracts in place in the workplace can feel like they have changed. A psychological contract is a kind of unspoken agreement between an employer and an employee. It outlines what each party expects from the other, as well as their responsibilities and obligations. This contract is shaped by the employee’s interactions and experiences with their employer, and can be influenced by factors like company culture, management style, and individual values. When first engaged – the contract may have felt like a gift, a welcome enhancement to one’s career. With all that has taken place in the last two years, many employees are re-thinking their priorities, and therefore re-thinking the psychological contracts in place.

The psychological contract can have a big impact on an employee’s job satisfaction, commitment to the company, and overall performance. When the contract is seen as fair and fulfilling, it can lead to positive outcomes for both the employee and the employer. But if the contract is perceived as unfair or unfulfilling, it can cause problems like low motivation and high turnover, like a grenade waiting to explode.

The pandemic has had a significant impact on the psychological contracts at work for many organisations and employees. Some of the ways in which the pandemic may have changed psychological contracts include:

  1. Changes in job roles and responsibilities: Many employees have had to adapt to new roles and responsibilities due to the pandemic, such as transitioning to remote work or taking on additional tasks. After the festive period, there can be a greater desire to capture the closeness and familiarity of home. This can alter the expectations and obligations outlined in the psychological contract.
  2. Increased stress and uncertainty: The pandemic has brought about increased stress and uncertainty for many employees, which can affect the psychological contract. Being closer in contact with family and friends this holiday period may have brought a deeper awareness of the fragility of life and relationships. Employers may need to offer additional support and resources to help employees cope with the conflicting dynamics of returning to work.
  3. Changes in company policies: The pandemic has also led to changes in company policies, such as leave policies and health and safety protocols. These changes can alter the expectations and obligations outlined in the psychological contract. Having a break from the work space may have created an awareness of uncertainty or dissatisfaction with these changes.

It can be tempting to let time erode these uncertainties. However, as deeply psychological beings, the organisation that promotes opportunity to listen and elicit feedback, will win trust and belonging in their teams. Leaders can think about:

  1. Communicating openly and transparently: how have you navigated these dynamics yourself? What have you found to help?
  2. Offer support and resources: Leaders can provide support and resources to help employees navigate the return to work, such as regular check-ins, eliciting feedback and welcoming requests for support.
  3. Encourage open communication and feedback: Leaders an encourage open communication and feedback from employees and be open to negotiating changes to the psychological contract as needed.

By implementing these strategies, companies can help employees feel more supported and valued as they navigate the return to work and any changes to the psychological contract. This can foster a positive and productive work environment and help build trust and commitment from employees.

Christmas overwhelm

Most of us welcome the festive season with anticipation, excitement and enthusiasm. Others may see it as a burden. Still others may have feelings in between these extremes, relishing some aspects of the holidays but dreading others. Heavy traffic, large crowds of shoppers, long lines at stores and post offices, bad weather and other hassles can make things worse if you aren’t prepared for them or don’t know how to deal with them effectively. Financial pressures may be particularly difficult during this time of year as many people spend more money than usual on gifts and travel to visit relatives. Many people can experience overwhelm by trying to do too much during the holidays – working extra hours at their job, planning family gatherings and buying gifts for their loved ones – without giving themselves a break or learning how to say no to something that will cause them unnecessary stress.  The holiday season is a stressful time of year as it’s often when we ask the most from ourselves and our family members.

Commonly, as psychologists we see many who will be working through their grief – remembering loved ones who will not be sitting around the family Christmas lunch. There may be some who are dealing with painful relationship breaks, disagreements over where children will spend Christmas, longing and loneliness for happy scenarios that are not a personal reality.

There can be a wide range of responses in workplaces—from enthusiasm to dread—it’s important for employers to understand what their staff might be going through during this busy time of year so they can provide support where needed. Here are some ways to share and care during the festive season as a team:

  • Normalise the load and encourage realistic expectations and pacing. Does it have to be finished this end of the year? Can it be dealt with in the new year? Driven teams can have unrealistic expectations to bring closure to projects and tasks before the year ends.
  • Create a schedule that works for everyone. Rosters, meetings, social functions – they collide with end of year school performances, last minute Christmas shopping and social functions. Check in with your team for what might be happening in their worlds, and find a common ground so that work schedules are not one more thing to have to juggle.
  • Encourage staff to unplug and recharge their batteries. Model the way by checking in and sharing ideas and encouragements for simply stopping, simplifying and recharging.
  • Set a cut off time for work email, phone calls and other distractions so you can fully enjoy your time away from work with your family or friends. Overtly make silent time after work hours – no more emails, tests, work communication after a certain time, so teams can switch off and switch into their personal mode
  • Make the office festive socials inclusive and sensitive to those who may be having a difficult time

While the rest of the world seems to be dazzled and dazed by the festive season, the workplace can be a space for our team to feel valued, a solid sense of belonging and maintaining their focus and perspective.

Encourage healthy living and being in the workplace

We spend the majority of our lives at our workplace. At the best of times the workplace provides avenues to socialise, derive achievement and provide a pathway for personal and professional growth. Spending that many hours of our life in a workplace also means that is the place where the majority of our unhealthy habits manifest and magnify.

Workplace wellbeing that shines a light on health practices while at the workplace provide a way for organisations to be a part of investing in their teams at a fundamental level of health.

Spotlight on healthy eating

Encouraging healthy eating is an important part of maintaining a healthy workplace. Yet many workplaces have a culture of rushed lunches, lunches at desks while working, snacking on unhealthy options and consuming more caffeine than water to provide energy and focus.

There are several ways to encourage employees to eat healthy, including:

  • Offering healthy food options in the office. Provide employees with snacks that encourage your employees to eat fresh fruit, nuts, wholegrain and energy enhancing foods and drinks
  • Encourage staff to take full lunchtime breaks. Appoint lunchtime mascots to encourage everyone to take a break.
  • Stock up the pantry with well thought through options, purchase food from health stores so that meetings and breaks have these options.
  • If possible, offer some sort of space where you can take a meal break during the day. Generate interest in your teams for them to share their latest mealtime spots.

Encourage movement during work.

Physiotherapists, Chiropractors and Remedial Massage therapists will attest to the change in posture and muscle tension related ailments. With the advance of portable devices and laptops, remote working and high reliance on digital communication, our teams are frozen in unhealthy positions. Consider:

  • Have an ergonomics specialist assess your space and provide tips for your staff to improve their physical health while at work
  • Strategically place common workplace appliances/utilities in a space which would require some movement. For example, printers can be placed on the opposite side of the room.
  • Initiate walk and talk meetings. Not all meetings need to be at a desk. Co-workers can be encouraged to head out into the fresh air and sun to meet
  • Provide a stand and stretch station. Consider playing a 2-3 minute Youtube video that sets an example of how to take a break every few hours to stand and stretch.

Healthy work practices provide our teams to spend the majority of their hours taking care of the foundations of good health and mental health. Encouraged as a whole, the culture can shift to making small changes that lead to lasting health outcomes.