Catholic Mom Book Spotlight

Families on the Move: Growing Up Overseas-And Loving It!
by Marion Knell


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Families on the Move: Growing Up Overseas-And Loving It!
by Marion Knell
Kregel, June 2003, 192 pages


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Q: Thanks so much for your time in participating in this Book Spotlight interview. Could you please tell us a little bit more about yourself and your family?

My first career was as a teacher of Latin and Greek(!). My husband, Bryan worked with students for 13 years, most of them with international students in the UK. Our 3 children, Russell, Matthew and Kirstin, got used to having house guests with all sorts of languages, colours and clothes. We then worked with Arab World ministries for 17 years, Bryan as UK director and myself as a roving pastoral care worker, chiefly involved with supporting families.

Q: What prompted you to write Families on the Move? How does a Mother who is interested in writing accomplish the task of getting a book published?

For many years I worked with the Misionary Families network in the UK and was concerned at the lack of information and resources most had regarding parenting overseas. Realising that personal advice and lecturing only went so far, I was at last persuaded to write it all down. For someone who loves teaching and interacting, the discipline of writing came quite hard! I was fortunate enough early on in the process to find a Christian publisher who was conivinced of the need for such a book and prepared to back me. By this time my children were fairly grown up - in fact the eldest is now in preparation for service overseas and has two children!

Q: Please give us brief overview of Families on the Move. How can this book benefit the average family?

From various studies we now know the normal dynamics that operate in the life of a child brought up overseas, the benefits and challenges. 'Families on the Move' aims to make this knowledge accessible to busy people and help them to engage with it. I think growing up overseas is a wonderful experience and opportunity but there are issues to be dealt with and in the past the needs of the whole family have not been addressed. Children in particular often feel they have had no voice in decisions made which profoundly affect them. Knowledge empowers and makes for effective choices.

What's more there are some very good cartoons which help lighten the reading!

Q: How has your Christian faith impacted upon the way in which you've chosen to raise your own family?

Perhaps you need to ask my children this question! First and foremost, I have come to realise that they are God's children and then mine and that he both entrusts them to me (or I should say us) and cares far more for them than I could ever. Though I may have aspirations for them, they need to be free to develop in the way best for them, rather than conform to any preconceived ideas I may have. As Christians we obviously want our children to know God, but they have to find their own way, make their own pilgrimage.

I think honesty and maintaining open communication within the family is vital, even if it is sometimes a painful exercise. Also, as a parent, admitting wrong and asking for forgiveness as well as expecting our children to say sorry helps children to appreciate God's forgiveness.

Q: I love the term "TCK" - Could you please tell our readers what a TCK is and how children are impacted by adventures abroad.

TCK stands for 'Third Culture Kid' and is used to describe any child who has had the experience of growing up for more than 2 years in a culture other than their parents' culture (or cultureS in the case of a cross-cultural marriage). The third culture is not an amalgam of the two but the group of all those who share than overseas exxperience. Put a crowd of TCKs into a room together and the place hums - stories, tastes, adventures, the sense of being different.

The impact is felt most strongly when TCKs return ' home' - for them they are leaving home. They have become world citizens, acquired all sorts of life-skills, speak several languages, but very often no-one back home wants to hear their story. At that re-entry stage it is important that TCKs get a chance to 'own' their identity. For TCKs roots are in relationships not places so for those parenting overseas a priority should be nourishing the husband/wife relationship.

Q: Now that you've accomplished the goal of writing and publishing a book, what are your plans for the future?

Well, I've just finished a book on 'Re-entry' entitled 'Burn-up or Splash-down:the expatriate guide to re-entry'. It's divided into two parts, one for adults, one for TCKs. My research showed that very little is done to prepare expats for return and very little literature exists to help them make sense of the experience and unpack emotionally. I'm just waiting for the publisher to give that a go-ahead.

I'm aiming to put my cross-cultural training facility for young people on a more organised footing. And I'm doing more international seminars with groups of expats who are doing the business of raising children overseas.

Q: Are there any additional thoughts or comments you'd like to share with our readers? Thanks so much for your time!

I find my time with TCKs incredibly stimulating and at times moving. I would love to see local churches and sending agencies get more clued up on the needs of expatriate families - they have such an important role to play in providing effective continuity in the lives of internationally mobile families. Re-entry is the most difficult part of the lives of TCKs and their parents and informed support from local churches can literally be a God-send.

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