God gave us the blessing of children and the blessing of being called to serve him far away from our home country.
So how can we combine the two blessings — raise our children to serve God overseas and still continue to be happy when far from home? It is not easy to leave our relatives, close friends, or our own culture and traditions to go to a foreign place, with foreign traditions and values, away from our support system.
However, there is hope. God sends his power to help and provide for each individual need. It is important that the whole family understand that God is calling each one of them to serve him.
We have found that it takes at least six months to adjust to a new environment. With time, things start getting better. Open communication between family members is very helpful. TCKs are more perceptive than you think and might even surprise you with their willingness to change and adapt to the new environment.
During periods of transition, remember to take a few of the children’s personal things with you, like favorite movies, toys, books and games. TCKs will be glad to have their familiar belongings in an unfamiliar environment.
Remember to spend quality time with your children and try to maintain certain routines, like family worship, reading time, favorite dishes from home, and your native language and music.
Children also have minds that desire to be engaged, to be involved in dialogue about more than just day-to-day life. They are also interested in the big picture of life, in history, current events, geography, and in the macro-realities of the world, things seen and unseen.
TCKs often enjoy adventures and are ready to try new things. Try to make friends and invite local children to come to your home so that you can observe the way they act and get ideas for how you can help your children adjust and live better within the host culture.
Be a good listener and a good friend to your children. Smile, hug, and help your children know that you are there for them, even when life is not so easy, and show confidence and trust in the Lord.
Oftentimes, one parent is absent from home, and this can play negatively on the children. It is important for both parents to understand this issue and plan accordingly so that the absent parent is more involved with the children when home and communicates often through phone calls, email, messages and so on when away from home.
Most of all, pray for your children all the time. God can help TCKs through transitions and difficult situations.
God can give parents the wisdom they need to understand their children and raise them well. Each child and each parent is different, and they all have individual needs, but our Heavenly Father understands and provides for them all.
By Wagner and Gisele Kuhn
Wagner Kuhn served as associate director for the Institute of World Mission and is currently chair of the Department of World Mission at Andrews University. He and his wife Gisele, a nurse and author, spent many years as missionaries and raised two TCKs