Indonesia Expat

Intergalactic Parenting

Ruth Reken’s co-authored book, Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds, explores the experiences of people who have spent a significant part of their developmental years outside their parents’ culture. To any parent who has moved countries, the concept of the Third Culture Kid will be very familiar.

Headlines tell us that the world needs young adults who can speak several languages, move in varied social circles, accept diversity of both culture and creed, and manage change. Starting life as an expat can certainly develop these traits, but the challenge for parents is supporting your family through the transition and new environment – a wonderful and woeful task, in equal measure.

At British School Jakarta, we recently asked what strategies our parents use to support their family before, during and after a move. Here we offer some collective suggestions that stem from this partnership approach.

Moving and Shaking: Top Tips for Parents

  • Once the decision to move is made, encourage your child to learn about their new home and the fun things to look forward to.
  • Sacred objects are important. Let your child take treasured possessions with them, even if the over-sized witch’s hat they made with their favourite teacher five years ago pushes you into the next freight bracket.
  • Show your child that you are planning ahead for them by researching how they can continue their hobbies in their new home.
  • Allow your child to say goodbye to friends and encourage them to remain in touch. Technology makes this easier than ever before.
  • Really listen to your child’s worries; don’t dismiss them with easy fixes. “You’ll make new friends in no time” will not console an upset child who is missing their best friend (and remember that friends left behind need support too).
  • Let your child make some decisions along the way, so that they have some control during the moving process. Which house? Which bedroom? Which restaurant?
  • Create your own family traditions. For many Third Culture Kids, home is not a geographical location but you, their parents, and their siblings.
  • Keep your child connected to families “back home” so that they learn about the culture they may one day return to, and know a wider support network.
  • Essentially, look after your own well-being. Reach out to other parents in the same situation by, for example, attending parent groups at your child’s school. Much like the safety information before a flight, it’s essential that you fit your own oxygen mask before helping others.

Finally, when settling into a new home, school and country, accept that there will be highs and lows for everyone. As the saying goes (and as tea-towels proclaim across the world), KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON.

This content is provided by Rachel Edwards, Head of Secondary at British School Jakarta. To find out more how British School Jakarta supports its parents, visit

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