Have you ever ached to know what your TCK is thinking? To discern what they need to hear from you? To glimpse into the longings of their heart?
As TCKs, we have many hidden yearnings tucked deep within us, but many of us refuse to articulate them to our parents. We often choose silence in our effort to be brave. We choose to stuff our emotions, not wanting to be a problem or to hinder your ministry. Why? Many of us are taught from a young age to serve God whole-heartedly. These personal desires sound selfish and immature to us, and guilt can frequently fuel our silence. Although our circumstances, personalities, and experiences vastly differ, TCKs share these five longings of the heart.
1. Invest in our relationship like you invest in relationships with nationals- Regardless of the time we spend together or the depth of our relationship with you, we must know, without question, that you delight in our time together.
I became a TCK when I was nine-years old. As my parents adjusted to their new role overseas, I watched them constantly pour their time and energy into building relationships with nationals. Like many TCKs, I saw them investing in others. I needed them to be fully present in our time together too, despite the demands of their ministry.
“I got lost in the shuffle [of ministry life]. Period,” reflected adult TCK Sherry about her difficult teenage experience overseas. A mother and grandmother with valuable insight from her time abroad, she explained, “I was convinced everyone mattered above me, and that I was at the bottom of the totem pole.” As TCKs, we can easily believe we are low on your priority list.
2. Draw out the emotions I’ve hidden in my heart. Most TCKs are experts at hiding our emotions. Sometimes it is even difficult for us to identify what we are feeling and why. We want you to be proud of us. When emotions like bitterness and resentment well up in our hearts, we can feel confused and ashamed.
“So much insight comes with more life experience and maturity,” explained Sherry. “But still…I can feel those valid, raw, and hurtful emotions [during my teenage years overseas] pretty intensely even now when I choose to revisit them. I wanted my parents to know what I was going through. But I never once spoke to them about it. This was toxic for our relationship, and for my spiritual growth.” Draw out the emotions we hide in our hearts. Don’t allow our stubborn silence to become a barrier in our relationship. Deep down, we truly long for you to understand what we are feeling, even if we don’t act like it.
3. Value my opinions and feelings- When we share these negative feelings with you, don’t fear them. Instead, help us understand the root of our emotions. When I became a TCK, I recognized that God had called my parents overseas. But my heart wrestled to understand my own purpose in moving to Japan. I felt insecure, confused, and angry.
Know that we long to support you, but we struggle to understand ourselves. Sometimes we don’t like being a TCK, or we don’t like the culture where we live. We don’t like how we feel different when we return to our home country. What do we do with these feelings?
“I wouldn’t have missed the time and attention from my parents so much if I had felt like my feelings were being validated and nurtured,” reflected Sherry. When we share, please listen with your heart.
4. Tell me I’m not hindering your ministry– Many TCKs feel if we demand your time, we will hinder your overseas work. Regardless of our circumstances, it is a natural response for TCKs with parents in the ministry. We are keenly aware when you struggle to balance language study, cultural adjustment, and ministry. Satan can viciously attack in this area. As a third and fourth-grader, I began believing the lie that I took up too much of my parent’s time. I believed I somehow stood in the way of their service to God. Deep down, I feared I was partly to blame for their cultural fatigue and stress.
“I was trying hard to be brave and not be a problem for my parents. To not stand in their way,” Sherry recalled. This misperception can become deeply rooted in our hearts without your reassurance of the opposite. I internalized my feelings for six years, and it greatly affected my security and confidence. Despite my close relationship with my parents, I needed reassured I was not hindering their ministry or standing in their way.
5. Treat me as a disciple of Jesus too- As TCKs, our parents obey Jesus’s call to “make disciples of all nations…” literally. We watch as you build mentoring relationships overseas. We are observers as you excitedly share God’s love with everyone you meet. We see your delight in teaching God’s Word. But as we watch you, know our hearts long to be treated as disciples of Jesus too. In the business of ministry, many of us feel left off your list of people to disciple.
“I think if my parents had spiritually fed me all along the way…I would be strong and secure and would have flourished,” Sherry said. Know that we also long to grow in our faith. We long to be taught from God’s Word too. Please don’t discount us as disciples of Jesus in your effort to disciple others. Walk with us. Allow to us to see God changing you. This spiritual legacy is the greatest gift you can give us.
When any family moves internationally, the whole family struggles. My parents and siblings were in ‘survival mode’ during our transition overseas. I’m a stuffer—and I hid bitterness, fear, and shame in my heart. I’m still a stuffer! I still struggle to articulate my feelings instead of burying them deep inside. But my parents have continually pursued me. As they intentionally try to meet these five longings of my heart, I’m thriving and growing as a TCK. I’ve easily opened my heart to them because I know they value our relationship.
Do you see any of these five longings in your TCK? What emotions might they be feeling/stuffing, and why? Can you share some concrete ways you are pursuing the heart of your TCK?