Art Therapy in English or Italian for Third Culture Kids
As a British and Irish Citizen who has lived in Italy since the age of 20, I am an English speaking art therapist who is especially sensitive to issues concerning multi-cultural and multi-national identity. A deep understanding of our own identity is fundamental to an individual's personal sense of security, integrity, self-esteem and self-confidence. It affects how we see ourselves and how we think others see us and thus it affects our ability to represent ourselves, to ask for things, to stand up for ourselves and our ability to say 'no' and assert positive decisions.
Third Culture Kids are children who have lived in many different countries, normally because of the nature of their parents' jobs, and consequently will often speak two if not three or four languages. There are many wonderful and enriching aspects of this experience and these children may grow up with a flexibility and open-mindedness that is quite unique. But there are also many challenges. The question "where do you come from?" becomes complex and unanswerable. They don't have one mother-tongue and they don't identify with one nation. While this is enriching, eye-opening and sets them ahead in many ways, it removes the security (as well as the limits) of being contained in one single label.
The key word that comes to mind in my work with Third Culture Kids is 'grief'. They have had many doors opened, but with every opening, there was a goodbye: to a place, to a school, to friends, to a house, to a language and sometimes even to a pet. These goodbyes should not be underestimated. They are not irresolvable and precisely for this reason, they should not be ignored. The child needs a space to mourn and process his/her loss and their home and school cannot provide that space because they are both new and part of the change and process. I offer specific courses of art therapy for Third Culture Kids that can help them make the transition to the new country a smooth one. If you have just arrived in Italy, a course of art therapy for your TCK can help them adjust and settle in. It can create the bridge between the old and new, helping the child accept and embrace change while calming fears and anxiety. If you are going to be leaving Italy for a new country, a course of art therapy can help prepare your child for this transition: we will process the separation together, creating rituals and mementos that will help your child feel less powerless and more in control of the move. In this way, they will no longer feel swept along in a change that is beyond their control but will become an active agent. This increases self-esteem and allays anxiety.
In the Child's Mental Health Network, Nina Sichal writes: 'Herself a TCK, Ruth Van Reken has spent a lifetime writing and advocating and teaching about the psychological impact of an internationally mobile childhood. Along with the many benefits come challenges that must be faced with each move the child makes. She states, “The issue is that transition always involves loss, no matter how good the next phase will be. Loss always engenders grief and the greater you have loved a situation or place or people, the greater the grief.”