“Long-distance”. To TCKs, this typically means 7,500+miles (over 12,000km). Overseas.
Our lives are categorized by these kinds of relationships – not just with a boyfriend/girlfriend, but with family members, as well as past friends and neighbours.
Relationships at School: TCKs learn from an early age that their social world is a fluid one – never quite staying still long enough to get comfortable. Their friends are always leaving, or they’re always leaving their friends. Either way – someone leaves. But let’s not forget that with friends that are left, are friends that come. It is with this that TCKs learn how to forge fast friendships, knowing to cherish them while they last… because they know that once they graduate and go to university, their class will be dispersed all over the world – they may never see many of them again.
Relationships with Family Members “Back Home”: TCKs may not have the same kind of relationship with their cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles as the other members of their extended family. While TCKs don’t get to see their extended family as often as they would like, you may be surprised to know that they remain quite close with their relatives. Part of that is because, while they may only see their relatives once or twice a year, they know to cherish that time together and so they make the most of their visits.
Relationships with Neighbours: I’m not sure how much this applies to some TCKs, but in my case, my family forged fast friendships with our neighbours. Living in a compound (gated community), you see the same people all of the time. The kids playing on the street start to get to know each other. The parents sitting on the front steps of their houses begin inviting each other over during the day for coffee. Before you know it, life-long friendships are formed. We began taking family vacations to Koh Samui and Bali with our closest neighbor families. Being immersed in an unfamiliar place is a great way to bond with others – even if they aren’t from the same country. You bond over the fact that you are foreigners, together learning how to navigate through ‘uncharted territory’.
Long-Distance Relationships with Significant Others: Tried, tested and… false? It was for me, anyways. Others may disagree. When my highschool boyfriend moved back to the US, we were both heartbroken. The decision? “Let’s stay together”. Your typical TCK love story: boy meets girl, they fall in love, boy moves away but vows to return for her upon graduation. Results? Not happily ever after. It’s hard – going from seeing someone everyday to not at all. Your only communication being e-mail and the telephone (no Skype back then – wow, I’m old). It’s just not the same as being physically present and spending time with each other.
So to sum it all up: a TCK has different kinds of relationships with different kinds of people. While some may be more short-term than others, they are all of the same importance.