Raising children in the mission field can present some challenges to missionary parents and their children. Many missionaries are not always fully aware that other missionaries and SAMS as a sending Society desires to walk alongside families with pastoral sensitivity, a listening ear, and loving support.

SAMS Missionaries, Kim Miller and her husband Mike, encountered some of these challenges with their children upon their return from Honduras. Kim felt called to develop a TCK Care Program. Her aim is to raise awareness of Third Culture Kids issues and give SAMS families much-needed resources and care.

She recognizes many of the strengths of missionary kids such as a lifelong interest in learning about new cultures and the ability to quickly acquire social skills. Open-mindedness and interpersonal styles based on respect and empathy are typical of third culture children, as is autonomy and the disposition to help others. However, children of missionaries also experience things that are unique to their lives within a cross-cultural context that require care that is appropriate and focused on them.

Kim has partnered with industry-leader TCK Training to bring about a new program for SAMS designed to minister to SAMS families with children. The program has three main components which include Family Care, TCK Direct Care, and Child Safeguarding.

The Family Care portion of TCK Care involves family check-ins designed to proactively reach out to SAMS families to ask questions about how they are doing in a non-intrusive way. The goal is for families to be loved and supported and for parents to be ministered to when it comes to their children.

Kim can also help families with a support plan if parents are seeing a lack of resiliency in their children and even assist to help prevent crises from occurring through preventative care. Part of family care also includes life-change updates which may occur, for example, with births in the family, or family deaths, or larger life events like major upcoming moves. Families find that caring support through these life events makes a real difference. A TCK newsletter produced by Kim will also be made available to families.

The second component is directed care to the children called TCK Direct Care.  This care is age-appropriate from age 4 and up. Research has shown that many missionary children experience mental health issues as adults from unresolved problems that occurred during childhood. Kim can provide a safe space for kids to express some of the difficult things they experience living cross-culturally and process their emotions.

The last component of TCK Care is Child Safeguarding. This component defines guidelines for SAMs staff and personnel in the event of a child safety issue. The guidelines cover anyone going to visit missionaries and their children, and personnel interacting with missionary kids. The guidelines contextualize the unique needs of TCK children with sensitivity to their lives. The guidelines are also for parents in helping identify things that parents can look for and communicate to TCK caregivers.

In tandem with these care initiatives, an overriding concern for missionary parents is education of their kids. The ability to connect parents with the right educational resources is crucial. This is already being done by parents and for some it is straightforward, but for some the burden of educating their children and navigating their needs is not, particularly in a cross-cultural setting. The TCK Care Program can help support families educationally.

TCK education directed to parents empowers and trains parents to learn some of the preventive steps that can be used with their kids by encouraging them to learn the language of emotion and encouraging their children to express themselves and talk about hard things in healthy ways. The idea is to teach parents to train their children to talk about both good things as well as difficult things as a way to process grief and loss in healthy ways.

One last emphasis for TCK Care is to help SAMS Missisonary kids feel more connected to SAMS as an organization. Kim Miller is working with SAMS personnel to make this happen. Sometimes the parents have a stronger sense of SAMS, but the children are a step further removed. Kim plans to roll out some very intentional ways for SAMS kids to develop community among one another as well as at some of the larger SAMS events.

Kim encourages parents with questions to reach out to her with questions.

Kim Miller

SAMS Children’s Ministry, Missionary