Building our Nest: FIGT Reflections

Spring has sprung here in The Netherlands. The days are getting longer, the temperatures are rising, the tulips and daffodils are blooming and the birds are singing their celebratory Spring chorus. This morning I was awoken by the busy sounds of a bird outside my bedroom window. Singing away, she was flitting back and forth, busily building her nest – a twig here, a piece of cotton there. As I watched her work, whilst sipping my morning cup of tea, I was reminded of a theme that ran through many of the presentations at this year’s Families in Global Transition (FIGT) Conference. Home.

The word can send shivers down the spine of a globally mobile individual who often lives between worlds. Many presenters at this year’s FIGT Conference referred to ‘Home’ not being one physical place. Like the bird who designs and builds her nest in a new location every Spring, globally mobile families build their homes in a variety of different ways, and what ‘Home’ means to them varies also.

birds nest

As a former professional basketball player and survivor of the Brussels Airport attack of a year ago, Sebastien Bellin had us all on the edge of our seats yet thinking reflectively during his presentation. Focusing on quality and not quantity, it was the thought of his family that quickly became his focus in the moments after the Brussels Terrorist attack. “I had so much quality in my life.” he said, “so much to live for.” ‘Home’ for Sebastien is his family and he was determined to return to them. His comment, “the more quality you have in your life, the more you have to draw on in challenging times,” resonated with me. Building quality relationships with our family members brings a sense of belonging – Home.

Kristin Duncombe, a psychotherapist currently based in Geneva, Switzerland, highlighted to me the responsibility the family plays in building that sense of ‘Home.’ Cross-cultural children “need to understand their cultures of origin,” she said. We as parents have a responsibility to tell the stories of our developmental years, jump at every opportunity to engage our children in dialogue about the cultural disconnect that occurs when moving between cultures and focus on what is working well and build on it. By doing so, we parents create a secure place for our children to call ‘Home’. It may not be bricks and mortar but it is an emotional place in which they can develop their cultural identities in a healthy and authentic way thus giving them a sense of belonging – Home.

The term Third Culture Families (TCF) was introduced to the world, by Marielle de Spa, at #FIGT17NL. These families have moved internationally on a regular basis, usually from the time their children were born or were very young. What distinguishes them from other globally mobile families is that they have no defined plans for returning ‘Home’ usually because there is no home base to return to. Perhaps the parents are from different cultures or the family is unable to return to their passport country, TCFs build their ‘Home’ based around relationships with those around them. “The people give us what we become,” Marielle says, a Global Talent Advisor currently based in Rio de Janiero. They understand what a mindful relationship is, being present with that person in the moment because they never know when one of them will move on. Host country families take the place of extended family and they each fully invest in the relationship for the time. In the words of Katrina Kenison, “home is less a location than a discipline” for TCFs. They build their identity and sense of belonging around relationships rather than locations – Home.

Do you notice a pattern? Relationships. ‘Home’ is centered around relationships for many globally mobile individuals. The nest might keep changing but the relationships are what make a ‘Home’. The FIGT conference is a bit like that too. The words that are spoken, the connections that are made, the friendships that are ignited and re-ignited get under our skin, permeate our thinking and find rest in our hearts and souls. Thank you to the FIGT Board of Directors and Committee Members, the Presenters and the Attendees who each flit here and there, bringing together their own twigs and pieces of cotton, to create a place for each us to belong. For many, FIGT is ‘Home’ – a place where we can be authentic, understood, valued and allowed to grow. It’s where we find our Flock, our Tribe, our Home. 

What does the word ‘Home’ mean to you? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.

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