Cross-Cultural Kids – Part 2

Exploring 4 different CCK types: Bicultural Children, Multicultural Children, Children of Mixed Heritage and Internationally Adopted Children

What is a Cross-Cultural Kid?

A Cross-Cultural Kid (CCK) is someone who has been significantly influenced by two or more cultural environments during their developmental years. The CCK Model is the work and research of Ruth Van Reken.

Welcome to part 2 of the CULTURAL MOSAICS series where we closely look at the Cross-Cultural Kids (CCK) Model by Ruth Van Reken, analyzing each category more in depth, going well beyond the realm of Third Culture Kids, where it originated.

This CULTURAL MOSAICS series on Cross-Cultural Kids (CCKs) was originally posted on Instagram in September 2023 as a collaborative project by Beatriz Nour @inbetweenish.pod and myself, Wiebke Homborg @chameleon_coaching. If you have Instagram, we encourage you to check out the original posts for its great visuals, audios, reels and storytelling.

Cross-Cultural Kids

In this article, we introduce the following CCK types:


For a general introduction to CCKs, check out part 1 of this blog post series.

For more details on other CCK types, go to part 3 and part 4.

Explore how you can be a genuine mix of several types in part 5.

Bicultural Children


Bi-cultural children are individuals who are raised in an environment where they are exposed to and influenced by two distinct cultures. These children typically have parents or caregivers from different cultural backgrounds, and as a result, they grow up with a blend of customs, traditions, languages, and values from both cultures.

Example: Amal Clooney

Unique experiences, benefits and challenges

Bi-cultural children navigate the complexities of balancing two cultural worlds, which can lead to unique experiences, benefits and challenges.

What stands out about bi-cultural children is that they are likely to develop a strong understanding and connection to both of their cultural heritages, allowing them to bridge the gap between different cultural contexts. It’s a richness to belong to more than one culture, as you are exposed to a larger variety of languages, traditions, rituals and practices — in a sense, it expands your world view. This is such a valuable asset in an increasingly diverse and interconnected yet divided world.

Some bi-cultural children may feel pressured to choose one culture over the other, which can create inner conflict and feelings of loss or rejection. This pressure can sometimes come from society, extended family members, or sometimes even their own parents. Bi-cultural children often find it hard to relate to peers who come from more homogeneous cultural backgrounds. They may feel like outsiders or have difficulty connecting with others who don’t share their multicultural experiences. Learning and maintaining proficiency in two languages can also be challenging. Bi-cultural children might feel self-conscious about their language skills or face difficulties switching between languages.

What parents can do

Parents can support their bi-cultural children by being aware of the challenges they might be facing and guiding them on their journey in finding cultural balance. The ultimate support a parent can give to a bicultural child is to embrace both cultures equally and never make their child feel like they have to choose one culture over the other.

Think about it

  • Are the two cultures always equally represented in a bi-cultural family?
  • How can we help bi-cultural children embrace & celebrate their dual heritage?
  • How can we encourage cultural inclusivity in our schools & communities?

Podcast Recommendation

the inbetweenish pod, episode “🤞🏽no, but where are you really from” with Nora G. [Part I].

Multicultural Children


Multicultural children are individuals who are raised in an environment where they are exposed to and influenced by three or more distinct cultures. These children might have parents from two distinct cultures, or have bicultural parents, and also be raised in a third culture. They grow up with a blend of customs, traditions, languages, and values.

Examples: Idris Elba, Kylian Mbappé.

Unique experiences, benefits and challenges

Multicultural children often embody the merging of cultures, languages, and traditions, and they may identify with multiple cultural heritages simultaneously. Being multicultural is a beautiful celebration of diversity. Many multicultural children speak several languages, but may struggle to keep them up as they age, especially if they are not regularly a part of their life. A lot of the advantages and struggles of bicultural children also apply to multicultural children with the added complexity of belonging to more than two cultures.

It’s even harder to strike a balance between three+ cultures: which cultures will inform your values? What if the cultures sit on the opposite end of the spectrum: closed cultures vs open cultures? It becomes challenging to navigate the world of cultural expectations when you simultaneously belong to several cultures. Being multicultural means you are often met with both ‘othering’ as well as ‘pigeon-holing’ from strangers. Internally, there is a constant struggle to belong, and the overwhelming feeling of ‘not enough’ for all of the cultures you are a part of.

“It was funny because I’m a mix of three, and yet, I never felt like I was a part of either.”

Sometimes, multicultural children may feel pressured by family member, peers, or society to choose one of their cultures over the others. Many people struggle with ambiguity, and multiculturalism is inherently ambiguous and difficult to understand. As a multicultural child you may feel split loyalties, and relate to some cultures more than others, but then also feel guilty about that.

What parents can do

Parents can support their multicultural children by providing cultural education, open communication, and validation of their unique identity. It is important to create opportunities to engage with all their cultures, addressing stereotypes and biases, and connecting with multicultural communities to foster a sense of belonging and pride in their diverse heritage.

Think about it

  • How can we create an environment that encourages multicultural children to explore their cultures?
  • How can care-takers help multicultural children navigate diverse cultural expectations?
  • What unique strengths do you think multicultural children develop as they navigate multiple cultural identities?

“Yea but your Dad’s Egyptian, so YOU’RE Egyptian.” – “No… I am half Egyptian, half Ecuadorian, also I was born in America.”

Podcast Recommendation

the inbetweenish pod, episode “🤞🏽no, but where are you really from” with Nora G. [Part I]

Children of Mixed Heritage


Children of mixed heritage, often referred to as “biracial” or “multiracial” children, are individuals who have parents from different racial, ethnic, or cultural backgrounds. They embody a blend of two or more distinct heritages, which can result in a diverse range of physical appearances, cultural influences, and identities.

Example: Keanu Reeves

Unique experiences, benefits and challenges

Children of mixed heritage navigate the complexity of different cultural backgrounds while at the same time experiencing an over-indexing on their physical attributes. Mothers of mixed heritage children experience especially complex emotions around comparisons of bodily characteristics, all while being confronted with many comments and stereotypes from others, such as “is that your child?” or “are you their nanny?”

“You can either be exoticized for your features or the opposite can also happen: being called a mutt or a half breed.”

Children of mixed heritage benefit from a rich understanding and appreciation of diverse heritages, making them bridge-builders across cultures and ethnicities. The emphasis on physical features can promote a strong connection between parents and mixed heritage children, celebrating their unique physical attributes. This can contribute to a sense of pride and identity for the child, fostering self-confidence and a positive self-image.

These children may also face issues of rejection from one parent’s cultural group or both. The over-indexing on physical attributes can also pose challenges. In public they may face blatant questions if they are really their parents’ child. Inadvertently reinforcing stereotypes or superficial judgments based on appearance. This could lead to self-esteem issues or result in an identity crises for the child if they feel their worth is solely tied to their physical appearance. Some children of mixed heritage might face challenges related to feeling “in between” or not fully belonging to any one cultural group.

What parents can do

Parents can actively promote a holistic understanding of heritage that encompasses not only physical attributes but also cultural traditions, values, and experiences. They should foster open and nonjudgmental communication within the family, allowing children to express their feelings and questions about their identity. Encouraging cultural exploration and celebrating the diversity within the family can help children develop a strong sense of self that extends beyond physical appearance.

Additionally, parents can work to challenge and dispel stereotypes related to mixed heritage and emphasize the richness of their child’s heritage. Ultimately, by embracing both the physical and cultural aspects of their child’s identity, parents can help them navigate their unique heritage with confidence and pride.

Think about it

  • Would you like to learn more about your heritage? Who could you ask?
  • As parents, how can you pass on the culture of your heritage(s) to your child?
  • In which way can you be an ally for mixed-heritage CCKs who face racism or discrimination?

Podcast Recommendation

the inbetweenish pod, episode “🐘 identity crisis: who am I? — about your host”

Internationally Adopted Children


International Adoptees are children who were born in one country but raised in another by adoptive parents who are of a different nationality or cultural background.

Despite being born in one culture, they have grown up immersed in a different cultural environment with their adoptive family. This unique upbringing shapes their identity as they navigate the culture of their origins and the culture of their adoptive country.

Example: An international adoptee might be a child who was born in China but adopted by Dutch parents and raised in the Netherlands.

Unique experiences, benefits and challenges

Disclaimer: There are many nuances that come with adoption, but the experience is a little different when it comes to being internationally adopted. In this post, we will focus specifically on children who are internationally adopted, while keeping in mind that every experience is unique and dependent on the circumstances surrounding the adoption.

International Adoption is a life full of opportunity, uniting a family better able to provide a loving and nurturing environment to a child born in another country. Typically in international adoptions, the adoptive child will move from their birth country to the adoptive parent’s home country. Children are not always adopted at birth. Sometimes they stay at an orphanage in their birth country or another temporary housing situation. International adoptions can take place across different ethnicities and cultures. Ultimately, this means the child grows up exposed, to varying degrees, to different cultures: their birth culture vs their adoptive family’s culture.

“We would go to a supermarket together and people would be staring at me. And then my mother would just kinda stare at them back, but there was no conversation around this.”

One of the main challenges international adoptees may face, is a longing for connection with their birth culture, birth language, or birth country. Adoptees often grapple with questions about their origins and their place in society. They may struggle with a sense of loss or disconnection from their birth culture, while simultaneously facing the challenge of integrating into their adoptive culture. It can be hard to find a sense of belonging to the cultures they inherited and their adoptive culture(s).

In adoptions across different ethnicities, adoptive parents can struggle to understand their children’s unique needs. Children may have different features than their adoptive parents. For example, an adoptive child may be the only curly-haired person in their family. This can be a lonely experience if the parent’s don’t actively seek other people from the child’s birth culture and ethnicity who may understand how to care for curly hair. This is just one example of many that adoptees across ethnicities may face.

What parents can do

Adoptive parents can support their children by validating their experience, and addressing comments, looks, or racist remarks. Parents could also introduce their adopted children to their birth culture, and allow space for the children to explore, embrace and connect to a culture that is a part of their life. International adoptees may benefit from support systems that acknowledge and address these challenges, such as therapy, support groups, or connecting with other adoptees who share similar experiences. By navigating these challenges, exploring their heritage and personal identity, international adoptees can ultimately develop a stronger sense of self and find a place where they feel a true sense of belonging.

Think about it

  • What aspects of your birth culture do you embrace as an international adoptee, and how has this influenced your sense of belonging?
  • How has being an international adoptee shaped your journey of self-discovery and identity formation?
  • In what ways has your experience as an international adoptee shaped your views on family, love, and the concept of ‘home’?

Podcast Recommendation

the inbetweenish pod, episode “🍋 we never really discussed it — with Nora”

Hi, I’m Beatriz, the host of the inbetweenish pod, where I invite others to reflect on the meaning of belonging, the feeling of home, and I ask questions like, do you ever feel stuck between worlds?

And I’m Wiebke, from Chameleon Coaching. As an intercultural trainer and coach, I am passionate about supporting and empowering individuals on their journeys across cultures.

Stories of Belonging

Tune into Beatriz’ podcast where she invites inspiring and diverse CCKs to a deep and heartfelt conversation. Discover new perspectives and learn from their stories around identity struggles as well as their quest for belonging and defining where home is.

Explore your multicultural identity with me

I have supported many CCKs and global nomads on their inner journey to more clarity about their multicultural identity. Let me help you embrace your inner diversity and find true belonging within yourself and with others.

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *