BECOME A MEMBER! Sign up for TIE services now and start your international school career


Time Management Tips for Third Culture Kid Teens

By Eleni Vardaki and Megan Norton
Time Management Tips for Third Culture Kid Teens

Photo credit: Malvestida Magazine on Unsplash

Good time management is important for any teen’s well-being and academic success, and even more so for Third Culture Kid (TCK) teens who are moving schools and countries because of a parent’s career. Unlike most mono-place teens who are in the same school system and community for all of their school-age years, TCK teens tend to have a lot more friendship networks to juggle from previous schools, while also needing to make time to start and nurture new friendships and support networks in their new school.

In this article, we will cover some of the universal time management challenges teens face, followed by an acknowledgement of some of the time management challenges specific to TCKs, followed by time management tips for TCK teens.


There are universal challenges teens face when it comes to time management in Middle School and High School. These can include:

  • Overcoming the “flight” stress response to start studying for a test or exam in good time
  • Overcoming the “flight” stress response to start writing an essay or research project in good time
  • Habitually delaying starting big assignments early enough, which prevents them from being able to redraft and do their best academic work
  • Managing their social media/gaming/YouTube/Netflix time with their homework time
  • Over-scheduling their out of school time to the point where they are forced to sacrifice sleep to get schoolwork done on time
  • Underdeveloped (or non-existent!) calendar scheduling skills and habits, causing them to increasingly forget homework that was due as the workload increases 
  • Understanding the difference between a task and a project/big assignment
  • Breaking a project/big assignment down into doable tasks, and scheduling those tasks into their virtual or physical calendar or agenda

These are examples of time management skills all teens can develop to take their ability to organize themselves, as well as their grades and wellbeing, up to the next level.


Inevitably, TCK teens who have to change schools and home environments regularly because of their parents' jobs will have additional time management challenges to face than ones who grow up in the same neighborhood and go to the same Middle School and High School. These can include:

  • Taking intentional time to process transition losses
  • Building new relationships in the local context
  • Navigating new school system rhythms and expectations
  • Nurturing multiple friendship circles locally and globally
  • Managing multiple time zones to connect with friends globally
  • Regulating media intake of local and global news from places they call “home”

It is critical for TCK teens to have the support, guidance, and mentorship they need to balance their social life and their academic responsibilities when they enter a new academic system and local community.

Recognizing and recommending to these teens who in their network (such as extracurricular activity leaders, community peers, family, and friends) can serve as mentors and confidants as they process closing out a chapter in their life and transition into a new one is important for them to feel agency in their need for independence and personal growth.


Whether students are doing online learning or in-person learning is irrelevant - these universal time management skills help teens to do better in school. Irrespective of whether there is a lockdown or not, students who have better time management habits and skills have a better chance of achieving their academic potential.

  1. Help your teen identify academic stress situations that trigger the ‘flight’ response.

It’s important to remember that the part of the brain that is responsible for self-organization and time management (the frontal lobe) can only be accessed if a student’s stress levels are in the healthy range of stress. When students are in a state of chronic stress, they get stuck in their fight-or-flight stress response (the amygdala gets activated). They can get hyperactive and fidgety, and they are unable to concentrate and make decisions about how better to manage their time. This is why targeted academic stress management support for teens is such an important part of helping students improve their time management skills and habits. Being aware of triggering academic situations (such as writing long essays or studying for tests) is the first step to helping them overcome the ‘flight’ response to academic stress. 

  1. Encourage your teen to time block their days in categories such as self-reflection, academic, physical, mental, and emotional tasks.

Just as we make time to do activities that proactively support our physical health, it’s important to also make time for emotional processing and self-reflection in support of our emotional health. Brainstorm with your teen about ways to incorporate play and rest into their schedule such as time blocking an hour for biking, running, or playing basketball. Suggest they block off an hour to read, paint, or play video games. There needs to be an integration of school work and hobbies reflected in the weekly and even daily schedule.

  1. Maintain open and honest communication with your teen to provide them with a safe space to talk about their academic and social/relational challenges.

A lot of teens feel like they have to “act happy” and just keep their problems to themselves to “not be a burden” to their parents who they can see are already going through a lot of stress organizing the move to a new country and school. Let them know that while you are busy with all you need to do to help your family settle down, you will always make time to listen to them if there is something that is upsetting them or bothering them. Encourage them to come to you to talk when they need to. If you are too busy at the moment, let them know of a better time to talk so you can be present and really listen.

For more advice about how to encourage time management skills with your teen, please contact us.


Megan Norton is an Adult TCK (who has lived in 10 countries and 5 U.S. states), writer, podcast host, and speaker who designs and delivers socio-emotional programming tailored to globally mobile families and youth.

Eleni Vardaki is an Adult TCK who works with students, parents, teachers, and school communities seeking to reduce their stress and/or anxiety levels, so that they can make better self-care and time management choices.

Megan Norton, Instagram: @adult_third_culture_kid

Eleni Vardaki, Instagram: @vardaki.eleni

Please fill out the form below if you would like to post a comment on this article:


There are currently no comments posted. Please post one via the form above.