J Simens.com

Guineafowl is to Turkey as Family Traditions is to Resilience


Thanksgiving sprouts

What is your favorite Thanksgiving memory? Why are these memories important? Are celebrations like Thanksgiving good for us?

I am often asked, “How can we identify risk factors for our children so that potential problems are minimized?”

My Top Three:

  1. Family is the key!
  2. Knowing your ’emotions’ is essential.
  3. Family memories and family traditions build strong kids.

Do emotions help us make more ethical decisions?

I believe they do. If the child cannot understand their own emotions or tune into the feelings of others in their family or with peers, this is a considerable risk. If the child is unable to make ethical decisions, they are a risk to themselves and a risk to society.

If the child does not have a sense of “family,”  this is a huge risk. The impact of a strong family identity and the connectedness factor is often long-lasting, giving messages to the child that they are loved and accepted and belong to a broader network of people who matter.

It is my perception that no child is immune from pressure in our current, fast-paced, stressed filled environment so families have to be aware that at any time in their life a child might need help and support. They need to cope better with everyday challenges and be able to bounce back from disappointments. The concept of resilience is straightforward if you think about kids needing to thrive emotionally, behaviorally, academically and interpersonally. Families need to use Thanksgiving as a time to connect.

This is one of our favorite Thanksgiving memories

I can handle the first insult (according to my culture) but the second one puts me over my comfort zone.

It is Thanksgiving.

And we invited the guests.

And it was early in the evening.

But remember – First, you move me 1,500 miles away from where I call home.

Second, you invite a whole table full of your co-workers.

Third, this sets up the magic to make this a Thanksgiving that is memorable.

At first, when my husband suggested that we invite his co-workers from China who have never had a traditional American Thanksgiving to our home, I was eager. I had visions of everyone sitting around smiling and enjoying the feast I had carefully constructed.

Sunflowers, Pie, and Friends – what more does an expat need?

I was up early; the house smelled fantastic with the mixture of butter, onions and sage and a host of other things ready to be stuffed in the turkey. Then I tackled the homemade pies. Growing up in Kansas and spending hour after hour in my grandma’s kitchen, I can make a “mean apple pie” and the ‘absolutely must have’ pumpkin pie. Of course, through in an berry pie to make eveyone happy. I stirred, stuffed and muffed around the kitchen all day.

At 5:00 pm our guests were expected to arrive. At 4:45 pm everyone came right on cue but early! This should have been my first hint that this might not be a typical Thanksgiving dinner.

For you see my new husband was the BOSS

Yes, I had forgotten to factor in that perhaps our guests that I thought were so eager to come to Thanksgiving was, in fact, doing a “work obligation” on their day off.

At the start of the event, everyone just mingled around, and I started to relax. We exchanged names and polite words while my husband was eagerly getting everyone a drink. Then our first cultural mishap occurred.

The Chinese spokesman cleared his throat and said, “Mr. Simens, Thank you so much for having all of us here to celebrate with you and your fat wife.”

My husband looked awkwardly at me but his “deer in the headlight look” told me he was apprehensive of my reaction, wanted to wait, and intervene if he needed to.

As you know, I am well aware of cultural nuances, so I tipped my head and smiled. Pardon the pun, but I knew I was a big enough person to take this comment as a praise in China – a compliment and not an American putdown.

As we all settled down to the large dining room table, they asked me to explain each dish and tell them a little about them. This was more like the event I had in my mind, as a teacher sharing the joys and education of Thanksgiving.

Once a teacher always a teacher

I talked about the importance of corn bread, from the American natives “Indians” such as the Cherokee or the Chickasaw and the original recipes they had for these corn dishes. I explained how cranberries are a group of evergreen dwarf shrubs that produce vines up to 2 meters or (7 ft) long. The fruit is a berry that is larger than the leaves of the plant; it is initially white but turns a deep red when fully ripe. Then I explained why we have both sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes. I saved the best for last – the huge turkey. Then the observation that made the first “fat” remark seem tame happened.

“Mr. Simens, Wow, your turkey is as fat as your wife.”

“Let’s eat,” my husband said, trying to avoid any more discomfort.

Then the ‘Second in Command’ felt my husband just didn’t get the compliment, so he said, “Mr. Simens, We mean you are a very lucky man, you have a really big turkey and a really big wife.”

“Bon Appetite!” my husband tried again as he laid his hand carefully on my leg and patted my thigh. He was stroking my leg. Was he trying to comfort me or was he just getting into position to restrain me if I decided to lunge across the table at the company representative? Was he checking to see where the huge carving knife was?

I was only able to relax and start to enjoy the meal when I noticed everyone was eating. I hoped no one would talk with their mouth full of food (another American issue). I also wondered if there would be any burping. I then gave an inaudible Thanksgiving prayer – “Please don’t let anyone mention the word fat again this holiday season.”

Then I silently wondered what this group of people might be doing for Christmas. What might they say about a huge Christmas Ham?

I hope you and your family are creating Thanksgiving memories and better yet . . . Telling stories of Thanksgiving past so you can build up your child’s family emotion stories.

Please share one Thanksgiving Memory!

Notes: The Guineafowl made its way to Europe from Africa via Turkey. Therefore they called it ‘turkey.’

 

Psychological Challenges When Relocating


What are the psychological challenges one faces when relocating to another country?

imgres
Hong Kong

The most significant challenges always seem to be to give up the stereotypes that you already have about the new location and to be able to genuinely understand that culture and geographic location.

Media always puts in your mind what this location will be like, but it is often the best of the best (ideal vacation spots) of the worst of the worst (crime/property). There is seldom any reality check on what is the norm for that area.

When you land you already have full knowledge of what happens in your new location, but you do not have the complete picture. You do not have a balanced understanding of that city or the lifestyle you will be having.

I was recently interviewed by a company in Hong Kong that deals with parenting issues. Hong Kong is a perfect example of needing to let go of stereotypes since a person seldom experiences what you see on TV while living in Hong Kong. Just now if I google Hong Kong, I get investments and tall buildings. Hong Kong is more than securities and futures and skyscrapers.

Hong Kong for kids, at first, seems hard with it’s packed streets and heat, but soon the only thing you’ll find yourself short of is time because there are so many events and attractions.

One of my first exposures to schools outside of the USA was a stop in Hong Kong with the Semester at Sea floating educational system. It was eye opening for me since I had always made the assumption that kids got recess and recess meant in a playing field or grass area.

Semester at Sea

One critical psychological issue for all expats who move around is the need to belong or have loyalty to their tribe. After we cover Maslow’s hierarchy of food, water, shelter, safety, and security – after all our basic needs are met we need to belong. We need to connect. We need to belong to a family, community, a unit, a race of people, tribe, a great school, a good job or something. If we feel connected, we are happy and fulfilled.

Parents can ensure social and emotional stability in their changing environment by blending past and present. You have to connect to both the new location and your previous locations or homes. The importance of attachment and those vital close connections is what makes a person happy.

If you understand how relationships develop, then you have more success as a global nomad.

Relationships develop in this order:  Proximity – Sameness – Belonging – Loyalty and Significance as levels in a healthy connection.

Let me give you an example of this: In Hong Kong – Often work is a place to ensure social and emotional stability because of the connections you can make in this environment. At the school, you have many different people you come in contact with (proximity).

You may be from different nationalities but have children the same age (sameness).

We are all very different, but we have the similarity of belonging to the same school that brings us closer together. When you spend the day to day situations in the same environment, a person should feel like they belong. It is only people who choose to work, take breaks, eat lunch in isolation that misses out on the critical ingredient of belonging. Many people have loyalty to the job they are working in, or they would just quit.

The significance is key for global people. You need to feel like you got something beneficial out of your time in your host country and you need to think that you gave back something to it.

In Thailand, we saw lots of expats helping out with the floods. Students from area international schools are bagging up survival food and making care packages. When the earthquake hit Nepal, these same expats sent supplies and money to help.

The way you leave a location sets you up for your new place.

If you continue to feel liked you missed out of something because you didn’t live in your home country or you felt put out because you assignment was “too hard” or you thought that you wanted to quickly leave the country and say good riddance…then your next job will also seem shallow and non-important. 

Maslow Theory

Things to think about . . . 

Notes:

Our Your Predictions Off?


 

thinking child

What can you do when your brain doesn’t match your hand?

With two kids through a four-year college degree, I thought I had most of this ‘child-rearing’ figured out.  I do not.  I realize that half of what I have been telling my kids is possible wrong.  Or at least outdated. The world is constantly changing and nothing is for certain forever.

Are you OK with the notion that what your kids are learning in school may contradict what you learned in school? For some reason, that notion worries me!

Then I read this book – Yikes!

Samuel Arbesman’s “The Half-Life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date” is very interesting and makes you think.  Most medical schools tell their students half of what they’ve been taught will be wrong within five years – the teachers just don’t know which half.

I think this also related to parenting. Some of the foundation of wanting your child to be ethical, kind and engaged will never change. But so many other things will have to change because things are changing rapidly.

Are you comfortable with scientific knowledge?

Are you comfortable with changes in scientific knowledge?  How did you handle the status of Pluto changing?  What about the age at which women should get mammograms? Facts change all the time.  For decades, we were convinced that the brontosaurus was a real dinosaur.  For some people, they just don’t like this type of change.

Arbesman, a Harvard University-affiliated practitioner of scientometrics likes to look at how we know what we know.  He feels facts change in a regular, predictable manner and obeys mathematical rules.  Whenever I am faced with a mathematical rule I don’t understand I ask my children. One has a Master’s in Applied Mathematics and is very helpful!

They get this so much better than I do and they can break it down into bite size pieces so I really understand the rule.  Sometimes I watch the TV show, “Numbers” and then ask my children the hypothetical situation that was shown in the TV series.  Sometimes TV is spot on and sometimes the storyline doesn’t hold true to real mathematical rules.

Working with parents and change

I work with global parents, and there is always a lot of change in their lives.  Sometimes things so smooth and sometimes things just don’t go smooth. At times, there seems to not be any ‘rule’ to why things are done the way they are done.

When these families realize that there is nothing they can do about the changes then they decide they need to embrace it.  They are ready to move on to the next change they will have to cope with.

Arbesman states, “Once we recognize  facts change in a regular, predictable manner and they do obey these mathematical rules, we’ll be ready to live in the rapidly changing world around us.”

 

 

Notes:

This book is on Amazon – Here.

Original Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lemaipictures/41766940/

What would Halloween be without friends?


 

Sometimes Halloween abroad is not a treat!

Sometimes Halloween abroad is not a treat!

Then it got me thinking about all the issues friends can bring up around Halloween when you are an expat child (or any child).

“Should we dress alike?”

“Should we let ‘so and so’ go trick or treating with us?”

“Do we have to share with them?”

What should be a time of family fun and fun with friends can often end in an evening full of tears. There are of course some expected heighten emotions when you add too much sugar and a later bedtime, but parents can do a few simple things to help the evening go smoothly.

1. Remember if you are celebrating this holiday abroad, the expectations might not be what the parents or the kids want. The local candy might just be ‘awful’ so remind your child that there will be lots of local kids that would love to have the candy so focus on the ‘giving’ instead of the ‘taking.’

2. Remember that it can be an evening where fitting in is more important than the outfit.  Let your child pick what they want to be or dress like and forget the parent’s wants on this when you are abroad.  Nothing ruins a holiday more than an unhappy child.

3. Remember if your child decides to exclude ‘friends’ to remind them what the core values of your family are with words. “Our family values  politeness.” Or “Our family values courtesy.”  Or “Our family values civility.” Try not to say, “You should invite her.”

Halloween is for friends! Trick-or-treating is a customary celebration for children on Halloween. Let your kids celebrate. Love your child unconditionally, but hold him/her accountable for decisions or behavior that go against the family’s values.

Sunflower Bob - "Do I have to wear this?"

Sunflower Bob – “Do I have to wear this?”

In “Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child, I wrote short stories that take place in a variety of locations. The emotions are described in these short stories. Then it covers why the area is so unique. Some of these stories were from Jackie’s experiences around the world, and some were from Grant’s. To make it more predictable for young children to read or understand, I have made each story be about a boy called Jack.

If you are reading to a two or three-year-old, sit with them in your lap or lie down next to each other. Let them hear your voice acting out Jack’s words and his mother’s words with two different voices. Let him see the pattern in the stories.

If you are reading to a four or five-year-old, you can ask them if they know what is coming next. You can take turns being Jack and repeat his words after they are read. You can also do as suggested above.

If you are reading with an older child, ask him what he would like to do. How would he want the story to be read?

See if your child can take some of their experiences and place them into their own emotion stories. Most children can relate to other kids. Ask your child, “When did you feel like Jack?”

Joy During Halloween – Jack’s Story

Oxford English Dictionary

  1. A vivid emotion of pleasure arising from a sense of well- being or satisfaction; the feeling or state of being highly pleased or delighted; exultation of spirit; gladness, delight.
  2. The expression of glad feeling; outward rejoicing; mirth; jubilant festivity.
  3. A source or object of joy; that which causes joy, or in which delight is taken; a delight.

For a young child: Your face is really, really happy. You feel wonderful. You might even want to dance. This is the joy.

Geography

Neighborhoods around the world where families are involved in Halloween. You can experience joy while going through your trick or treat bag after a late night of running around the neighborhood. As you pile the candy into two very different piles; Candy that is well worth keeping and Candy that needs to be given away as soon as possible. As you take your fifth piece of candy and slowly unwrap it, so the wrapping does not make any noise, you smile with joy.  It has been a fun evening for you and your friends. You wish it could have lasted longer.

Jack’s Story – Joy

The evening ritual begins. The moon starts to shine, and Jack rubs his eyes. As Jack and his mom start the short walk across the neighborhood to their home, she asks him, “What was your evening like?”

“Let me think about it,” Jack grabs her hand, looks up with a smile and continues the walk home.

“How was your evening?” she leans over and asks again as he snuggles into his bed.

“Mommy, I had a good night at “trick and treating.” What should I dream about tonight?”

“Dream about what you experienced this evening,” she softly says as she leans closer and smoothes his pillow.

“Mommy, I am thinking about all the joy I felt tonight. I am going to dream about the parade we all took part in. I am going to remember the smiles on everyone’s faces as they walked around the neighborhood. I will remember their joy when they realized that they received some Halloween candy that they love. I am going to remember my joy when I saw you dressed up in your pumpkin hat. I am going to remember how much joy I had when I got to lug my huge trick or treat bag back home. Mommy, that is what I am going to dream about.”

“Do you know how much I love you?”

“You love me a lot.”

“More than you will ever know,” she says as she smiles and kisses him good night.

He just smiles and snuggles down in bed pulling the covers up towards his chin.

“Mommy, I love all the things we do on Halloween. I loved being a werewolf this year.  It was fun to go all over the neighborhood shedding my hair! Good night Mom.”

“Good night, Jack.”

Leaving Hair all over the Neighborhood!

 

Imagine my surprise when this video was sent to me from a friend!

 

 

Buffering or Being a Lifeline – Huge Job for Parents


Parents are not only buffers but lifelines for their children.

Working with expats from all over the world, I see this day after day.  Parents uproot their families, drop them off in a new environment, and the parents are the only ‘lifeline’ the child has to their pasts.  These are the kids that so often end up in my office. They are looking for an anchor to the new school.  I am a minor form of the lifeline they had to give up.  These kids can be so hard on the classroom teacher since academics is not the issue. They are the kids in need of just a little bit more TLC and time. This is why counselors are so important in the school setting.

When can the child throw away their lifeline?

There is no magic number on when a child will feel safe or connected again. Often I have this ‘ little soul’ joined to me at the hip as I continue with my regular workday.  (as usual as possible when you have an additional person glued to you).

Then as if by magic, they start to breathe deeper, think about their new peers and other connections. They begin to give up some of their panic about being in a new environment.  I am soon forgotten. I still get that occasional wave across the crowded playground or a quick high five as they run off to class. They have thrown their secondary lifeline away and are settled into their new school.

But parents are always a lifeline when it comes to learning life lessons.

When your child lies, it is a crisis for many families.

Many parents react first with “If I had not made him move, he would not be lying.”  Some even jump to “Because we moved so much, he is feeling out of control, so he lies to control the situation.”  I always tell them that a ‘move’ does not cause a normal childhood developmental issue.  Lying is universal and normal development, the degree is what matters.  I ask the expat parents to focus on their behavior, not the child’s behavior.

The parent’s behavior during a crisis shapes the resilience of their child for future battles in life. The most crucial challenge is this:

Helping children share lousy news early.

Most parents will remember the day when a child hid his math test paper in his bag. He just told you that the marks have yet not come and the teacher was absent. When you discovered his lie, I hope you didn’t just let it pass.

Ideally, I would have had a small chat and emphasized that whatever may happen with tests or life he should tell us early. Along with that, we addressed his fears which he had harbored in his mind. For me as far as kids are concerned, there is nothing like a “lie.” A “lie” is truth postponed, suspended, delayed or distorted, largely due to fear of the “explosive outbursts” at home.

This is why I started my comment with “Ideally, ” and I used ‘us.’  Kids need to know a family is a unit and a united front when it comes to lying.

Parents often say they are concerned when their child lies.  I always tell them it is more than lying!  I am sure some parents wish they had not brought their ‘small problem’ into my office because it isn’t a small problem.

The emotions behind a lie are ‘huge,’ and we owe it to our kids to help them understand why they made a choice to lie.

Helping kids share lousy news early is the essential trait they need to grow. This prevents the cascade of fear leading to sadness and depression.

Resources:

http: //www.myeducationtimes.com/educationTimes/CMSD/For-Parents/78/2011100420111004170118164ddb8713a/A-stitch-in-time.html

I Owe Asclepius a Rooster


RoosterI love philosophy. But to truly understand it you need to work with five-year-olds.  They are “so” connected with knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. They are knee deep into these things and still uncensored in their thought process.

 

Do you know philosophia? 

Some days we use speech bubbles, this allows the group to listen better when one child is speaking, and they know where to look because the speaker is holding the speech bubble over their head.

Some days when I teach, I ask them to use their thinking bubbles.  Thinking bubbles mean we have to make a connection to the story and share what we are thinking.

These are some of my favorite thoughts from five-year-olds:

  • I think that adults lie because they are afraid to go to timeout.
  • I think my maid is the smartest person in our house, cause she never loses things and helps all of us find our things.
  • I think my brain has too much information, but my hand is still in pre-school and can’t keep up.


What can you do when your brain doesn’t match your hand?

I am not saying that five-year-olds are not critical. They can be very critical. One little girl told me, “My family is just not right, I have to wait.” When I clarified with her about the things she had to wait for, it was all the things I hate to wait for also.

–       waiting at the airport for the plane

–       waiting for the Santa to show up

–       waiting for the summer holiday

I am not saying that five-year-olds lack rational argument. 

As I tried to get, one little boy to re-twist his PE shorts around so that his legs were parallel to his shorts (pants) legs instead of having two real legs coming out of one shorts (pants leg). Hope you are following this. He replied, “Why? My legs still run fast.”

Five-year-olds embrace “philosophia” which literally means “love of wisdom.”

If you have not entered a kindergarten classroom – you need to.  This is where real learning is often taking place. This is where no questions are too ‘stupid’ to ask, and this is where connections can be made in seconds!

If you don’t know where the title of this blog comes from- 

These were the dying words of Socrates, the number one philosopher of all times, d.399 B.C. 

Now a look back at expat family history –

Simens Rooster
Simens Rooster – What is he thinking?

Never underestimate the power of a young child. When it comes to brainpower, a child has you beat. The metabolic energy consumed by a child’s brain is 225% that of an adult, so this might explain why is it so hard to understand my own child’s request for a simple dinner. As I start to prepare our dinner, my child, makes a simple request.

“Mom, can we have chicken breathe?”

My son is almost four-years-old, but he does not have a speech issue or the inability to describe food, so I am stumped on what type of food he is talking about. I do the general questions Moms ask their children when we are puzzled.

“When did we have that? What is it? Did I make it? What is it? What does it look like? What is it?

I felt like a broken record because I just could not understand what he was asking for. We were lucky enough to be living in Indonesia, and my husband and I both work fulltime, we have a nanny, so I am quick to get her advice on what type of food my child might have eaten with her.

We asked about “chicken satay” and got out the wooden sticks they typically are cooked on, and my son nodded his head back and forth with “no, no, no.” We knew this was not the correct food. We then tried Ayam goring (fried chicken) this also brought out a negative response.

The following day we tried Ayam Taliwang, this is roasted chicken served with a peanut sauce, again the response was negative.

I decided that perhaps my son was not talking about the local food but about something that I had cooked on the weekends, so I started to prepare our typical American chicken food.

It is not a fried chicken breast.   It is not chicken strips. It is not chicken fingers. (What is the difference between these – strips and fingers?) It is not a baked chicken where he can pick any part of the chicken he wants first. It is not easy to find out what “chicken breathe” really is to a young child.

I ask for additional help by calling in his six-year-old sister. She decides we need to try other chicken dishes from around that world that is often served in our household. She thinks it might be chicken fettuccine alfredo. She loves this, but he says “no”.   Perhaps this is why she said, “It must be chicken fettuccine alfredo!”

Then we try a chicken cacciatore, again a favorite hit for us but a “no” from my son. Finally, my daughter,  says it has to be chicken noodle soup.

By now every chicken in Indonesia was running for cover worried that Ms. Julia would once again try another chicken dish.

I make a huge pot of chicken noodle soup and proudly serve it up to Grant. As he shakes his head again with a “no,” I am certain that there is no such thing as “chicken breathe.” Slowly, my four-year-old pulls each and every noodle out of his bowl and carefully lines them up on the table. When his bowl is almost empty, he grabs a spoon, throws a huge smile up to me and states, “chicken breathe.”

If I had only known that “chicken breathe” was “chicken broth.”  Life would have been more comfortable in the Simens household that week.

At times, in my dreams, I still see a chicken running around the world with his little beak pushed out. The chicken is blowing air all over the place, huffing and puffing. Finally, some of that air falls into a bowl, and my son is happy!

I am sure if my son had asked for Chicken Essence by name, we would have easily found it!

Chicken Essence Simens
Chicken Essence is 7% protein

 

Expat chicken soup
Spicy?

 

 

Sometimes raising expat children causes you to be creative.  Imagine how it would be to try and explain this international treat to your children.

I always encourage expat families to share their unique stories. I also feel the printed word sometimes does not do justice to a story.  Take time to build those oral stories that will earmark your time as expats so your children will benefit from knowing first hand the emotions that are part of their own life stories and then they can pass them on to others that join in the interest of their global lifestyle.

Pet Rooster

http://www.anujpradhan.com/2005/12/mobile-blogging-unfortunate-signs.php

Photo – Rooster: http://bucharestlounge.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/rooster-bob-marion-rose.jpg

 

 

Expat Halloween and the Importance of the Pumpkin!


I  never met a pumpkin I didn’t like.

When I lived abroad and got ready to celebrate another international Halloween…I needed to get all my ducks (or pumpkins)  in a row. This was always hard when living in a new country or location and you are trying to celebrate American Halloween for the first time in that place.

When witches go riding, and black cats are seen, the moon laughs and whispers.  Tis near Halloween.

I realize it is now October 1st,  but for many expats, the planning of Halloween started long before October. Some people put things into their suitcases from this past summer holiday in plans for the upcoming Halloween. Others commander the suitcase space of their traveling spouse to ensure that treats are in their new home country before this candy loaded holiday.

Others commander, the suitcase space of their traveling spouse, to make sure that treats are in their new home country before this candy packed holiday.

What I hadn’t realized is how this impacts places like Canada. This photo was taken on July 31st at a sale at Loblaws in Westboro, Ottawa. This means there were only 92 more shopping days left before Halloween.

Early shopping for Halloween

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When many Expats move, they have this vision that they can build up their lives into some nicely sugar-coated layered experience. Blending their home culture into their new culture.

Making layer after layer build up into a wonderful, beautiful experience for the whole family. They are just like kids going trick and treating, they want all their old and favorite candies in their tick and treat bags along with some new and exotic candies.

They want to cling on to some of their background, their history, and their Halloween rituals.

Halloween pumpkins

Expectations are hard to meet!

Parents need to be careful and connect with what is special about this holiday for your family. As an expat, you can easily get sidetracked and forget what is most important for your family. You get worried about your child’s interactions. You worry about the exposure your child has to something different from his or her home environment. You worry that your child will miss out!

I have talked to a lot of five-year-olds and their parents from around the world. Here are a few things I have been told about Halloween. Remember my sources are five-year-olds!

Austria – We leave bread and water out at night for the dead people.

Belgium – We light candles for dead people in our family.

 Canada  – The best part is the Jack O’Lanterns!

China – ‘Teng Chieh’ we put food and water by the photos of our dead family. We have lots of lanterns.

Czechoslovakia – We put one chair by the fire for each person in our family, even the dead people.

 England – Our pumpkins or ‘punkies’ are made out of large beets. We sing a ‘Punkie Night Song.’

 France – We also see pumpkins at McDonald’s near Halloween. We are all ‘scary’ not ‘fairy princesses.’ We get treats in the stores, not at your home.

 Germany – We have to be careful on Halloween, and we can’t use knives.

 Hong Kong – ‘Yue Lan’ (Festival of the Hungry Ghosts) It is about spirits!

 Ireland – it is just like in the USA. We do costumes and go trick-or-treating. We play ‘snap-apple,’ (an apple on a string and you try to bite it) and ‘knock-a dolly’ (where you ring the doorbell and run away).

 Indonesia – We don’t have Halloween, but we like candy.

 Japan – We don’t have this Halloween. We have ‘Obon Festival’ with our dead family members. We clean the house and the graves. It is in July.

 Korea – We have ‘Chusok.’ It is in August, we visit our dead family and take them rice or fruit.

 Spain – We have ‘El Dia de Los Muertos’ (days of the dead), but it is a happy celebration. We go to the grave and have a picnic. We have parades.

 Sweden – We have ‘alla Helgons Dag.’ We get to have a vacation day from school.

But this is our life, and as Expats, we try to fit into the host country, but most American’s want their children to get scared, overindulge in candy, wear costumes and even let the local children have this holiday.

Halloween Night Pumpkins

 

Family rituals are important

Children tend to love family rituals, even if they don’t admit it. Rituals provide a sense of security and can be soothing. A family ritual is anything your family does together deliberately. The routine of whatever you do is what counts. It can be anything. Just make sure you do it consistently.

Rituals are emotionally enriching. It is never too late to start a ritual.

Some children may resist being involved in such rituals. But if rituals are presented in a non-controlling manner, and you manage your expectations, all family members will ‘get on board’ much more readily than you thought.

I have worked with many families that want to start building closer family time, and sometimes the rituals start with just one person, but if that person feels it is important and keeps trying sooner or later the event can become a ritual.

Sometimes the ritual comes from having another culture in your life

We have often celebrated Halloween over the top! In Duri, Indonesia the expat engineers took over one of the houses on camp and made a truly ‘scary house’ for all of us to experience. I am not sure who had more fun the adults making the house or the kids going through it.

When you let a group of engineers take over the event, it can be way over the top!

I thought the eels in the stairwell with plexiglass that you walked over them was a great touch!  The pig’s head that moved in and out of the toilet – scared me, I can’t imagine what it did to my seven-year-old.  The electrical engineers did a great job with the lights and sounds.  What took the engineers two full days to complete allowed all of us to be like kids again on that Halloween night.

Years later, I wonder if people are still calling that one home the haunted house?  I know the family that moved into it only a few weeks after Halloween. They had no idea what it took to get their empty house back to normal.

Some of my highlights of Halloween living overseas with our young children were carving our pumpkins –

One time our pumpkin was a green coconut!  We have used Cassava Root to be a pumpkin in Indonesia. We used a Taro root as our pumpkin in Nigeria. Now that was a scary ‘pumpkin.’

Root vegetable in the market

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have made sure that our unique global situations allowed us to still have Jack o’ Lanterns that are uniquely ours. It has become a family ritual.

Families who move together – grow together.

Halloween tradition

 

Photos:

Cassava Roots – http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/44493000/jpg/_44493567_02nigeria_afp.jpg
fancy carved pumpkins http://www.flickr.com/photos/44124412397@N01/2962675525/in/photolist-5vNudv-5vSLhh-5vSLXQ-5vSMZW-5vSNXj-5vSPpA-5vSPyb-5wFHwT-5wL3vA-5wMPqa-5x3TWv-5x3XeV-5x3Y8x-5xuiTH-5xHcG2-5xWN7c-5y57h7-5BiPJf-5BJKm9-5Cexc1-5DtTqE-5Nddv4-5NhtLq-5QQikP-6aqioL-6bYozM-6xGtDz-6xGtKt-6xGtNH-6xGtR4-6xLCqG-6xLCtw-71Zedv-75mvd7-76CAMk-77KG2c-77ZLJp-7a7Fvr-7abvfs-7aBR4a-7aFDtE-7aFDY3-7b5g3T-7bz9Gn-7cpKLw-7fENbM-7gfK2W-7gKNAh-7hiRsB-7ipDvY-7mhGSH
peanut free: http://www.flickr.com/photos/93663762@N00/4872539224/in/photolist-8qz39Y-7E6yWk-dpRtDc-dqxymx-aBjdrE-8uXDLT-8uXDQa-fYyQ2W-8NNSeK-aALxBh-8Pz1Pm-dgdv7U-aAXkYY-88fysa-aAB3oK-at1upA-dq2SLW-dq2GUp-dq2SNY-dq2GNk-dq2GQT-dq2SRh-arcK1B-dpBaRe

CCKs Conflicting Thoughts: Building an Understanding of our Foundation


Mangos and French Fries

Mangos and French Fries

I am a firm believer that the more we understand about ourselves, the better we communicate to others and the more fulfilled we tend to be. Working with the global population has always given me many concrete examples of how they try to process their global upbringing.

Recently, I was working with 7 -10th graders at a school. We went over all the different parts of our culture to help us understand our own unique identity.  I asked the students to think about ten areas that pay a fundamental role in “who we are.”

These are:

  1. Family (Meaning who is living currently under your roof, including any staff or host country people who share the same living environment)
  2. Extended family (those we see often or just yearly but are a part of our lives through social media when we are not physically together)
  3. Rules of behavior (Many families have multicultural standards and norms – so it is important to understand as a young kid “What rules of behavior do I internally have?” and to be able to put these rules down in written form.)
  4. Languages that we have mastered. (To be able to read, speak and understand at least 300 words in another language)
  5. Traditions – which ones do you see in your current home or which ones do you really like.
  6. Religion – which ones are in your home or your neighborhood that you are aware of.
  7. Art – which type of art are you drawn to.
  8. Music – which kind of music are you drawn to.
  9. Food – what are your favorite types or your favorite food
  10. Interest groups- what do you identify yourself as a passion or what you do in your free time.
Moving in a country allows regional cultures to become part of our mix.

Moving in a country allows regional cultures to become part of our mix.

Global Nomads have many different cultures in their lives.

We are often good at realizing the cultural differences between countries, but as we work with these global souls, we also need to be mindful of the geography differences due to regional cultures.

This student felt his base language was Bahasa Indonesia but was speaking and writing above grade level expectations in English. He also could communicate in Makassarese which is used in South Sulawesi island, Toraja-Sa’dan a Malayo-Polynesian language spoken in Western Sulawesi, and Manado Malay which is spoken in Manado.  Imagine mastering five languages before becoming a teenager. He also was confident that his language skills would continue to develop since he often communicated with these extended family members and they did not fall back into English because they were aware of the need to keep their base languages active.

He also had an extended family that was Christian, Buddhist, and Muslim. He could understand all of these core beliefs and see similarities and differences. He said, “As a family, we celebrate a lot of religious events, we understand the need to honor every one’s belief.”

Sometimes the students write compelling personal glimpse of what it means to be a global nomad.

My view is not the sameStory # 1  My view is not the same.

I grew up in a small village in Indonesia but halfway through my elementary school years my family moved to Balikpapan. My Dad does not carry an Indonesian passport, but he gets a work visa to stay with my Mom, who is Indonesian. They decided to move me to an international school once we moved to Balikpapan.

My English quickly got a whole lot better. I still do most of the same things that I did before coming to Balikpapan.

When we worked on our culture or identity, and you walked us through all the things that make up a person’s culture, I got it. I could finally understand why I don’t always see eye to eye with my mom or my dad.  My father sees things that he knows or through his culture.  My mom sees things or knows things through her culture. I am unique; I see things through my culture which is both cultures.

Why can't I have both?Story #2 Why can’t I have both?

Why can’t I have both – why can’t I pick what I want?

It seems like I live in two worlds all the time but find neither one of them perfect. When I am in Indonesia, I dream and want to be in Australia. When I am in Australia, I dream of being back in Indonesia. I have mastered both languages, can tolerate both kinds of music from our countries and actually love both Australia and Indonesian food.

Why can’t I have both – why can’t I pick what I want? I have good friends at school in Indonesia but always feel like I am missing out on things going on in Australia. I have great friends and family in Australia. But I also have great friends and relatives in Indonesia. Why can’t I have both?

Why can’t I have both – why can’t I pick what I want? In my dream, Australia will be perfect.  But it is not in real life.  In my dream, Indonesia is perfect, but it is not in real life. Why can’t I have both – why can’t I pick what I want?

Here is the classroom presentation:

 

It can also be viewed at http://prezi.com/vohav6owhsyb/international-school-balikpapan-grades-78-and-910/#

Sophomore Slump : Full Speed Ahead as an Expat


Blog jsimens - helping families worldwideRemember When – – – A shout out to my expat friends who just sent a teen off to University

For many young American adults returning to the USA to attend college or university after being expats or global nomads since they have been following their parent’s careers overseas, “Sophomore Slump” starts after about six weeks in the new university.  This is when it dawns on them that their lifestyle of travel is now over.  No more vacations in foreign countries on long weekends. No more traveling to and from exotic places at Christmas. No more team sports that cause you to carry a passport.

Some global nomads find the start of college so hard but can usually settle down into the new system soon. After the orientations, the parent weekends and the new student events, campus life can get stressful. This is when it is key to have some support system on campus. Or near by. Teens are often good at masking what is going on for them by text or even skype. They seldom want to admit to their parents that things are not going as well as they wanted.

Changing Universities

Sophomore slump hits repatriated teens often, and they show how upsetting this is by changing institutions.

If you look closely at the retention rate in a university from a freshman to a sophomore at some schools, it is alarming. What is causing all these teens to try one university for just a year and move on? Most of the time it is not because of grades but because they are finding a ‘slump’ or the excitement of the university does not match up to their expectations.

As the author of Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child, I am greatly concerned about these children as they return to the USA to attend university in their home country. I often feel we have not prepared the child enough for this transition without their family.

Two children = Two Locations

Since our two children decided to look at two very different locations for college, it has complicated our travel plans. Colorado is a state that receives many teens repatriating because it is such a lovely state. Toronto is also known for its high rate of international students. Many expat children do not have a ‘home’, so they pick a geography site that they love.  Then the match of a university to this location to the child’s long term goals is applied.  This is hard for many families.

We are slowly approaching our second year in this location, Balikpapan. In our short time here, we have already seen a tremendous amount of turnover in the Expat population. The things that have bothered me the most during this expatriate move without children are:

  • My relaxed lifestyle of booking four tickets to one place is no longer possible. We now have to book three different travel plans to get to a single location.
  • I no longer want to go on long weekends out of the country since I am saving up my days to be with my kids.
  • My kids have done the exotic places for Christmas and now wish to do something more relaxing and mainstream.
  • My passport does not get used as much as it did since I am not traveling to see my kids in all those high school events that international schools are so good at setting up.
Travel - worldwide leaving a part of yourself

Worldwide –  Leaving a Part of Yourself

 

 

You might say I am in a sophomore slump.

 

What you can learn from Grandparents about interacting with your own child


Picture 5
Tri- Generational events are the best in the world

Happy Grandparents Day

National Grandparents Day originated with Marian McQuade in West Virginia, USA. Her primary motivation was to champion the cause of lonely elderly in nursing homes. She also hoped to persuade grandchildren to tap the wisdom and heritage their grandparents could provide. President Jimmy Carter (1978) proclaimed that National Grandparents Day would be celebrated every year on the first Sunday after Labor Day.

In 2017, (USA) Grandparents Day falls on Sept. 10th

I hope your family can connect somehow on this upcoming Sunday. Family reunions are important because they allow the family to create rituals that connect the generations.

Children tend to love family rituals, even if they don’t admit it. Rituals provide a sense of security and can be soothing. A family ritual is anything your family does together deliberately. The routine of whatever you do is what counts. It can be anything. Just make sure you do it consistently.

Rituals are emotionally enriching. It is never too late to start a ritual. Some children may resist being involved in such ceremonies. But if rituals are presented in a non-controlling manner and you manage your expectations, all family members will ‘get on board’ much more readily than you thought. I have worked with many families that want to start building closer family time and one key way to do this is to have family reunions.

Let me give you an example:

Memories are highly personal and so is how a family wants to ‘remember’. Having a global connection allows a family the ability to participate on any level that is in their comfort zone so they can determine what they need. For many people having a structured event allows them the ability to connect to others easier, therefore, a family reunion is perfect. I work with families on “emotion stories” and tri-generational ones are the best.

Having events or creating rituals builds resilience.

As a parent, you cannot help your child learn to be resilient unless you let them take responsibility for their own growth process. Learning from your grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins is vital for your children. It is one way to make sure they understand the importance of family connections.

These times of connections can be priceless. Some families are lucky enough to get to do tri-generational family vacations.

Julia’s top Five Books for Families on Grandparent’s Day

  1. HALMONI’S DAY  – by Edna Coe Bercaw
    About a Korean-American girl who is self-conscious about bringing her different-seeming grandmother to school on Grandparent’s Day.
  2. To Grandma’s House We…Stay – by Sally Houtman
    This is a very wise and helpful book, especially for families headed by grandparents. Ms. Houtman tells it like it is, saying “The fact is, families are changing. We can either bail with all our might or look for a lifeboat.” You’ll definitely find plenty of life preservers in Ms. Houtman’s writings.
  3. I Don’t Want To Talk About It – By Jeanie Franz Ransom features a comprehensive afterword that describes children’s common reactions to divorce and offers parents suggestions for helping their own children adjust and thrive. Grandparents are vital when a family is going through a divorce.
  4. My Grandma Lives at the Airport  – by Rebecca Rudner is about keeping families connected when they live far apart. Author Rebecca Rudner shows how absent family members can stay present in the hearts and minds of young children. The story is about Shelby, who concludes that Grandma must live at the airport because that is where she and her parents always pick Grandma up when Grandma comes to visit.
  5. The Gifts of being Grand by Marianne Richmond acknowledges the grand people whose love and care we treasure…and who truly celebrate the grand little people in their lives.

My children were blessed with having two grandparents that they collected memories with for a long time. Being expat children they have been able to keep in touch with both and see them often. Many family vacations would happen when they would come to see us in our overseas assignments or we would visit their homes in the summer time.

janetgrand marshal
Grandma Wright – Grand Marshall

The annual Old Settlers Day Celebration in Russell Springs, Kansas starts off with a church service than the parade. After the Parade, the annual Cowchip throwing contest is held.

IMG 0176
Grandpa Simens – Annual Family vacations in Lake Tahoe

Tahoe if a time for us to go fishing, sit on the beach or play lawn bowling games.

This year we got to celebrate Grandpa’s 86th birthday.  One of the highlights was a whiskey tasting at Incline Wine and Spirits.

Notes: A great grand parenting book is: If I Knew it was going to be this much fun I would have become a Grandparent First by Willard Scott.  It has short stories from Phyllis Diller, Phil Donahue, Mike Wallace, Stephen Covey, Maureen Stapleton and many more.