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Plan a perfect holiday : The last day before christmas holiday begins

Santa hat on Globe

World Wide Holidays

Out of the vault –

She was angry and sad.

I asked her “why” on the last day of school before the Christmas holiday?  She said, “I am angry that the day will be over so soon and I am sad that I have to leave school.

This was not how I recalled my years in schools.  I was always the first to leave and the one sitting eagerly in my seat for the last bell to ring so I could blast off for fun on being “out of school.”

So I wonder . . . Did my teacher’s not instilling my love of learning and my need to be in school or is her time off so dull that she would rather be at school than at home.

So I decided to ask her “why” again.

“I really like my friends, and I love my teacher, why would I want to miss out on what they are doing?” she questions me back.

“Won’t you do anything fun over the holidays?”

“Yes, we are going to go horseback riding and ice skating.”

“Won’t that be more fun than being in school?”


She summed it up in one word. No. School was more fun than riding a horse. School was even more fun than skating. She is five and school is MORE fun than these two activities. My first thoughts were, Your teacher is fortunate to have you in her class.

Then I realized the truth. Her teacher must be a great teacher.

“You are a lucky little girl to love school so much.”, I said.

Again she stated it perfectly. “I love my whole school day.”

Being a part of her universe, I am going home tonight glad to be a counselor and thankful that she is part of my school. I hope all the teachers, parents, children and counselors have a great Christmas holiday. People travel all over the world for the holidays, but we also need to be ‘happy’ to acknowledge where we come from.

Safe Travels if you are heading out of school this season.

Family and Food – Two of my favorite things!

traveling turkey

Being an American who has lived in many different countries, I have always tried to explain the USA holiday of Thanksgiving. It is one of my favorite holidays because it incorporates two things I hold very dear to my heart – Family and Food.

I like that it is not a gift-giving holiday.

I like that it is not a religious holiday, people of all faiths can join in the celebration.

To me, it is a celebration of gratitude.

Gratitude is the best attitude. – Author Unknown.

I like the family traditions we have at Thanksgiving. I love that some things always stay the same. We still have turkey even if we have to pay too much for it.  My brother, Jeff who lives in Missouri is always amazed at how much you have to pay for a turkey in places like Indonesia, Nigeria, or American Samoa. Turkey’s are just not grown in many areas in the world and when you have to throw in frozen containers floating around the world or frozen air shipments – the costs are just sky-high. I have been known to put a whole frozen turkey in a suitcase just to get one in the country we are currently living in at that time! Not much room in the suitcase for other items but well worth it for the family tradition.

I’ve made pumpkin pies from scratch in places where you can’t get our favorite Libby’s pumpkin puree. It is several day processes for me when you have to start with a whole garden pumpkin. I love the convenience, consistent flavor and texture of canned pumpkin even if it is mostly “squash’!

Some canned “pumpkin” puree is made from one or more types of winter squash, like butternut, Hubbard, Boston Marrow, and Golden Delicious. These squash varieties can be less stringy and richer in sweetness and color than pumpkin. The USDA is pretty lenient with its distinction between pumpkin and squash.

Sometimes hard to find in July!

Often in the summer on my annual home leave, I’d buy Libby’s brand of canned pumpkin and throw it into our suitcase, so I’d have my Thanksgiving pie!  Libby’s use a strain of Dickinson Pumpkins, with exceptionally creamy flesh that the company developed themselves. This variety of pumpkin resembles a butternut-squash, not the orange pumpkin we have for Halloween jack-o-lanterns.

Sometimes it is impossible to get Crisco in the countries we have lived in.  I like the crust of my pumpkin pie to be flaky.  I watched my Grandma Wright use Crisco (vegetable shortening), Flour, Salt, Water, Vinegar, and Egg to make perfect pies. This is the only way I know how to make a good pie. Ree, The Pioneer Woman, uses a similar recipe. So believe it or not, Crisco has also found its way into my luggage.  So far I have only had to try and explain why I am bringing these items into a country one time.  By the time I got to pie crust . . . The customs official was waving me through the line. I am not sure what I would have said or done if they had taken my Thanksgiving stash.

My favorite Zen Holiday Story about giving thanks

A wise woman who was traveling in the mountains found a precious stone in a stream. The next day she met another traveler who was hungry, and the wise woman opened her bag to share her food.

The hungry traveler saw the precious stone and asked the woman to give it to him. She did so without hesitation. The traveler left, rejoicing in his good fortune. He knew the stone was worth enough to give him security for a lifetime.

But a few days later he came back to return the stone to the wise woman.

“I’ve been thinking,” he said, “I know how valuable the stone is, but I give it back in the hope that you can give me something even more precious. Give me what you have within you that enabled you to give me the stone.”

Giving thanks far away from family

Then: Bundle up it was always cold and drive across Logan County to Grandma’s house. Over the river and through the woods and all that sort of stuff.

Now: Glad, our child in is Hawaii enjoying life with Kylie.  Glad that Kevin and I will be able to share Thanksgiving with them.

At one Thanksgiving, it would have been our child’s first-ever USA Thanksgiving. While living in college and not near family, I searched and searched for a restaurant that would deliver a feast to her college apartment. Most nice places have a buffet for important events like Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year.  After hearing my ‘sad story’ about it being her first and only USA Thanksgiving in the USA and being alone– my wish was honored.  The Briarwood Inn supplied a feast for my child. It is hard to know how much a person might eat at a buffet and there was no way to determine that. My child reported that not only was it a feast there were tons of leftovers, and that is what makes Thanksgiving unique for a college kid.  Or all of us. Right.

Several years ago while in Honolulu we had the Royal Hawaiian (hotel) Thanksgiving to go! We made Thanksgiving hassle-free that year with their Thanksgiving To-Go package, featuring a Kiawe Smoked Turkey, Sourdough Stuffing, Cheesy Herb Mashed Potatoes, Pumpkin Pecan Pie, and more. The meal feeds up to 15 people.  Of course, we took it up to our son’s apartment so his friends could enjoy the feast! We asked them to bring their chairs and silverware. Thank goodness for paper plates!

Thanksgiving past and present 

I am grateful for all the Thanksgiving feasts I have had.  Starting with the ones at Grandma Wright’s Kansas farmhouse to the ones in Incline Village, NV.  At first, all my memories of Thanksgiving were only about family members. Often we had a whole room full of tables and family sharing the feast. Then it moved to Thanksgiving with college friends and on to Thanksgiving with international teachers. Then a few years of Kevin and I were sharing the dinner with friends. Finally, my own family and an ongoing list of expats sharing the feast.

I wish I had taken pictures of the faces of people who shared my table every Thanksgiving to have as a slideshow of memories. Besides a whole host of beautiful people and their smiling faces, it would show some interesting things. It would explain the massive tuna that the young teachers put on the BBQ in Samoa to go with the roast chicken.

It would show my Mom cooking gravy in a “fry baby” in Hawaii since my college apartment didn’t have a lot of kitchen items. All of our guests had to bring their plates and silverware since we only had a set of three odds and ends.

As always, our family will be missing my mother at the holidays, but we will remember fondly how she so effortlessly made a huge meal year after year for all of us and any friends we wanted to bring along.

Those past photos would have shown the beautiful name tags my kids made one year. It would show the straw turkey Jackie painted with her Grandma Simens. It would show friends from around the world. It would show my family. It would also show our quasi-families!

Expats create quasi-family for Thanksgiving

Enjoy your time with friends –  If you are an expat create a quasi-family and enjoy the holiday.

Zesho Susan O’Connell speaks about Thanksgiving, and she does it well.

“The greatest gift is to give. We can give gratitude; we can give sustenance to body and mind, we can give fearlessness. The wheel of giving and receiving keeps our hearts open and warm. And a warm and open heart is the source of courage – the courage to sit still in the midst of our constantly changing, challenging lives. Wisdom emerges from this stillness — and informs the style and content of our giving. Give with no expectation of return. Give wholeheartedly, and if you realize you are holding back, give yourself kindness and understanding. Give each out-breath to the benefit of the world.

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 strangers – 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, throw in a berry pie to make everyone 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 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 cornbread, 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!

A Walk Down History Lane: Your Childhood Games

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We all have our favorite games from childhood, which we enjoyed for hours with friends and family. Those games offered unique combinations of strategy, entertainment and originality. And, as a result, many have remained around for decades.

I grew up on Monopoly.

Monopoly is an American board game published by Parker Brothers. Hasbro even conducts a worldwide Monopoly tournament. The first Monopoly World Championships took place in Grossinger’s Resort in New York, in November 1973. It has been aired in the United States by ESPN.

The Wright Family ( my maiden name)  each summer conducted a worldwide Monopoly tournament. We all got together in the upstairs bedroom and started to play a long marathon of Monopoly playing. I was often the youngest member playing the the game. I often lost! My bothers, sisters and cousins were much better with banking and investments than I was.

Being an expat, I am pleased to see Monopoly is a world-wide game. The current world champions have come from the following countries:  United States, Ireland, Singapore, Italy, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Netherland, Hong Kong, Japan, Spain and Norway. This means children must play Monopoly around the world

The memories I have about Monopoly in Russell Springs Kansas on a hot summer night are special. We did not always do as the game rules suggested.

For example:

Setup time – 10 minutes

This would take my older brothers and sisters the average time but for me the youngest. I swear they were always telling me to hurry up!

Playing time – 240 minutes (3 to 4 hours) [average]  But…But…we had games that went late into the night and everyone took their money to bed with them and we resumed playing the following morning. I guess we trusted our hotels and playing pieces to remain where they needed to be, but cash, well cash is cash!

Skill(s) required Negotiation, Resource management –  Huh?  I thought it was the skill of sticking to a task and not giving up. Perseverance!

Yet toy makers just can’t seem to help themselves when it comes to updating the classics. They insist on adding electronic features that take away all the joy (and education) from playing the game.

Does Monopoly really need credit cards and an electronic bank?

Is a Magic 8 Ball more fun if the answers are shouted out by a TV character? What about a dice game that doesn’t have dice? My list of good toys being turned into non-thinking actions can go on and on.  Stop the madness – buy the classic games and toys and let your child learn. The most important thing to remember is that kids need to play board games to learn to take turns, negotiation skills and being honest.  Are your kids experts in these areas?

Notes:  Yes, I was considered Ms. Wright for almost 30 years~

*OooOoOOooo* Does Halloween bring out the best in you as a parent?

 Halloween can bring out the best or the worst in a family.

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I am always interested in how Halloween is ‘seen’ to families around the world. Is it a funny dress up event or a scary eve of All Saints’ Day?

Sometimes it is seen as a very weird holiday to some people. Sometimes it is seen as just being a holiday that is easy to overindulge in candy.

Are kids in your neighborhood somewhat uncreative? Or are their parents!

Instead of thinking long and hard about what they wanted to be for Halloween, they run to the store at the last minute and grab a prepackaged costume (Superheroes, Monsters, and Star Wars characters). What happens when you live overseas, and you are not creative?

I remember when The Gong Show was popular in the 70s, this brought out some Chuck Barris outfits. Why? I always wondered why? But in Asia, coming as a ‘gong’ is a real possibility!

If you are having a bad hair day, you could just put a bag over your head and be The Unknown Comic. But of course, you’d have to live in a country that actually has paper bags or you would have had to put one in your suitcase at home leave for just this type of ’emergency.’

Age Appropriate

I hate it when young kids are dressed far above their age group with sexual topics, but it happens way more than we care to admit at home and overseas. Why does the cute little mermaid have to have adult eye shadow and lipstick? Why does the teen have to wear a costume that makes her look like a ‘uncomfortably-sexual being’?

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Got to love the hair and the legs!

A costume that always makes me smile is when adults dress up as ‘The Village People’ and I always chuckle at the Richard Simmons costumes on kids or adults. I wonder why these American icons made it worldwide. What has been your favorite all time outfit for someone in your family?

Many people dress up their children, but some even dress up their pets.  Some of these photos always make me smile.  Have you ever dressed up a pet?

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One pet is hard enough to photo…but two! Cute.
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Now there are also other real concerns – Whether you’ve been invited to a big Halloween bash or plan on hanging at home you might be immortalized in Facebook photos.

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Country Appropriate

One time we had to dress up for a “P” Progressive dinner party while living on Sumatra, Indonesia. Among the many (P‘s) that ended up as pimps and prostitutes, you found my 6’4″ husband dressed all in yellow with a stem headpiece.  He was the poster boy for to the Indonesia Pisang or Banana. I was the balloon filled purple outfit that was a Parasite – complete with notes on why parasites are important in the tropics.

This might explain why we have been invited to so few Halloween parties since then.

Halloween pumpkins





Parenting wisdom – gained while traveling

my travels map

At times do you wish you’d just step in and “help a parent?”

I do.

What holds me back is the underlying thought that they might not appreciate my help, and I would make the situation worse.

Tantrum before the flight

As I hit the airport in Honolulu, I was eager to get to my gate and log on to the email so I could catch up on notes before my all-night flight back to the mainland. (I laugh- all night now is 6 hours in the dark when it used to be those all night flights from Asia, which were really long trips. Really. Long.)

At the gate area, there is a mother with her two-year-old who was having a tantrum. She was trying to reason with her daughter. The toddler was screeching and the mother was standing there mortified.  I wanted to tell her my words of wisdom from working with many young kids:

You have to get down to her level, face to face. Put your body between her and us the general public and say in a quiet but controlled voice, “Tell me what you need”. Then repeat this again and again if necessary.

Parents often cloud the issue by asking too many questions or talking too long themselves. A two-year-old needs to hear five or six words, no more. Kids often only understand 1/2 of what we say so we need to keep it short. I wish I had tried to help that Mom.

Parents often over-explain!

On another airplane trip, I overheard a dad explaining and explaining things to his kids. It sounds counterintuitive: doesn’t your child deserve an explanation about why you’re saying they can’t have another ice cream before the flight? I knew the explanations were going right over their heads and distract from the matter at hand. I wish I had explained to the Dad how he could phrase his conversation. I’d like to tell him this.

You must always phrase it in the positive. If you say “no you can’t have another ice cream before the flight” . . . the child hears “ice cream before the flight.” Always phrase it with the results you want, “We eat apples or popcorn before flights”. This will take the focus off the ice cream. With this positive phrase, your child gets a choice so she is more open to making a choice. This is much better than just “no” to ice cream.

When a parent says no, this does not give the child any power.  But giving them the choice of an apple or popcorn gives her some power.

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Landing – Hope all the troubles go away as soon as we hit the ground.

Once at an airport, I ran into a family that was over-compensating for a divorce.

Some parents ‘entitle’ children because of a divorce. The parents feel guilty. They try to spare the child of any ill feelings whatsoever. This is not a great combination on a flight especially if you are the one sharing a row with this family. Again a balanced life is vital.  Balanced means highs and lows, it means feeling happy and sad. Parents can’t give a child a one-sided life because it robs them of being able to thrive and have resilience. All kids need to have the ability to bounce back.  As parents, we need to let them feel the uncomfortableness of waiting on the tarmac as the plane waits for a new flight plan. Parents don’t have to spend all their energy to entertain the child while the aircraft is still on the ground. As parents, we need to let the child feel all these emotions when they are young so they build up the skills they need.

Note to Parents:

You are the guardians for your children’s innate emotional well-being.

I always describe the feeling parents and teachers have about wanting the best for their children as “passionate”. If we wish to build on the emotional feelings of love we have for our children, we need to think of how we want them to live most successfully the rest of their lives.

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Survived the first week of school! Yeah!

Making friends is not easy for some kids that move around the world.

oreo world
Let’s look at things from their point of view

Let’s look at things from their point of view… Barely a week after flying halfway around the world, from home to this “new” location, the child knows just three people in his new country – his mom, his dad, and his sister – and then throw in the fact he only speaks a little of the local language. Survival is a sign of resiliency.

This summer I was aware of some facts about resiliency in the expats in Canada. Kate Hammer, an educational reporter stated, “Nearly five million elementary and secondary students who start school this year, one of 500,000 who are foreign-born, and one of the thousands who will be in a Canadian classroom for the first time outperform their native-born peers.”

I feel this is because expat children learn to be resilient. Despite the challenges they face – cultural, linguistic and emotionally- they survive.

Canada is lucky to have such talented children. Stats from the United States and the United Kingdom do not show that immigrants into these countries outscore their native peers. According to Statistics Canada, about 10% of Canadian students were born elsewhere. In major areas like Toronto, that proportion grows to as high as 25 % (including university).

If your child is having trouble in their new location try this tip. It works!

Remind them of the successes they have had in the past. Remember to focus on their strengths.

“Remember how much you loved basketball games and you always had friends who also love them.”

“Last year, you loved science maybe you will find someone here that loves science.”

Often parents say these words “Don’t worry – you will make friends.”

This does not help the child because it is not based in fact of what he/she knows.

In order to instill confidence in a child, they need to be able to remember their past success and how they managed to thrive.  Telling a child to “not worry” or to “give it time” – is not helpful. Give them concrete examples of their past success.

Many expat children learn to be resilient. What challenges did your child face – cultural, linguistic and emotionally- as they moved around the world?

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Starting a new school – Tips for success

Are you excited or nervous?

Many families are heading off to different countries to start a new school year. Are you excited or nervous?

 See the new environment

Families often do not see their new school until the start of the school year. I always suggest to my parents who are moving to call the school and ask them if you can bring the children in to see their new environment. This often takes some anxiety off the first day of school, but it also allows you the opportunity to ‘run into’ other new families or those families that are involved with the school. These are both valuable resources. You can ask them, “Where do kids this age play or hangout?” as you point to your children. You ask them, “What are you finding to do while your family is still in the rental apartment? Sometimes this on-site visit gives your child the opportunity to see what other kids are wearing, so they don’t get stunned on that first day of school. This can be very important if the school does not have a uniform. Most kids just want to belong and not stick out too much.

Get a local resource person

Use the school secretary as a resource. Ask the school staff, “Where is the best playground around here?” – “What activities do kids in this school get involved in?” I have had students take a weekend class on pottery to find out that a child in that class would also be in their grade or classroom in a few days. Make sure your child understands how many sections or classrooms there will be with kids their age. When a child moves from a huge school to a small school, it is important for them to realize how important first impressions might be because there is a smaller pool of possible friends. This also is important if your child is going from a tiny school to a larger school. Often the first days of school have grade-level assemblies or school assemblies; your child needs to know if these will be in a group of 40+ or 400+. The more information a child has on their new environment, the more in control they might feel.

Proper use of “Family Time.”

Use family time as “out of home time” not “bonding in your home environment.” The more exposure your child has to get around the new town, eating at the local places close to school and knowing the names of the large streets or apartment buildings gives them more to talk about the first two days of classes when friendships are being formed. Often we are stuck in a service apartment while waiting for the shipment to clear customs. This means we have very little to do and can easily get on each other’s nerves. Take that energy and go out to explore the new environment.

#1 Rule for Success

My number one rule for all parents is – Do not show up late to the start of the school year. Friendships form so quickly that a kid that misses out on the teacher trying to make class connections with peers, he/she will suffer. This also means do not show up to school with an overly tired child. Getting off a plane on Sunday to start school on Monday can set up a child for social failure.

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Research findings on dads: Is this the real message we want to send to our children?

Real kids and real dads spending time together…the message being sent is, I love you. I enjoy time with you. I care.


I often talk about the messages that children’s book send to kids.

I work with five-year-olds but the message we are sending them, and have been sending them forever is really awful. We all know about the turtle and the hare. Kids are given a choice between being the talent but erratic hare and the plodding but steady tortoise. Nobody really wants to be the tortoise! We all just want to be a less foolish hare. This book tries to put forward the power of effort but it gives the effort a bad name. It reinforces the image that effort is for plodders and suggests that in rare instances when talented people drop the ball, the plodder can sneak through.


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Best Friends vs. Summer Friends – What Works Best for the Expat Child

hello goodbyeExpats . . . We hit the airport. We travel long distances to get back to “home” and we continually think about our kid’s friends. Do they need more? Do they need different ones?

Some expats pack up and move during the summer so they can get ready for a new location, a new school, and a new life. That summer means new friends. Due to the movement in International Schools, this means at some point; this child will seem friendless or so sad when their ‘best friend’ moves on. It might be your child that is left behind. Summer time can be hard on kids in transition. They might already be worrying about what is going to happen when they go back to school, and their best friend is gone.


School Friends

Each child needs to feel connected and involved with other children. This is often through a common interest, gymnastics, after school activities, sleepovers, etc. This does not mean that during the school day that they need to be only connected to their best friend. In fact, parents and teachers will ask them to find other friends or to branch out their social connections.

It is important for a child to have a connection or a best buddy to help them through transition times. It is nice to see a familiar face when you have the first day of school. Or it is nice to be with a few friends when you move from elementary school to middle school. There are times that a connection is a critical part of a child’s life. These connections are often missing in the expat child’s life due to frequently moves.

But We Can Have Problems with Friends

The biggest pitfall is when your child’s  friend limits your child from making new friends.  Or does not let him/her make friends that might open their choices or focus on new things to do. It is hard for a child to form an interest in a new sport or new musical instrument if they never hear or see a peer involved in the activity. Kids learn by seeing others do it. If you have a reluctant reader do you just want them to be with other kids who love to play outside all the time or do you want them also to have a friend that loves to read and will get them into trying new books.

Understanding Relationships

I feel it is important for children to have close connections to their family as well as friends. To shape these vital close relationships, you need to understand the way healthy relationships develop. I have a master’s in clinical psychology and work with a focus on family therapy with our international population. I often educate parents on ‘Neufeld Six Stages of Attachment ‘.

1. The most primitive and primary stage of attachment is PROXIMITY. Through touch, contact, and closeness, the infant begins attaching to his or her parents.

2. Secondly, toddlers seek SAMENESS with their parents, mimicking their mannerisms or dress, and looking for ways to be the same as their parents.

3. The third stage is BELONGING or LOYALTY. Often three-year-olds will be very possessive and say “my mommy or my daddy.”

4. Four-year-olds seek reassurance of the strength of their attachment to parents by wanting evidence of their SIGNIFICANCE. This is the fourth stage.

5. The fifth stage develops around the age of five when we see the beginnings of genuine LOVE as attachment goes deeper and deeper.

6. And finally, the sixth stage. From age six onward, if the attachment roots have gone deeply enough, we have a child who allows him or herself to venture out into BEING KNOWN.

This creates the foundation for virtually every relationship your child will ever have, beginning with parents, and later with siblings, friends, and intimate partners. This attachment is the cornerstone of parenting. It can help with keeping your child on track academically, managing challenging behavior, and maintaining the all-important role of being the one they turn to for advice and support.

But Sadly – 

Parents often put more of a focus on their child’s friends than they do on their own parent/child connection. They take it for granted that because they are the parent this parent/child connection will be strong and secure.

goodbyeI feel that a child to child friendship is vital, but they are also very ‘natural.’ If children are given some freedom with the day, they will find friends and enjoy doing things together.

If a child has too much structure and no free time, finding and keeping friends becomes the job of the parents, and it tends not to be natural and therefore not a very strong connection for the children.

Summer Friends

This is the time that kids can foster fun friendships and learn how a relationship webs and flows. It is important that parents allow down time, free time and fun time for their kids during the summer. Let them seek out older friends or younger friends. Let them play. Let them make a great connection. Even if you know, it is just a summer thing. Each and every friendship we make and let go of helps us as global people to grow.



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#2 Chameleon Kids


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