J Simens.com

Working with Kids this Summer —Words Worth Knowing


I have had my fair share of working with kids during the summer. It has been in summer youth camps, vacation bible school and tutoring. I always want to let the child know I appreciate the work they are doing in the summer.

 

Do you say “nice job?”

When I get stuck and want to say “Wow, nice job” because I am in a hurry or have too many children to get to, I have trained myself to say, “It looks like you put a lot of effort in that project.” With the “wow’ comment I would see the kids look at me.

With the ‘effort’ comments, I always get a smile and often the child will tell me what part he/she is most proud of without me asking. I like to offer this type of opened ended comments first to see where the conversation takes us.

Let the child guide your understanding.

Sometimes I think the picture is so colorful but the child will point out that he put a lot of effort into making the lines straight so the picture frame is perfect. If I had not allowed him to guide my understanding of what he is proud of we would have never had this conversation.

It does take more work to have the genuine conversation but I know it is more real to the kids and therefore more valuable. I often hear them re-telling other students about our conversations.

 

How great is your CQ Knowledge? CQ?


Picture 1

What is Cultural Intelligence (CQ):

CQ is the capability to function effectively in culturally diverse situations (Ang & van Dyne, Handbook of Cultural Intelligence, 2008). It predicts and explains why some people thrive and some struggle in culturally diverse settings. It consists of four complementary capabilities or dimensions: CQ Drive, CQ Knowledge, CQ Strategy, and CQ Action.

I believe that our cultural intelligence is not fixed; it develops and grows through experiences. This is why it is vital that your global nomads interact with their host country. With your family values as a framework, you can foster cultural understanding and respect with your children thus giving them this benefit for their whole life-time.

CQ Knowledge, i.e., the level of understanding about how cultures are similar and different, plays an enormous part of being an expat child but it is not the most important thing a child learns living overseas. My children learned how to give a greeting in Thailand, how to behave in an Islamic environment and how to sing happy birthday in five different languages before they reached the age of 10.

Real learning came from two key areas of all international assignments —motivation and action

When I look back over my children’s time as expats, these two areas of motivation stick out in my mind because they were driven by children under the age of ten. Please note I will be using ‘he’ instead of ‘he or she’ but this does not mean all of these references are about my son. (He has told me I need to stop writing about him…hum?)

Wanting to make a difference in a child’s life, he got friends to donate small items to sell so they could support a child going to school. The East Cipinang trash dump a poverty-stricken area in Jakarta needed a way for the trash pickers to get a better education. It was the motivation of my child to get others involved so children living on the dump could go to an area school.

After having malaria, it became clear that if expat kids can get it easily, then more local children need essential long-lasting insecticidal nets to sleep under. Raising awareness has been an enormous undertaking since there are millions of reported cases of malaria and many of those causing death among children under the age of five. Using summer time to continue to raise awareness in the USA to help funding go to countries with lots of malaria.

These areas of action were very important to at least one of my children.

Rescue and conservation of distressed elephants in Thailand. By spending time caring for the elephants at the Sanctuary and Rescue Center for elephants in Northern Thailand (Chiang Mai), he showed action. Elephants are officially classified as an endangered species. There are 3000 to 4000 elephants in Thailand. Elephants form their social groups, and they even have different personalities. The Sanctuary and Rescue Center is always adding to their herd, as they look for elephants in desperate need of care.

Feed the Needy in Lagos, Nigeria by spending time preparing the food and serving it, gives a child the understanding that we need to be grateful for what we have but also we need to have empathy and compassion for others who have so much less. Action like this that is on-going and demanding are actual examples of expats around the world making a difference.

Caring for the Reef system can be a worldwide experience when you summer in Roatan, Honduras. This is where you live off the second longest barrier reef system in the world, and yet you live during the school year in Thailand. The ability to clean up the reefs, care about the worldwide implications of trash in our waterways and see the impact divers can have with they are not environmental careful is terrific experiences.

Children are naturally interested in others. Children naturally care about others. To motivation and action to happen in an expat family, parents just need to add exposure and time. If parents expose children to “real life” situations in your home environment, children have compassion. If parents don’t rush but allow a child time to feel the situation and have an opinion about the situation usually “action” will occur.

Often as expat parents, we are swamped and as all parents know it is much easier to do something ourselves than to ask our eight-year-old to do something. Stop. Let your child do what they feel might make the situation better. Let them express their compassion.

Expat parents are well advised to invest in their children by helping them to increase their CQ with real-life experiences now.

imgres 1
Julia Simens:  Helping Families Worldwide

Pictures:

Travel These Days; Its Almost This Easy!

Carpal or Carpool ???


Being an Expat – does not mean your summer is full of fun.

We often have to spend the summer getting medical clearances, updates on contacts or glasses and teeth cleaning. Sometimes we also have to throw in minor medical procedures we didn’t want to do abroad. Summer can be a scheduling nightmare.

How did you spend last summer?

One past summer, my Carpool tunnel syndrome had turned into Carpal tunnel syndrome. Here is a recap on how it is to be a driving expat!

A tight grip of the steering wheel makes the short trip seem like a significant phenomenon. As the sweat runs down the back of my knees, I peer in the rearview mirror and wonder what I got myself into in this hot Oklahoma summer. I am in a competition with myself. Can I do it – You can’t do. I know I can drive and yet I feel sick.

I am not used to driving in the USA, and here I am volunteering to take my sister’s most special ‘cargo,’ her children, to a ballgame. I think I am doing it to help out the parents, but I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. The kids were perfect. I was more like a royal mess.

I am not the best driver in the world since I have lived outside of the USA for twenty-five years. I have never had an accident while driving. I also have sat and survived six international driving tests in different countries.

In one country, the local facilitator stood over my shoulder and pointed to which box I was to mark with the (X) for each question. I passed the written test in a foreign language!

legs and high heels

I took a vision exam and then an Eye/ Foot reflects time exam in one foreign country. The first machine didn’t have a light behind the green light, so it was impossible to know when the sign was “Green” to go, but I was able to slam on each and every Red light that I saw. I passed! When we got to the reflect times machine I was so involved with the guy sitting next to me doing his exam that I forgot to do my own exam and had to start over again. The man sitting next to me had his left leg crossed over his right leg.  He was using his left leg to push the brake pedal. It was a strange way to drive because the steering wheel kept hitting his knees and he’d say “Ouch.” I thought “uncross your legs.” Oh, and I did I tell you he had on high heels. Bright. Blue. 4-inch heels. No wonder my mind was not on my test.

Honor those pregnant ladies

I showed up 8 ½ months pregnant for one exam. They gave me a written test with the Label of (B) on it. My husband got the (A) test. We assumed it was for the random need to make sure people didn’t cheat taking the test. As we started to do the written exam, the DMV staff person took my test away and gave me a form (D) to take. We both passed. On the way home my husband talked about how hard it was to convert the miles to meters and the blood alcohol amounts into liters, etc. I talked about how I had an octagon sign and what that meant and if a driver should look “both ways” prior to moving out into an intersection. The only thing I can think of is that this DMV really didn’t want a very pregnant lady upset if she flunked the test. Once again I passed!

But I might be a very bad mother or at least a bad expat mother

I sent my child off with our driver to get his motorcycle license. We had forgotten that he would also need medical clearance prior to getting his permit. When he came home successful with a new motorcycle permit he explained how you get a medical clearance form in our new location. When you get declined by the DMV for not having all the documents, your driver jumps on the back of a motorcycle Uber and goes to a medical facility. They do the medical check by asking your driver two questions. “Is this person here with you?” and “Is he sick?’ I guess our driver responded with a “yes, he is at the DMV” and a “no.” The driver gets the medical clearance on your son by a doctor who has not even stared into his bright blue eyes that are so eager to drive in the crowded streets of this major city. The driver then heads back to the DMV. The license is issued.

I am scared to death to take a drivers test in the USA. I am unprepared!

Many expats keep a USA license while they are abroad. We did not do this.  I know some of you are saying, “Are you stupid?”  What came down to making this decision was the need to following the rules of the state we live in.

In Nevada –  We were a seasonal resident so we could not legally say we lived in Nevada and therefore not legal to get or maintain our Nevada Driver’s license.

I am happy to report after two months back in the USA after retiring, I got a car. Drove a lot. Got a Nevada Driver’s License. It is good for eight years!!! Now two years later, no tickets and still driving with care.

 

Note: Nevada Revised Statutes 482.103 and 483.141 “Resident” defined.

  1. “Resident” includes, but is not limited to, a person:
    1. Whose legal residence is in the State of Nevada.
    2. Who engages in intrastate business and operates in such a business any motor vehicle, trailer or semi-trailer, or any person maintaining such vehicles in this state, as the home state of such vehicles.
    3. Who physically resides in this state and engages in a trade, profession, occupation or accepts gainful employment in this state.
    4. Who declares himself to be a resident of this state to obtain privileges not ordinarily extended to nonresidents of this state.
  2. The term does not include a person who is an actual tourist, an out-of-state student, a border state employee or a seasonal resident.

Notes:

related blogs: Back to Basic (parenting) and worse expat parenting moments

photo – http://wedrinkoldgold.blogspot.com/2012/10/blue-eye.html

 

Thriving in your new location: 8 ways to support your child when moving


I am so honored to be included in the monthly publication of BR Anchor Publishing.

 

BR Anchor Publishing – A Small Family-Owned Business Since 1990 – has sold over 1.5 million books domestically and internationally. Our mission: “Every relocation should become a positive and enriching opportunity for the entire family.” We strive to help families accomplish this goal through every book we publish.

July_2018_MN_HR (3)

Strengthen Your Child’s Resilience


traveling shoes

My traveling shoes!

It is never too early to start collecting memories of your child’s emotions. This is especially true for children who are global nomads.

Due to the fast pace of our lives, we seldom have time to close specific chapters. We get on a plane, and within hours of departing one culture, we land in another. Parents locate new homes, establish new routines, and hire new ‘quasi-family members.’

Families start all over again

As we Skype, Twitter and blog ourselves around the world, we need to take time out to collect some emotional memories that are beneficial for the whole family.  Emotion stories can help you strengthen your child’s resilience and by doing so make a significant and positive change in their life.

I am often asked, “What are the psychological challenges one faces when relocating to another country?” 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 understand that culture or geography location genuinely. 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.

Part of the Puzzle

Letting go of stereotypes

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

One critical psychological issue in all expat or people who move around is the need to belong or have loyalty to their ‘unit”.  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, a community, a unit, a race of people, a 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 home.  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.

I like to think of this as 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 relationships 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 sameness of belonging to the same school that brings us closer together. When you spend day to day 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 for the job they are working in, or they would just quit.

Significance is vital for global people

You need to feel like you got something beneficial out of your time in your host country and you need to feel that you gave back something to it.

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 felt that you wanted to leave the country and say good riddance quickly…then your next job will also seem shallow and not significant. The baggage we carry around the world should be our clothing and not our anger, disappointment or sadness.

Families with school-age kids are lucky because they have the benefit of having a natural connection to a whole group of similar people.  It is essential for a family to deal with the emotional side of relocating. This is something that you just can’t for granted or that it is no big deal.  Relocating does have an emotional side, but that does not mean it has to be negative.  Any change is emotional.

Top five tips for Parents who relocate their Families

  •  Build resilience in your life and your families life – This is the ability to bounce back when things are not going well. It is shown in your attributes, the more positive qualities you have, the higher your chance of developing a strong resilience.
  • Build a vocabulary of emotions, so everyone in the family knows what the other members are feeling.
  • Proactively address the need for positive role models for your children (or yourself) as you move around the world, it is likely grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins are thousands of miles away. These people frequently serve as important role models, so it is important to not to replace them but to find more of them. The more healthy adult and friend connections of both genders and various ages the better.
  • Build persistence – Persistence is an area that families all over the world can work on. But for expat families especially, this is important because too often the ability to drop out of things ‘because we are moving soon’ masks the underlying issue – lack of persistence. We need to make sure we are not leaving as an opportunity to run or hide from things.
  • Build play into your life. In our hectic expat lifestyle, we often overlook the notion of play. All families need to spend time together having fun.

 

 

 

Lessons from Momma


Every quilt tells a story.  This quilt tells an epic tale.  It started in the year, 2000 deep in the jungles of  Sumatra where I began my second quilting project.  “Lessons from Momma” quilt pattern from Terry Atkinson, where we were to make 12 quilt blocks to learn a variety of quilting techniques.

I finished two blocks and put it away.

I carried it over 8,000 air miles to Nigeria and finished three blocks before putting it away.

Then it was over 7,000 miles back to Thailand where it just sat for four years. I had so many other things to do in Thailand that I didn’t have time to quilt.

In Balikpapan, I pulled the quilt pieces out again and made three more blocks before putting it away once again.  When I finally got everything in Incline Village, It was time to finish this 18-year-old project.

I reconnected with my original quilting buddy Geri and asked how to finish up the border. She mailed me the information so I could finally finish my quilt. Because I am currently a member of the Bee Inclinded Quilters, I decided to have the quilt top quilted with honey bees and beehives.

I did learn several valuable lessons while working on this quilt. 

Not just quilting techniques from “Lessons from Momma” but also lessons that my mom taught me.  Never give up. If something seems too hard, ask for help. Beautiful things happen when you nurture things, and if you fail, you can try again.

This quilt project has taken the same amount of time that most parents have their children before they head off to be living on their own as adults.  I will often look at this quilt and think of the beautiful position I have been in during the sandwich generation between my mom and her grandkids.

Comments off

Expat Easters and the Importance of the Egg!


Easter is an important holiday for our family

When I get ready to make another international move, I try to get all my ducks in a row. I put all my eggs in one basket, so I can carefully get ready for the move. I know many of you will think we should not have all of our eggs in one basket but when you commit to go to a new job, a new location, a new school, and a new culture – you need to be fully committed. You need to have everything set and ready to go! You need to carefully lay out a plan!

 

Getting all your ducks in a row - or all your eggs in a basket!

Getting all your ducks in a row – or all your eggs in a basket!

When many expats move, they have this vision that they can build up their lives into some nicely layered experience. They blend their home culture into their new culture. Making layer after layer, build up into a beautiful, pleasant experience for the whole family. Not only do they want all their eggs in one basket, but they also want to stack their eggs! I am not sure this works very well for many expats.

 

stacking eggs

Amazing Egg Art with the artist standing by it

Reality seldom meets our expectations

As an expat, you can quickly get sidetracked and forget what is most important in 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.

I can easily recall a valid concern I have had in each location we have lived in:

  • Pago – Pago – Will the ship ever arrive with basic supplies? (Laundry soap, tampons, and toothpaste)
  • The USA – Houston -Will my boss get arrested for fraud? (The only job I have every quit)
  • Singapore – Will we make it home often enough to stay connected with family?
  • Perth – Will the kids know their grandparents?
  • USA -Danville  Can we pay the bills?
  • Indonesia – Jakarta -The preschool vs. a working mom saga
  • Indonesia – Duri -Will the limited amount of friends scar my child’s interactions?
  • Nigeria -Will having security guards with automatic guns on the school bus harm my child’s development?
  • Thailand – Will the exposure to the seedy parts of the town harm my children?
  • Indonesia -Balikpapan – Will our kids every come to visit again?
  • Retirement – USA/Honduras -Will I ever have close friends again?
Sometimes we feel like we are in hot water and out of control!

Sometimes we feel like we are in hot water and out of control!

But this is our life and as Expats-

We are known to rise above the heat and make the best of the current situation we are in.

Sometimes an international move is not in your family’s best interest. Different decisions have to be made. Often these same decisions are part of a family’s life that are not global nomads. Sometimes a family just runs into a tricky part of their life, and one family member needs a different type of support than what the family current offers.

Family in Crisis

Often when a family is in crisis – a family ritual can help the family feel connected and safe.

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 begin with just one person, but if that person feels it is essential and keeps trying sooner or later, the event can become a ritual. Other family members can start to enjoy the routine.

Sometimes the ritual comes from having another culture in your life

We have always celebrated Christmas over the top! We use beautiful Christmas plates with lovely scenes on them. Some are Santa related, and some have a religious theme. These plates travel around the world with us. We only use them during the Christmas season, but our children were always ‘delighted’ when I would get out the Christmas plates.

One Easter, my mother, was visiting Indonesia.

We had a lovely Easter egg hunt in our garden and headed off to church. When we got home, our maid had set the table for our beautiful Easter Feast. She had laid out the Christmas plates. She put the artificial Easter grasses around the center of the table and carefully laid our Easter eggs out as decorations. Then she had carefully added the silver tinsel we put on the Christmas tree.

The table was lovely but ‘strange’ for my young children and even more bizarre for my mother from Kansas. She was not used to Christmas plates and tinsel at Easter time. I told our maid the table was lovely.

“Sri, the table is lovely, but we seldom use these plates, except at Christmas,” I stated.

“Isn’t Easter like Christmas?” she asked.

We must have all had blank faces because she then replied, “You know with Jesus and all that Christian stuff?”

Yes, it made sense to our Muslim maid to have plates that celebrate Jesus’s birth also to use those plates to celebrate his death. We had not made the connection and had not used our Christmas plates in that fashion before this unique Easter celebration.

Now it is a family ritual.

I am often not as brave as Sri was at Easter. When we have other families over for an Easter celebration, you will not see my table fully decorated with Christmas plates and Christmas tinsel.

Easter at jsimens com

But you will find a lovely plate of deviled eggs.  As more and more eggs disappear, you will see that they have been sitting on one of our beautiful Christmas plates. I will need to remember to pack a Christmas plate and leave it in Roatan for when we have Easter in the Caribbean. We have to make sure one of our unique global situations continues to be a family ritual.

Families who move together – grow together.

Connections – My best buddy just left :(


What does a good friend mean to your child?

jsimens Friends

“My child’s best friend is moving!” This was the panic call I received yesterday.  It is a very valid concern for many parents, even more so in International Schools where the population is so transited.

As an international counselor, I have had many of our parents insist that their child must be with their best friend in the next school year. Due to the movement in International Schools, this means at some point shortly, this child will seem friendless and it so sad when their ‘best friend moves on.

Every 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.

Connections are Important

It is vital 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 significant part of a child’s life.

The most significant pitfall is when your friend limits you from making new friends or making friends that might open your choices or focus on things to do. It is hard for a child to get interested 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 boys 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?

The Parent’s Role

I feel it is important for children to have close connections to their family and well as friends. To forge that vital close connection, 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 basic 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 deep 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 parent and child that the connection will be strong.

I feel child to child friendships are 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 become the job of the parents and it tends not to be natural and therefore not a very strong connection for the child.

Let Your Children Play

Comments off

Momma Raised Me Right! (Remembering her Birthday)


Without a lot of time, think of three things or events you did with your parents.

Quick write them down. Then look closely at these three things and ponder these three questions.

  1. Was it alone time with a parent or a group event?
  2. Did the cost of this time involve a little money or a lot of money?
  3. How often did you get to do that with your parent?

Now the hardest question, are you passing on any of those events as traditions in your family?

Emotional Connections in the Family

The most reliable deterrent to teenage high-risk behavior is a strong emotional connection between your child and yourself. This is even more evident in our global nomads. TCKs need to have traditions to help them feel grounded no matter where they end up in the world.

In 2011, I was honored to be part of the “Gratitude Book Project – Celebrating Moms and Motherhood, editor, Donna Kozik.  I wrote a short article about my mother and the power of “ummmm” or allowing silence to be a critical part of a conversation. Due to the nature of my job, I meet people from all over the world.  Many of them are Moms.

When you watch the video below, I am sure that you will find at least three things that Anita Renfroe mentions.

These three things will be a significant part of your life. Therefore, you can be part of the “Momma raised me right” group.  (Even if you don’t like country or even know Minnie Pearl – you will find three things that all moms want for their kids).

Anita Renfroe – Your Momma Raised You Right! from Anita-Renfroe on GodTube.

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 8.00.25 AM
From “Celebrating Moms and Motherhood”

When I came home from school devastated that I didn’t make the team, she listened and said, “Ummm.” We had many “Ummm” conversations throughout my school years.  I wanted to go someplace unique for college. When I showed her the college applications, she said, “Ummm.” My scholarship was 4,500 miles away from home.  We had many “Ummm” conversations in college.

When I told her that my husband would be taking a job overseas and we planned on raising her grandchildren as global nomads, she said, “Ummm.” When her grandkids talked about machine guns on their school bus to ensure their safety, she said, “Ummm.”

I am a family therapist, and I use “Ummm.”  It is one way to convey warmth and yet not be judgemental.  My mother gave me more than I ever knew. With every “Ummm,” she was giving me the chance to explore things myself, believe in myself and grow as a person.  My mother was giving me resilience!

Happy Birthday Mom!

Happy Birthday, Mom – we all miss you.

Comments off

Strengthen the Global Family – Emotions and Storytelling Techniques


 Sameness – Fosters a Strong Connection

When you and your child have something in common, whether it is a fondness for food, a sports team, or working on this memory book, you’re strengthening your attachment through ‘sameness.’

Emotional Resilience and the EXPAT CHILDSeveral of the families I work with have seen the movie, “Inside Out” and it has made them want to re-create some of the emotion stories they had written.  I encourage families to build emotion stories based on their lives and have written Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child: practical storytelling techniques that will strengthen the global family. When I watched the movie, I loved how Phyllis Smith (Office) portraited “sadness.” According to director Pete Docter, each emotion is based on a shape: Joy is based on a star, Sadness is a teardrop, Anger is a firebrick, Fear is a raw nerve, and Disgust is broccoli. He noted that he likes broccoli very much, however. The writers considered up to 27 different emotions but settled on five (Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear, and Anger) to make it less complicated. Some of the primary emotions that ended up being cut included Surprise, Pride, and Trust.

Working with emotions and understanding them

Throughout my workbook,  I include a dictionary definition of the emotion about which you are reading. This will ensure that both you and your child are clear about the meaning of that emotion and share the same understanding of it.

Most people believe they know what emotions are. They think of emotions as particular kinds of feeling that they label with such words as happy, sad, angry, or mad. We all recognize that emotions are a part of our daily lives, and they are continually being expressed indirect or subtle ways in our relationships to children, parents, friends, co-workers, and lovers. We assume the listener understands these terms because of similar experiences and through their resulting empathy with us. What should you do, though, if the listener does not know what a word such as anticipation or disgust means? It is up to you, as a parent, to help build your child’s emotional vocabulary through their experiences.

 Some people can hide their emotions while others are like an open book. Although no one teaches us the meaning of the emotional expression on the face, most of us believe we can read emotions from people’s faces. Parents will attest to the fact that they are the experts when it comes to understanding their own children’s faces!

 

Humans interpret and use a repertoire of about one hundred emotions in their routine interactions.

 

Steven Gordon (1990), in Social Structural Effects on Emotions, asserts that the origin of emotions is not in biology but culture. Children who straddle several cultures as they move around the world, and children who live daily in multicultural homes, need to have the firm foundation of understanding emotions.

In the movie, did you notice, that the size of the console expands and grows more complex as Riley gets older?

There are some reasons why the study of emotions is difficult. Among them is the fact that the language of emotions is complex and often ambiguous. People are aware that they, and probably others, disguise or hide their feelings for various social reasons. We usually do what our culture informs us is normal or expected. The expectation of air travel is often that children belong in the back of the plane. If they are allowed in the business section, they should remain quiet, and others should not notice them. As Expat families, we know this is not true. If the company gives you a business class seat when you relocate from one assignment to another assignment – Enjoy!

Painting on a plane! Perth, Australia to Denver, Colorado

Painting on a plane! Perth, Australia to Denver, Colorado

Concept of opposites

When I start to work with children on building an emotional vocabulary, I like to begin with the concept of opposites. Children love to talk about opposites, and many children’s picture books cover topics such as short/tall, big/small, and hot/cold. I usually start my consultations with the emotions happy/sad, but to build up your child’s vocabulary, we will use the word joy.

BASIC EMOTION / OPPOSITE EMOTION

Joy (Happy)/ Sadness (Sad)

Acceptance (Like)/ Disgust (Not Like)

Fear (Scared)/ Anger (Mad)

Surprise / Anticipation

In the movie, aside from the five standard colors of the memory orbs based on their corresponding emotion, there are also grey memory orbs, which contain general, non-emotional based information such as phone numbers, names of U.S. Presidents, and piano lessons. When a memory is old and faded, it darkens to a sepia-black color, and the “video” of the memory in the orb becomes faded and blurry and with muffled sound.

It is hard to work with any emotion in isolation. Your child will usually pair up emotions because he/she likes to understand extremes. Some parents go directly to the emotion that they feel their child needs to work on; other parents will go smoothly from one emotion to the next. If emotions seem to be hard for your child to express or understand then, you need to start at the emotion that is the easiest for them to connect with. I encourage you to do what feels right for your family.

Travel and the TCK – global family

 

The expatriate lifestyle usually allows families to live or travel to unique locations. Talking to your child about his experiences will help expand his emotional vocabulary.

In Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child, the initial eight stories take place around the world. We go to Australia, the Cook Islands, and Egypt, where you will experience joy, surprise, and anticipation. Then you are off to South Africa, Thailand, and Indonesia to experience fear, anger, and disgust. Since many of our emotion stories revolve around the stories of children in international schools, please note that international schools can be in any location in the world. You will experience sadness at one international school. The expatriate lifestyle usually allows families to go to live in unique places, and it builds on geographical skills due to the ability to travel on relocation and during vacation time.

 

Primary emotion stories

Our family’s short stories that take place in a variety of locations. The emotions are described in these short stories. Then it covers why the situation is so unique. Some of these stories were from my daughter, Jackie’s, experiences around the world and some were from my son’s, Grant’s experiences. 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 views. 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? Would he like you to read the dictionary and location page and he could read the story page?

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

boy with animal

Nature and Joy go hand in hand.

 

 

Joy

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 joy.

Geography

You can experience joy while swimming with the dolphins at Monkey Mia. Monkey Mia is a remote spot geographically; it lies on a long, thin peninsula within Shark Bay in Western Australia. The water is warm and beautiful. As you stand in knee- deep water, wild dolphins come right up to the white shell beach and swim around you. Wild dolphins have been coming to Monkey Mia for over 50 years. It is the only place where dolphins visit daily, not seasonally, and it is free. It is a World Heritage landmark. If you are lucky, you might get to swim with a mother dolphin and her calf.

 

A child’s version of the story of Joy

The evening ritual begins. The sun starts to set, and Jack rubs his eyes. As Jack and his mom start the short walk across the beach to their beachfront villa, she asks him, “What was your day like?”

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

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

“Mommy, I had a good day today. What should I dream about tonight?”

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

“Mommy, I am thinking about all the joy I saw today. I am going to dream about that baby dolphin and how he stayed so close to his mother. I am going to remember the smiles on everyone’s faces as the mommy dolphin swam right up so close to you. I will remember their joy when they realized that the dolphin picked you to swim with because both of you were having a baby. I am going to remember my joy when I saw you with the mommy dolphin and how you laughed and played with her. I am going to remember how much joy I had when I got to touch a baby dolphin. 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 mommy and baby dolphins. Good night, Mom.”

“Good night, Jack.”

Joyful - happy

 

 

Sad

Oxford English Dictionary

1. The condition or quality of being sad (in various senses).
2. The gravity of mind or demeanor; seriousness, soberness, staidness. 3. Gloomy appearance; dark or somber hue.

For young children: Your face is almost crying. You want to hang your head. You keep your eyes down towards your feet. You sigh really loudly while you take a deep breath.

Geography

You can experience sadness when your friends leave your international school. Sadness is an emotion characterized by feelings of disadvantage, loss, and helplessness. Third Culture Kids (TCKs) often have unresolved grief due to the amount of loss they experience as they move around the world.

Often children may be thinking, “I was just getting to know my friends, oh great – more goodbyes and I was just starting to feel good.” The frequent breaking-off of relationships due to relocations may often cause sadness in children.

A child’s version of the story of Sadness

 

Time goes on. The evening ritual continues.

The sun starts to set, and Jack rubs his eyes. As Jack and his mom start the short walk up the stairs to his bedroom, she asks him, “What was your day like?”

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

“How was your day?” she leans over and asks again as he snuggles into his bed. He is no longer smiling.

“Mom, I had a very sad day today. My friends are leaving my school. I’m sad. What should I dream about tonight?”

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

“Mom, I am thinking about how sad I was today. I am going to dream about my entire list of friends who will be leaving this year from my school. Did you know someone from my cross- country team is leaving? My best friend who arrived here the same time I did is also leaving, and two kids that I always go to the movies with will be going. Mom, that is what I am going to dream about tonight. What will I do without my friends?”

“I know you will miss your friends. How are you feeling?” “Sad, very sad.”
“Do you want to dream about being sad?”

“Yes, because I will miss my friends, but I also want to dream about new friends. Well, maybe I won’t dream of being sad. I am already looking forward to new people arriving at my school. Since I am on student council, I will be involved in the new student orientation. Maybe I will get a new friend when I help all the new students settle into our school.”

“Do you know how much I love you?”

“You love me a lot.”

“More than you will ever know. Maybe you can keep in touch with your friends. Perhaps you will get to know some of the new kids coming to your school.” She smiles and kisses him good night.

He does not smile but just shrugs his shoulders and snuggles down in bed pulling the covers up towards his chin.

“Good night, Mom.” “Good night, Jack.”

 

Min-A is sad

Notes: Pete Docter‘s inspiration for this film came from watching his daughter go through this turbulent part of growing up.

Phyllis Smith (who plays Sadness), Mindy Kaling (who plays Disgust), Bill Hader (who plays Fear), and Rashida Jones (who plays Cool Girl’s Emotions) have previously starred together in The Office (2005). While Smith, Kaling, and Jones have recurring roles in The Office (2005), Hader had a cameo appearance in one episode.

For those of us that have lived in the San Francisco area – When Riley is on the bus back to Minnesota the bus is leaving San Francisco. The bus approaches the on-ramp to the Bay Bridge, and a sign says something about a toll ahead. There is no toll going eastbound on the Bay Bridge.

Avantika is sad
Shir is sad   Keenan is happy

Comments off