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An Unfortunate Misunderstanding Between Expats and Not Lost in Translation


What the waiting room knows about you . . .

What the waiting room knows about you . . .

Out of the vault – I miss living abroad!

Jumping out of our car as the driver slowly made his way to the apotik or farmasi (drugstore-pharmacy), I couldn’t wait to get the thick white paste that would stop my hands from itching. While gardening in Balikpapan, I often get down in the dirt and end up with small ant bites. I don’t go to our company doctor because I know the local pharmacy or apotik will be able to sell me the cheap local paste. I have used it in the past, and it gives immediate relief. This day made me think about the Kinsey Reports for some reason. The publications were immediately controversial among the general public. The findings caused shock and outrage, both because they challenged conventional beliefs about sexuality and because they discussed subjects that had previously been taboo.

Challenging conventional beliefs 

As I made my way to the front of the line, I showed the young girl behind the counter my red scratched hands. My Bahasa Indonesian isn’t all that great, but I know the word semut means “ant.”

So I pointed to my bites and said, “Semut.”

She nodded and in perfect English replied, “Please have a seat over there and the doctor will send out the paste in a few minutes.”

I love to people watch. I slowly glanced around the crowded room and counted 35 people all waiting to be ‘fixed’ for some unknown medical reasons. For some it is easy to see what is the problem, they are the ones whom normal coffee colored skin looks pale, and they seem shaky. I choose not to sit by them.

There in one corner of the room is a large group of moms with tiny babies, and they are there for a ‘well baby’ check up. I know this because the nurse measures all parts of their babies and making notes in the Wellness Journal. I choose not to sit by them because it is rather nosy and cluttered with toys.

In the middle, the room sits a small group of people who look like they work in the doctor’s office. They might be stocking the shelves or sweeping the floor. At that moment in time, it looked like they were sharing local gossip. I choose to sit near them to see if I could pick up anything they were talking about. After a short wait, the nurse called me up to the front of the store to get my medicinal paste.

Subjects that had previously been taboo

As she handed me a small white envelope, she asked me to pay 80,000 rupiahs or about $6.50 US dollars. As I gave her the money, I felt the little bag. It didn’t feel like the typical tube I had gotten in the past. I carefully pulled the two staples out of the top of the envelope and saw two small pills.

The nurse rang up my bill; it showed two entries written in Bahasa Indonesia. I had given her the exact change, so she handed me the bill.

I said, “I did not want pills.”

The nurse replied, “Pills seem to work best.”

I responded, “I really would like the lotion, it worked well in the past.”

At that moment, a different nurse came up and handed me my usual tube of paste. Now both nurses looked confused or at least as confused as I am. As I stand there with a tube of lotion in one hand and the pills in the other hand, I try to get clarification.

“Do I use both of these?”

“Use both if you want to use them,” Nurse One replied.

“I am uncomfortable using pills I don’t know,” I replied as I handed her back the pills.

She pushed them back across the counter to me and started to walk away.

“Excuse me, I don’t want these pills,” I stated.

Nurse Two looking over my shoulder and into the busy waiting room said, “Your husband asked for these.”

My husband was at work and nowhere near the clinic so I knew she was mistaken. I started shaking my head side to side. She smiled broadly and nodded towards the only other expat in the whole office. I had not noticed him before. As she made eye contact with the gentleman, he slowly made his way around the baby toys on the floor to the front of the counter.

He nodded at me. Even though Balikpapan is a small town, I had never seen this expat gentleman before. I smiled and started out of the clinic. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him pick up the two pills.

Nurse Two replied, “Here are your Viagra pills.

I am not sure what the gentleman said, but I clearly heard what the nurse said as I exited the building.

“Your wife has already paid for your pills.”

I don’t know if I am more excited about doing a “pay it forward” for an expat in Balikpapan or if I am more surprised that you can buy just two Viagra pills in Balikpapan.

I was tempted to go back and ask how he determined he needed to buy two pills, but my driver was holding up traffic as he waited for me to climb into the car. So I got in the car, just shaking my head about this interaction that was somewhat lost in translation.

Permission

For my Balikpapan friends once, I tell you the next story you will never be able to sit at a guard gate without smiling. For those of you not living here, we have a routine all cars must go through when they enter or exit a security area.

A guard will run a mirror under the car to check for anything strange. Another guard will ask permission to check inside the vehicle. This means you roll down the windows so they can see in and he opens the truck to see what is also in that part of your car.

Security guards in IndonesiaIn Bahasa Indonesian, the word “permission” sounds like “per- miss – ey”.   When my daughter was here, one of the guards always smiled and asked her how she liked Balikpapan. They would chat while his co-worker did all the checking on how safe our vehicle was before letting us move on. One trip, he asked her if “permission” meant the same as “perty mission.” We tried to understand and just couldn’t seem to get the translation explained. On our next time through that checkpoint, he handed her a note in English.

Pretty – Miss = You are beautiful.

Now every time, I hear “permission” I just smile to myself and my mind tells me that the guard has just called me a “pretty miss”. But more importantly – it reminds me of my daughter.

The guards – They all make my day!

Not lost in translation: A very fortunate understanding between my daughter and the host country worker.

 

 

 

 

 

Celebration of Personal Heroes: 9/11 is a time to celebrate strengths


Out of the vault – Proud to be a part of this book!

The Gratitude Book Project: A Celebration of Personal Heroes

gratitudelogopurple
Co-Author Julia Simens

It”s a time of remembrance and celebrating strength.

As across the United States and the world, we commemorate the 15th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001; it’s time to celebrate the strong. I’m proud to announce that I was a co-author of a unique project celebrating personal heroes from The Gratitude Book Project.

Even though the characteristics of a hero may be different from one person to another, the underlying theme of heroism is uniform throughout in the sense that they are all admired. Heroes define our aspirations and expand the perceived limitations we have of ourselves. They remind us of whom we want to be and how we’re going to get there.

Maybe you consider your father a hero or maybe you feel the hero within yourself. Maybe your hero is a firefighter or a teacher. Regardless of who your hero is, they are all defined by the same characteristics and celebrated in The Gratitude Book Project: A Celebration of Personal Heroes.

Narratives from the book include inspiring stories such as:

“Imagine My Surprise” by Anne Bennett, expressing gratitude for the New Yorkers on the 9-11 attacks that she witnessed.

“Job Well Done” by Sabrina Jones, describing the heroism of a single parent and the emotional and physical strength they must possess.

“You’re a Hero, Too” by Cat Traywick, inspiring us all that we can make a difference because of the hero within ourselves.

I’m one of the co-authors.

My contribution to the book centers around being overseas and living in the sandwich generation. If you are not aware of this terminology, it means being in a mid-life tug of war. The ‘Sandwich Generation’ is a generation of people who care for their aging parents while supporting their children.  My mom was getting older, and my daughter was off in college, but this throws my expat lifestyle into this mix, and things become very complicated.  Living thousands of miles away adds a new concern being in this sandwich.

My mother had to move off of our Kansas farm due to health reasons and decided to relocate near her family in Colorado. My daughter relocated to college about 60 miles away from my mother for an entirely different reason. For once, I could fly into one airport and visit two family members.

Two key things I learned:

  1. Sometimes moving closer to family members does not necessarily mean they will make time to include you into their life.
  2. Allowing a closer opportunity can indeed make some relationship richer.

My mom was able to spend about two years with her older sister eating lunch together almost daily and every day sharing a morning coffee. Her sister moved into the same apartment building as my Mom, so they had a few wonderful years reconnecting. My daughter would head out after class, grab Chinese takeout food and drive the hour up to visit my mom each week. During these lunch dates, she got to learn about our family history. Often, Aunt Jody would attend these family meals. My daughter did the small things that will make an older person’s life better. She made sure the jars in the refrigerator were not too hard to open. She checked the pills were not running out. She gave my mom something to look forward to each week. I was living 8,500 miles away from my mom – my daughter was my personal hero.

Picture 6 1

My favorite ‘sandwich’ in the world

With so many inspiring stories of gratitude to our heroes, The Gratitude Book Project: A Celebration of Personal Heroes is sure to warm your heart with love and appreciation for those whom we admire.

Does your child conform: School lunches can be the key to miscommunication?


Julia Simens normal

Parents and children often have a different feeling about ‘school lunches’.  What seems to work and be good for one generation might make the other generation cringe. I was interviewed about CCK’s and the issue of holidays and food.  We have a lively conversation about the pro and cons of being an American who is an expat and what happens around the traditional America holidays.  Then we got around the to upcoming start of the school year, and we talked about the issue of cross-cultural school lunches.

The article can be found on Eatocracy- CNN.com Blogs in the article The Kid with the Stinky Lunch.

Apple Map

As a Global Nomad World-Wide Food is always a part of your life!

Do you have any real tales of alienation or acceptance in the school cafeteria? How do your global children cope in their changing environments?

My kids were TCK’s born in Australia where they grew to love Lamingtons, Tim Tams, and Fairy Bread often found at birthday parties. I never packed them into their school snacks, but I knew how much they loved them. When they moved to Indonesia, they grew to love Sambal, Satay, and Rendang which often showed up in their school lunches. Their move to Nigeria brought them the love of  Suya, Dodo, and Puff Puffs. They were growing up to be connoisseurs of food from around the world.

Co-Mingling  of Cultures through Food

You can imagine our delight when we recently got to merge the various cultures of two of our favorite foods in a restaurant in Los Angeles, California USA. They had perfectly mixed the best of Korean mains with American Desserts. Korean BBQ is one of the most fun and delicious communal dining experiences ones can have especially when it is with your adult child that you don’t get to see enough times in the year.

Lucky for me, my son knows banchan from bulgogi, and soju from sambap. We had a delightful lunch.  He knew how to season the grill, flip the meat and let me know when we should eat. His skills made the food ready fast, and it seemed to be non-stop. We were stuffing our faces constantly over the course of the meal.  When the server arrived asking us if we wanted the desserts offered today, Gyeongju bread ( a small pastry with a filling or red bean paste) or Yumilgwa a deep-fried mixture of flour and honey.  We both declined.

Yummy BBQ

Yummy BBQ

Then the server suggested that we might want their summer dessert special. He offered Smores! A traditional treat consisting of a fire-roasted marshmallow and a layer of chocolate sandwiched between two pieces of graham cracker.

How could we say no to this American Treat we celebrated with every summer? See Learning from Failure with Marshmallows at Home and School – here or read the Significance of Food and the Expat Child here.

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First Impressions vs. Fixing the Bad


How something appears is always a matter of perspective

How something appears is always a matter of perspective

As the author of “Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child“, I have worked with over 8000+ families as they relocate around the world.

The child’s image (social or self) is critical on how successful they will be in the school setting.  It seems like summer holidays just started, but International teachers and students are already heading back to get ready for another school year. What happens if your child starts off the school year in a negative way?

 

Bad raps happen

Getting a bad rap is as easy as one lousy comment made at the wrong time, or not reaching out to the right kids on campus. Sometimes it can be for liking the ‘bad’ teacher. It can be for wearing a weird t-shirt or even not wearing your hair in a style they are used to seeing. Amazing how quickly a community will judge others. Even more amazing how this happens in schools!

Parents can be vital in helping their child learn to negotiate in this important social climate. Not all parents help! Sometimes, parents can do more harm for their child because they are the ones creating the negative feelings, so it goes from the mother or father being pushy to the child being obnoxious in the minds of others in the community. When in fact, the child has not done anything. Don’t set your child up for failure because as a parent you are overstepping your boundaries. As parents, we all want to connect with our child’s teacher, but she doesn’t need a new BFF. Other parents see your interactions, and it might create some negative feelings from other parents as well as the teacher.

 

What parents can do

Change

Change the perception

Using simple language and being truthful. “In the past, my daughter was rude to others, but now she is older she understands how important it is to work together on those joint projects.”  These type of words given to other parents while working on the PTA, or attending school events will help shift the thoughts about your child. But a parent can never take the responsibility of their child’s behavior and fix it.  If your child needs to make an apology, it has to come from your child, not you.

 

Tips for kids

#1 – Search out a child that is well liked and try to see why you are so different. Are you standoffish and he is warm and welcoming – seek to master one skill this ‘expert’ has that you do not.

#2 – Compare yourself to the peer group you would want to be involved with. Do they all wear school colors and you just wear black? Don’t copy them. Most kids want to connect and be part of a group, so acquire some of their articles. If everyone carries a backpack and you still have a roller case for your books and supplies – change. If everyone eats the school lunch, try to give up your homemade brown paper sandwiches.

#3 – Understand the importance of good impressions and see each new situation in a school as new and give it your best shot. Sometimes a change in one class will leak over into other situations you are involved in. With any change, kids and teachers will start seeing you in a new light. You don’t have to be the quiet Freshman you were, or the awkward Sophomore you were – hone your intuitive style and make a new start this year.

 

Tips for Parents

#1 – Do not say to  your child’s teacher, “Must be nice to have had the summer off!” Instead, say something like “I hope you’re refreshed and ready for ten months of go, go, go!” Remember that a lof of teachers spend their summers upgrading their credentials or planning coursework. Keep your passive-aggressive comments to yourself.

#2 – Don’t try to discuss major issues during the drop-off time, instead set up a meeting with the teacher. Major issues need to be brought to the teacher’s attention ASAP such as a death in the family, a divorce or a recent move, but these can be done by email, so the teacher knows the needed information. Let the dust settle at the start of the new school year and then set up an appointment for the minor things you feel the teacher should know about your child. Remember when you are dropping off or picking up your child, the teacher still had 20+ kids that he or she is taking care of so this is not the time to talk.

#3 – Don’t freak out over class placement! Not everbody gets the teacher they “think” they want. Another teacher might bring something unexpected to the table. A child not being with their best friend might open up a whole new world of socialization and skills.

Good thoughts

Notes:
Photo – http://awakentoyourdeeperself.com/healing-limiting-core-beliefs-shifting-perspectives/

5 Simple Ways to Declutter Your Life


Not ever outfit can be worn again and again

Not every outfit can be worn again and again

As I sat on the shores of Lake Tahoe, I realized that some people would have to find storage for their two-foot tall patriotic hats, their rhinestone glitter red, white and blue vests, flag dresses and the over the top USA bikini.  The bikini might take much space.  Also, the summer is the time that many expats move on to a new location. Therefore, I am thinking about moving, boxes and clutter!

As a serial expat, I often have too many boxes as I move from place to place. I also find that sometimes I don’t need what was packed for my new location so a box might sit still all boxed up and then I move again. So one box has two (or three) packing labels containing the same items. Clutter?  Or lifetime memories?

Noah St. John has some great ideas on how we can declutter our lives.

I’ve always said that if I ever leave the personal growth industry and start another business, it would be in the self-storage business.

Why?

People are obsessed with buying stuff! And when there’s too much stuff in the house, they put the car outside and put the stuff in the garage. Then, when the garage is full, do they get rid of their stuff? No, they rent another storage unit! Some of you are laughing right now, and some of you are not, because it’s hitting too close to home. The point is, many of my clients have faced this problem; so if you’re facing this issue of overwhelming and clutter, you’re not alone.

The question is: WHY do we need to declutter in the first place?

Why don’t we just “let things be”? One of the main reasons it’s essential to declutter your life is that if you have clutter, it’s hard for something better to come in. For example, have you ever noticed that when you clear stuff out of your home or office space, you feel better?

Here are 5 simple ways to declutter your life

1. Don’t complain that you have to declutter your life. Instead, be grateful that you have something (a home, an office, a body, life) to keep clean in the first place.

2. Remember that to de-clutter your life is a continuous, not a one-time, act. One of my college professors was a practicing Buddhist monk. He would often remind us, “Half of life is cleaning.” That’s a good reminder for all of us.

3. Declutter your head trash. Think about the negative things you say to yourself regularly: “I’m too old to change… I’ve made too many mistakes… I probably can’t do it.” Remove those thoughts from your head just like you would remove the trash from your home.

4. If you’re stuck, bring in a professional. If you are stuck with decluttering your life, bring in someone to help you –for example, a professional organizer, business or life coach, even a friend who enjoys organizing things (yes, these people do exist!). There are plenty of resources to help you. Don’t feel like you have to do it alone.

5. Use Afformations. Afformations are empowering questions that help you declutter your brain. For example, you can afform -Why am I so good at organizing? or Why do I love being organized? Check out this website – www.afformationsbook.com

Does moving ever get easier? This is a common question I am asked by the global families I work with. Yes, it does. One move we made included two children under the age of four, a cat and a dog. My last international move included just my husband and my dog.  My repatriation move was just my husband and myself. Yes, moving does get easier!

Raja Simens 2014

Noah’s Note: When you clear the clutter, you make room for better things to come in. Noah St. John is famous for inventing Afformations®.  According to Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “Noah St. John’s work is about discovering within ourselves what we should have known all along – we are truly powerful beings with unlimited potential.”
 

Related blogs: Got my blanket: We are moving again talks about FIGT. I sit on the board of Families in Global Transition; it is an organization that global families should know.   Changing worlds: transitions of an expat family talks about the global professional lifestyle and our children who are born and raised amidst these mixed cultural encounters and settings.

 

The Significance of Food and the Expat Child


speg ohs
jsimens.com

Obviously, this depends on your circumstances, but in most cases, you have made the choice to move your family to another country, and even if you didn’t, you are likely to see the move as being a positive experience in your child’s life.

It’s enriching to let them experience the native culture, but what about keeping them aware of their roots too?

Food is a powerful tool in this area, take a look at the significance it can have on your child’s life at home, school, and at friend’s houses, Don’t forget the importance of food at parties and holidays.

With the July 4th holiday coming up, I have had the joy of food shopping in the USA! To many people,  I am sure this is not a fun event but for someone living on Borneo, it is an emotional event.  I pour over the “Triscuit” isle.  Should I get the Original box or the Rosemary & Olive Oil: Inspired by Italy, shaped like Colorado since we just drove in from Colorado?  Or wait – should I try the new Triscuits-  Brown Rice baked with Sweet Potato and Roasted Sweet Onion? And this is only one of many purchases I must make today to fill up our pantry and refrigerator for the upcoming holiday. Imagine what happens when I hit the beer and wine department!

Food and Family Rituals

Baby fireworks and marshmallows

My family has a series of rituals that we love. Some are tied to holidays, birthdays, and special events, but some are just around because of their longevity and fun. When your children are expatriates, often parents look for things that might connect their child to their “home”.  Many rituals will be based around food.

We make S’mores on the July 4th holiday.  They are a favorite campsite treat for young and old. They are sticky and gooey and loaded with sugar and carbohydrates.

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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.

 

Notes:

Photo – #1 Quotes About New Love Interest Quotes – Quotes Likewww.quoteslike.com500 × 692

#2 Chameleon Kids

 

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Blowing a “First Impression”? Tips for Expat Kids


Birth wrist bands hospitals 1957First impressions are incredibly powerful.

They can be nearly impossible to reverse. But it’s not entirely hopeless: Knowing how snap judgments work can give you a better sense of what kind of one you’re making.

Born in Kansas in the 1950’s, our hospital gave each baby their name wrist tag with their last name on it.  This was my first impression – wearing my name proudly. (I am unsure of the safety standards attached to this practice.)

Can we really judge a book by its cover?  Our brains take in a huge number of verbal and non-verbal cues almost instantaneously when we see someone. Even if we only see their photo! These powerful impressions that are often as accurate as the impressions we form over longer periods of time. What does this mean to an Expat child who underneath is not the same as his or her outer appearance?

There is a lot more to me than first impressions!

There is a lot more to me than first impressions!

Tip of the iceberg

Fail (2001) described global nomads ‘rather like an iceberg- what is hidden is much larger than what is seen on the surface. The international features of the lives of those who responded revealed how multilingual, well traveled and cross-culturally experienced they are but do not necessarily expose what is going on under the surface’. So how can an expat child show who they really are?

When my daughter went to college in the USA, she looked like an American. For those that knew her – knew she was born in Australia, lived in Indonesia and Nigeria for elementary school and Switzerland for high school. The tip of her iceberg appeared to be an American from the USA, but she had only spent a few weeks each summer in the USA. She was multilingual, well traveled and cross-culturally different than many of her classmates at the University.

Expats need to know about first impressions and how to make a good one.

2006 Princeton University study found that it takes just one-tenth of a second to make judgments about a person based on their facial appearance. Judgments — on measures of attractiveness, likeability, trustworthiness, competence, and aggressiveness — made within this span of time were not significantly different than those made without time constraints. In fact, confidence for some judgments actually decreased with greater exposure time.

With the amount of time Expats spend having and creating first impressions, this should be something we talk about to our kids. Imagine one-tenth of a second when you are in a crowded airport, one-tenth of a second as you enter your new school, one-tenth of a second as you meet your new neighbors.

Trust - How do you view it?

The researchers found that attractiveness and trustworthiness are the qualities we judge most quickly.

As a global family, how important is the trustworthiness in your family? How can you model this, so your child really understands what it looks like or feels like? How can you get a feeling of trustworthiness show in your face or manners?

First impressions are so powerful that they can trump prior knowledge, research has found.  A recent study found that when told a person’s sexual orientation, participants still identified whether a subject was gay or straight based on their first impression of how that person looked. While making quick first impressions is a natural cognitive response, these sorts of snap judgments lead to stereotyping.

“We judge books by their covers, and we can’t help but do it,” researcher Nicholas Rule of the University of Toronto said in a statement. “With effort, we can overcome this to some extent.” It is not easy.

Initial Perceptions – Posture and Voice Tone are Important        

A 2009 study published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that both clothing style and posture played a role in initial perceptions. The tone and tenor of your voice also play a significant role in determining what kind of first impression you make on others.

Often expat children are dealing with a second or a third language and perhaps they are shy about their language ability in their non-native tongue. How does your child project his or her voice in the new language? They might not have mastered the new language yet, but they can master the non-language image of ‘posture’. Have you worked on your child’s knowledge of how important posture is in first impressions?

Did you know that your tone of voice is what people use to judge trustworthiness, aggressiveness, and warmth?

“Psychologists have confirmed that people do make snap judgments when they hear someone’s voice,” Drew Rendall, a psychologist at the University of Lethbridge, told Science Mag. “And the judgments are made on very slim evidence.”

Have you ever talked to your expat child about a ‘snap judgment’ you’ve done and how wrong you were? Children need to learn about these judgments so they can better understand how they might be misunderstood.

Expats often have to make first impressions online.

A series of University of British Columbia studies found that first impressions are formed differently in person versus online or by video. The research found that in-person and video impressions were similarly accurate in judging various personality measures such as extraversion and likeability. However, passive video-based impressions were overwhelmingly more negative than impressions made based on meeting in-person. Another study found that first impressions made based on Facebook photos were as accurate as in-person impressions, but they tended to be substantially more negative.

“If you want to make a good impression, it is critical that it is done in person,”University of British Columbia psychologist Jeremy Biesanz said in a statement. “More passive impressions are substantially more negative.”

Expat parenting is about teaching and modeling.

As parents of global nomads, we must think how we can model ‘first impressions’ so our children not only understand the concept but see us in action. When you know you will be meeting new people share this with your kids:

  1. Today we will meet the new family next door, first impressions are important.
  2. When we go over to meet them, I am going to make sure I look each family member in the eyes and firmly shake their hands. Since their one child is only four, I will not expect her to shake my hand, but I will want to make eye and hand contact with everyone else in the family.
  3. I want my voice to seem warm and inviting. This will help them feel like they can trust me.
  4. I will want to make sure they know they can come over to ask questions or borrow something if it will help their family.

Then ask your child, “What will you do to help them feel like they can trust you?”  or “What voice will you use when you talk to them?” “What will your posture look like when you approach the new family?”

When you have been in a situation where your family has had a new ‘first impression’ debrief it after the family leaves. Ask your children, “Did the new person attempt to make eye contact with you?” Or, “What did his tone of voice make you feel?”  Or, “Did his handshake make you feel good?”  Anytime you can debrief a social interaction with your child, he or she benefits from your knowledge.

So many times as parents we miss true teaching moments!

Note:

Many thanks to Carolyn Gregoire

Related blog post- Making judgments

Three day weekend – Gaps between our values and our actions


 

unspoken wordsThe experiences in the early years of a child’s life profoundly impact them for the rest of their life. Having a close connection to a parent allows a child to reach their potential. Many parents let situation after situation happen in their family without using it to ‘grow’ a better relationship. Their actions do not fit their values.

 

How will you spend your three-day weekend?

Will your actions fit your values? Will you connect with your family or make a faulty connection? The types of faulty connections often continues in a family as the child ages. The strongest deterrent to high-risk teenage behavior is a strong emotional connection between your child and yourself. Healthy relationships create resilience to dangerous acting out behavior, but some parents can’t seem to understand how to connect with their teenager.

To forge that vital close connection to your child, you need to know the way healthy relationships develop. Attachment 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.

The most primitive and primary stage of attachment is proximity.

Through touch, contact, and closeness, the infant begins attaching to their parents. Research data supports the notion that young children feel most comfortable in an environment approximating that before birth. One dominant stimulus in the prenatal environment is the constant rhythmical beat of the mother’s heart. But often, as our children get older we forget the benefits that proximity gives to the role of parenting. The Parent- Child connection is greatly enhanced by gentle proximity.

Keys to proximity includes:

  • Sitting with your child on your left side – closer to your heart beat.
  • Sharing the warmth – is comforting for children but this is often neglected by parents as their child gets older.
  • Slight movements (stimulation) or rocking might be helpful.
  • Skin to skin contact – massage of shoulders or temples help with close connections.

Proximity must be built into the first stage of a secure connection. Parents often take the easy way out and talk to their child as they come into a room or even talk from one room across to another room. Some parents call out as soon as they get home from work and the child responds through a closed door, and yet, both parent and child feel this is communicating.

Imagine the power a regular intimate conversation would have on your child.

The number one overlooked situation for good parenting practices is being close enough to the child that they can hear your breathing, smell you and see that you are non-threatening. If you sit down or lie down side by side with your child, they can miss the ‘uncomfortable eye to eye territory” where a child might feel judged.

Placing yourself on an even playing field such as both sitting on the floor, or both lying on the carpet, where a parent is not taller or where the parent is not in the position of authority since they are so much bigger causes a child to relax and be more comfortable. If you can match your breathing to the rhythm of your child’s breathing, your child will feel safer. Being in this close area of proximity to each other usually keeps your voices at a more acceptable and comfortable level so more will be accomplished in understanding each other, compromising or negotiating what needs to happen. Children can be more honest when they don’t feel threatened.

Start with small steps!

If you do not have a relationship with your child, you will need to start in small steps, so it does not seem so demanding. Many families start developing a gentle proximity of four feet. Be in the same room, sit on the same couch but don’t press for conversations. A clear connection is usually not apparent until you’re within a few inches of each other but any starting place is better than giving up on the relationship.

Expat family with staff

A 4-year old view of his Expat family with staff drawn in pencil 

Many cultures raise their children in extended village families, where the babies are always ‘attached’ to someone, giving them security. This is not the case in many of our families. Some families even have caregivers who are interchangeable due to the family moving or the need for day care while a parent works. We owe it to our children to reconnect with them so we can make the most out of our relationships. Although the attachment relationship is universal, our parenting beliefs and practices do differ around the world.

Attachment methods are those responses that parents use to develop a deep and lasting connection with their child. There are an increasing number and diversity of these practices with all the movement of people around the world.

Attachment influences early brain development, which has an impact on a child’s lifelong abilities to regulate thinking, feelings and behavior. When you invite a child to be in your company, you’re promoting proximity. This most basic invitation to be near your child – whether it is a cuddle, playing a game or sharing a reading book together sends the message to your child that you want to be close and connected.

There is only one ideal way to work in close collaboration with your children – you have to get physically close to them. They need to hear you without you being too loud or demanding, so you need to lean in towards them and speak gently. Sometimes just sitting side by side without words can be very powerful. You need to be close enough that your child can feel your presence. This is a ‘comfort’ for many young children. It can also mean love for a teenager even if at times they appear not to want you close.

As a Parent – Rethink eye contact and pre-censoring

eye contactMany times it is important to avoid eye contact because our children are very good at reading our faces and our emotions. As, parents, you owe it to your children to give them honest verbal and nonverbal communication about your own feelings.

You also have to be careful that you do not pre-censor any activity or event that your child might enjoy or grow from with your facial responses when your child is telling you about them. In seconds, you can change how your child feels about an event, new toy, or new friend. This is particularly the case of anything that puts us out of our comfort zone or into our dislikes. In schools, a common concern is how a parent views his/her child’s new teacher. If the parent is not supportive or positive about the teacher, the child will quickly stop investing as much energy in learning.

Violence is closely associated with deprivation of close human physical contact either in infancy or adolescence, according to the neuropsychologist, James Prescott. Close proximity and contact define attachment behaviors in children.

Get close to your kids. The mixture of cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and respiratory and other physiological sounds as well as movements have been found to have a calming effect on one person to another. All over the world, parents know that a combination of touch, movement, and speech calms an upset child. Research has proven that verbal empathy alone was ineffective as a soothing strategy, but if verbal empathy is combined with close physical contact, the soothing strategy is paramount in the emotional support a human feels.

Make the experiences in your child’s life impact them and have valid meaning for the rest of their life, get close!

Grangy Avery

In loving memory of one of the best Huggers in the world – My Grangy!  Edna Hawley Avery in Russell Springs, Kansas with my family. In this photo, Jackie is the oldest grand-daughter, followed by Jeff, then Jill and baby Julia.

 

 

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