J Simens.com

Review: Is your summer plan helping your child?

School Buses

School – Out for the Summer!

Many families put children into summer programs to “help” the child.  Sometimes you need to re-evaluate these programs. Are they doing what you want or need them to do?

Sometimes summer is better off spent in quality summer family time!

When I first started working with children, I would have said 99.9% of the time it is great to be five years old.  Now, I listen to kids…really listen to them.  It is just as hard to be five as it is to be fifteen.  Just different things matter but they still matter to the child.

Often a five year old will say his or her mind says one things but his or her mouth says another. This seems to be a common theme in teen years also. After working with some people, I have come to know it is also a common concern with adults often. How to teach a child to listen to their inner voice or mind, WAIT, and then let their mouth work is really hard work? You have to catch them in teachable moments so you can point out the skills they might want to have done instead of what they just did.

Research after research shows that this type of work is best done in small groups so each child can learn after each others comments, mistakes and successes. But it takes a very special person to do this group work.  They can’t preach. They can’t compare the kids in the group. They can’t expect their suggestions to be done the first time. They do have to be consistent. They do have to like each child in the group. They do have to have the patience to go over and over basic social skills.

Often parents put children into summer classes or situations hoping they will gain some ‘social skills’.

These classes seldom address what the child really needs. In fact, they often let the child try on more unsuccessful peer interactions and get away with more inappropriate behavior.

Children learn so much more with the interactions between themselves and their parents. This is when real learning starts to happen.

As a five year old told me…some fun things can be hard to do…and some hard things are actually fun!  Depends on the teacher!

Think about who is spending time with your child this summer – are they sending the right messages to your child?  If not, you need to step in and inform them that your expectations are higher and your child deserves more.

Don’t be passive when it comes to the role models in your child’s life.

Notes:  Photo http://www.flickr.com/photos/52462679@N06/5

Listen: Why Do Your Kids Tune You Out?

http://kidzedge.com/ Posted on June 9, 2013 by Victoria Marin 

By: Julia Simens

Can you hear me now? . . . Can you hear me now? . . .

Not all children listen to their parents



Parents often claim that their children tune them out or don’t listen to them. This is easy to understand. People tend to belong in groups in two ways: they will either belong through contribution or they will belong through misbehavior. Your family is a “group”.

Do your kids belong or misbehave?

This ‘tune out’ of parents appears to be a global concern!  Young children are egocentric so often if they do not choose the activity, they could care less. Parents need their children to get ready in the morning, but children could care less. Parents want children to pick up their toys, but children could care less. Parents want to know where their teen is going, but the teen could care less.


Comments off

Early Childhood Success: Don’t focus on academics

Blog jsimens - helping families worldwideI work with the global population as well as US based parents. I am always asked about “fostering childhood success.” I remind them that I am heavily invested and involved in early childhood care.

Parents need to focus on three key things for early success with their child’s preschool  experience.

Three Key Things Parents Can Do

First – Kids need to have exposure to letters and sounds so parents need to read aloud to their children starting at an early age. It is great to share as many possible books with your young child but also have one old favorite story that you read again and again.  Repetition helps a child understand the whole reading and writing process.

Comments off

Do words matter?

Screen Shot 2013 05 02 at 7 47 08 AM
Word Choice is Important

I believe that they do.

“Mom, I am so ugly.”

How do you respond?  Please tell me you are not one of those parents that say, “No honey, you are not ugly.”

Kids love to announce that they are not good at something. They usually do it just after they try something new and challenging, and they say it with finality, as if issuing a verdict. I’m not good at math! I’m not good at volleyball. They also like to throw out “I’m ugly” or “I’m fat”  or “I’m not macho”.

At that moment, your parental instinct is to fix the situation.


Comments off

Stop ‘disrespect’ in a classroom or at home

respect worldwide

I am often asked how to deal with a child that continues to be disrespectful in a classroom situation. Parents also use ‘disrespect’ when they share their concerns about home life.

Case study and the process

Joe (or Jill) this is not gender specific. It is about being clear about the borderline between respectful and disrespectful interactions.

Step One – decide if the lessons will only involve a few kids or the whole class  I like to use the “can you count them on one hand” policy.  Generally, if more than five students are at times disrespectful the lessons should be for the whole class. If the situation is at home, all members of the family should be present.  It sends the wrong message if you exclude the baby. Everyone deserves respect.


Comments off

I wish I could send my Father a Valentine’s Day Card

The videos I have are real kids and real dads…the message being sent is, I love you. I enjoy time with you. I care.

With Valentine’s Day approaching – I wish I could send my father a Valentine’s Day card.

IMG 0478
Gearold Wright’s HS Graduation

We often talk about the love a father has for their children, but what about all the children who do not get to send love back to their dad?

Expat Fathers do they get to spend enough time with their kids?


Global Shipping: The Art of Letting Go with Treasure or Junk

Am I the only one that gets stressed with change?

As we fill up another twenty- foot container leaving Bangkok to go to our new home in Borneo my husband and I don’t see eye to eye. If you have not moved a lot this 20 foot container is an “in exact unit of cargo capacity – often in a metal box” that can easily be transferred between different modes of transportation. If our stuff would be going from Borneo to our home in Lake Tahoe, this container would work in the ship, the train and the truck.

I know all of my global friends will relate to this part of the move…your spouse picks up an item and casually says, “This is trash.” He doesn’t even look to see if you agree. He misses the panic in your eyes and the catch of your breath. This happened to us over a box of “Lego pieces”.

Picture 17
Simens_ Lego Land – Creative Moments and a Lifetime of Memories

I see them as treasured memories of a lifetime of fun. He sees them as things we have “outgrown”.

I am always open to change and willing to learn and even willing to let go. But Lego pieces? Come On!

What happens if our child becomes one of a handful of artists in the world who have been certified by Lego to create contemporary sculpture with its bricks?

I am amazed at Sean Kenney’s design shop. He works in Queens in a bright study with about 2 million Lego pieces. Sean quit his Park Avenue six-figure salary as a software designer to take up a new career. He calls his current career “a professional kid.” He is indeed an artist.

One thing Sean and I have in common is the concern of “shipping” our items. He is often worried that his sculpture might not make the international shipping well and the prospect of breakage can cause him anxiety. I always worry about items breaking in our moves. But I worry on two points.  I worry that my stuff will not survive the shipment and I WORRY that at some time all my stuff will show up at the same time in the same location.  I have been doing this for so many years, so many shipments with items going back into storage…if they all showed up at one time this would be a nightmare.

Back to Sean, he made a life-size polar bear for the Philadelphia Zoo; it has 95,000 bricks in it. Imagine that!

I think of it as I move our box of legos with 5,000 pieces in it.

Sean has also worked with Google, Marriott Hotels, JPMorgan Chase and the New York Yankees as well as private collections. In my mind he is an artist.

Perhaps my son or daughter are “artists” that just have not yet found their medium. Or someday I might have a grandchild that is a budding Lego Artist!


ps_ the Legos went into our shipment.

ps_I am about to cause a cultural miss – step.

I just got the call that said ” Raja made his flight to Jakarta.”  I said, “Well I am glad, I was concerned that he might be doing duty free shopping running up my visa bill or hanging out at the bar prior to boarding and he might have missed his flight.”  All I got was a quiet silence moment before ‘thank you’ and the dial tone. Was this not funny? Perhaps I am much more funny to myself when I am stressed with moving than I am actually funny!  But I thought…I paid you…you took my dog, I would expect him to be on the flight as we had planned. If he didn’t make the flight…what did you do wrong?


Momma brought me up to think I could do anything

Well she was wrong!

As I grow older and I become more aware of all the things people do in the world, I have to admit my mother was wrong.  There are a number of things I could never do.  I am OK with this. But I do wonder if we are not being honest with our own children.

As I watched the London Paralympics it became clear I would have never been able to do a job like Josh Karanja or James Boit .  Josh and James are guides for the visually impaired 1,500 meter run.  James helped runner Samwel Kimani of Kenya win the gold in a world-record time of 3:35:37. Josh helped the runner Jason Dunkerley win bronze for running the 1,500-metre race in a time of 4 minutes 7.56 seconds.

When a parent says “Honey, you can do anything you set your mind to” they need to add “With enough perseverance you could master the skills you need to be successful.”  Are we being to easy on this generation?  As a parent, do you let your child quit when things get a little hard?

Think about homework – Do you step in and help your child?  

Are you teaching helplessness or perseverance?

janae baby
Here is another great photo added to the simens project – Building emotional awareness around the world
Comments off

A Walk Down History Lane: Your Childhood Games

Picture 17

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~

Comments off

Last Minute Plea: Let your child express himself when it is not life changing

I work a lot with parents and sometimes they show up in my office very upset.

It is the weekend BEFORE school starts again and their child has shown up with a tattoo.

We go through a long list of behaviors that the parents have had towards their child and ‘choices’.  It is a very interesting but hard time for the parents.  Seems they have never given their child any time to make choices and learn to live with the choices he has made.  It has made me sad for both the child and the parent.

Simple things – like backpacks…can be a family empowering moment. Now that school starts this week, I hope parents around the world are giving their child some room to make choices.

Here is an example of giving your child the ability to make a choice and then live with it without any support from Mom or Dad.

Fictional story –  We are going to go backpack school shopping to get ready for school which starts Monday.  I see the perfect bag for my daughter.

Picture 14
My lovely little girls’ bag – In my dreams

My daughter has a different dream.  We can sit and argue or I can let her make the choice and live with the decision.  Hum, what is a parent to do?

One parent might discuss the merit of getting this bag…

Picture 12
Rib Cage

I can hear the parent now. “Look how cute this one will be. Other kids will think your are cool. See how the heart is almost hidden but it makes you look like a doctor or someone interested in the human body.”  Remember the more you talk as a parent the more you are trying to justify why your child should make ‘your choice’ into ‘their own’ choice.

I can also hear the parent who wants to live through their child with their own wishes. “Remember how we always celebrate Kansas Day? Look at this bag, it is like the lion in the Wizard of Oz. It would be perfect!”

Picture 11

This backpack shopping can become a battle between the child and the parent. Why?

If you child is a little princess always pretty in pink but she wants the Boogey Man Bag. Let her make her choice and then live with it. She will either love all the attention she gets with a bag so different from her other princess peers or she will fold and want a new bag.  It is nice lesson to learn early on in life that our choices are something we have to live with. I would rather have a child make a backpack choice and thrive and grow instead of a more permanent choice of a tattoo, wouldn’t you?

Picture 13

In order to have a few seconds of oops and ugg – check out the ugliest tattoos and the gallery of regrets.  Or check out the Mojo Backpacks - No Ordinary Bookbag.

Notes: This is not a paid ad.  I just want parents to allow their child to grow.

Comments off