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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

Four, no Five! Sentences All Parents Can Say Daily to Build Resilience


Parents are always asking me what they can do to build conversations with their children.  I always tell them to keep it simple.  Here are my top five sentences to use with children of all ages.

Jsimens valentines
Jsimens Happy Valentines Day
  1. Talking about school. Kids will talk more if you ask them about their job (school) than if you ask about them. “How’s school?”  This involves gathering information, listening, and problem-solving.”How was your day at school?” takes the focus to just them and this can be hard.
  2. Keep it strength based. “You tried so hard at ___ your perseverance really paid off.” If parents focus on their child’s strengths instead of where they are lacking, the child is more prone to share and talk to their parents.
  3. If parents value cooperation – Teach cooperation – give it a name, “I appreciate your cooperation,  or following directions,  or planning activities and joining in activities.” Children will often respond to things their parents ‘value’ if they understand what you value.
  4. Teaching self-control is often an area of concern for parents. Instead of saying “Don’t …” try ” Remember the rules” This allows your child time to re-correct his behavior and teaches him/her so much more about how they function with others.
  5. Problem-solving is a great skill to pass on to your children. When there is a problem, don’t solve it for your child. Say “Let’s figure it out.”  Looking at a problem as something to address rather than an obstacle helps kids want to talk more to their parents.

    Expat’s World Full of Heart


    These are my top five.  What works well for your family?  Please leave them as comments below so we can all become better communicators with our children.

Let Me Tell a Story about When I Was Little . . . Said the Four Year Old


Some things would make moving easier . . .

Some things would make moving easier . . .

“Everyday” is the perfect time to have your child share their life!

Connections

Children love stories and hearing interesting stories about family members or friends help children feel more connected to those around them. Children love to listen to stories about when they were younger as well as stories about when their parents were little kids.

A Look Back at This Year

Now is the perfect time to have your child reflect on what they did last year. For a child who is four — thinking about what they were like when they were three allows them to rejoice in their growth. Now is the perfect time to also work on helping your child understand his/her emotions.

If your child gets stuck working on an emotion, take that same feeling from your childhood and expand on it, so he sees the rich language and expressions of your childhood event.

Sometimes the more complex an emotion is, the more likely that you might need to share that feeling from your childhood for your child to understand. Also, this allows you to connect with your child.  If your child can understand how you felt when you were his age, it builds on family connections.

Your child can develop better listening skills and learn to ask questions during story times. You children hear new words as they listen to stories, which can help build their vocabulary. Children who listen to lots of stories learn how stories work. They learn that characters solve problems and how stories begin and end. This helps them understand other stories they will read later in their school years.

I Learned a Lot

I found out that one child was afraid to swim when he was younger but now he smiles when he swims in the big pool.  One girl used not to be able to paint and now that she is big five-year-old she can mix colors. She said her face used to be sad, but now it is joyful. One often silent boy told me how when he was little he could not build Legos and now that he was four and 1/2 he could build great big towers.

Children love to tell stories about when they were little! Please encourage them to talk about how they have grown.

Expat Children Can also Tell Interesting Versions

Some of the international kids that I work with added these comments:

  • When I was little, I didn’t speak Mandarin, but now that I am big I speak Thai.
  • When I was little, I lived in Italy, and I didn’t like noodles now that I am big I eat Thai noodles.
  • When I was little, I could dance the Bali frog dance, but now I can also do Korean Dances.

I have to say; you just have to love the thoughts and comments from expat children. Expat children like to tell stories about when they were little! Please encourage them to talk about how they have grown. Then let them share this knowledge with their extended family.

My Favorite Free Digital Storytelling Tools

  1. Capzles
    Create multimedia experiences with videos, photos, music, blogs, and documents.
  2. Comic Master
    Create your graphic novel, add backgrounds, choose characters and props to appear in your scenes, add dialogue and captions.
  3. Slidestory
    Slidestory allows you to combine picture slideshows with voice narration. Each picture in a slideshow has an accompanying voice narrated mp3 audio file, optional tags, and text caption.
  4. Adobe Slate
    This lets you turn your next newsletter, report, invitation, or travel adventure into a visual story. Create your Slate story and share the link anywhere.
  5. Sock Puppets
    Sock Puppets lets you create your own lip-synched videos and share them on Facebook and YouTube. You add puppets, props, scenery, and backgrounds and start creating. Hit the record button, and the puppets automatically lip-synch to your voice.

 

 

Our Kids: Filtering and Connecting will be hard to do in their lifetime


CCK minority puzzle

Out of the Vault:

Talking to Parents at International schools is the very best way to spend the day!  We had an excellent turn out at ISB of Parents, Teachers, and Staff.  Then I got to do a very small presentation to interested students in the High School. Every one of those kids had an exciting story to tell about their life at a TCK or CCK.

I was fortunate to return to International school of Bangkok this week to share my passion about our global nomads.You can view the Prezi that we covered here.  Use your right arrow key to advance through the presentation.  You can read some of the transcripts of the presentation below this Prezi.

This is one of my favorite quotes -it is off the blog Third Culture Kid life by James Mitchener.  On his blog, he said, “Third Culture isn’t so much the experiences you had, but the way you adapted to each experience at the time you had it. We aren’t TCKs because of where we have been. We’re TCKs because of the way we absorbed the cultures of the places we have grown. Even now that I have left Hong Kong, I still relate to it closer than any other place I’ve lived. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back, an idea that can easily make me sink into quite a severe depression, but I do know that I will carry the culture of the city and time that I lived there for the rest of my life.


Of course, that would make sense to a Self Aware Third Culture Kid. While I have been a TCK since I turned 4, I didn’t know it until I was 15 or 16 years old. And even then, I didn’t understand it until I was 17 or 18. Why? Because I have known no other life.”

My World

Having worked with over 8,000 families as they move around the world. I am aware of many of the concerns parents have as well as the issues the come up with our cross-cultural kids. I used to always talk about third culture kids but as I see more and more children the term I am more comfortable with is often cross-cultural kids or global nomads.

I raised two children in the following countries, Australia, Indonesia, Nigeria, Switzerland, Thailand and a small part of the time in the USA. They are not like anyone in their extended family. They are not even very much alike as siblings because they didn’t share several years of their high school with each other.

Filtering – Connecting and Choosing

The topic that I want to share with you and cause you to think about is will our children have trouble with filtering – connecting and choosing in their lifetime.  I believe that they will.

Identity Development

To understand the international school child, we need to see how they form their identity. There are five steps of global nomads identity development.

  1. Pre-encounter is just living life as you all know it (wonderful holidays-excellent learning experiences) My children’s education took them to trips to Greece, France, Buthan, Russia and even a week with the elephants. This was their normal everyday life.
  2. Encounter – can be at any time, but if often when kids are off on their own living their own life without mom and dad around for support.
  3. Exploration -This is the time to try new thing – explore. Change friendships back and forth.
  4. Integration – Embrace parts of their cultural identity form the place they have had exposure to.
  5. Recycling – most global nomads talk about this happening in college, but that is because this is often the first time they are entirely on their own, and this is also a high time for self-reflection.

Wen’s excellent project on identity development

Here was a great project made by Jessica Wen at Maryland Institute College of Art. She worked with other TCK or CCKs on the topic self-identity. Each person’s story was made into his or her own mini accordion book.The covers were all marked TCK – the idea is that each child, on the surface looks just like an ordinary person with an average background,  however, once the reader opens the book you start to see the unique international perspective this person has.

Why “corporate” needs to get involved

I knew that working with parents would help a lot of families but I wanted to see how we could help more and more families, so I had to go corporate. This year I have taken a year off from being a counselor and have been busier than any “retired” person should be. I was lucky enough to be invited to speak at an event in Hollywood during the summer. It was a blast. The outcome of that talk was a book called Ready, Aim, Soar.  The editor said “life in the 21st century is volatile and unpredictable. Unprecedented advancements in technology are transforming the global business environment as well as everyday life, making many traditional practices and techniques that guaranteed success in past decades no longer viable today.”

I hope more and more corporations understand that their global children are as important as their employee.

Understanding the needs of our children in this world is very very important.

Understanding your filtering – The filtering processes are key and often very hard to do. It takes a real knack to be able to zero in on what’s most important. I ask families to focus on the stuff that success is made of: emotions, confidence, interaction skills, thinking. I even like families to think about, attacking and defending arguments, also problem solving and cultural knowledge. I feel we all will have a real challenge deciding on what to focus on for real growth in their family. Filtering will be paramount. For example, a family might come in with the overlying concern about their child’s lack of friends. But the family is missing the larger picture of their own connection time with each other. A family must connect while the kids are young because it gets harder and harder to make authentic connections as children get older. Yes, they do have a concern about the child’s friends, but they need to filter out things that are surface level concerns and not the real issues.

Unsure of how to connect – Social media for sharing is a continuous process in so many people’s lives, but it does not have the same effect as a close one to one contact. Our kids are so connected (600 + Facebook friends) but are these real close connections? Then we have another concern…Many kids might use facebook or tweeter to talk about personal feelings or situations that would have been disclosed privately in the past and only to people in their physical, social circles. Now it is worldwide news. Online disclosures can make a person feel raw. Kids have to know where and how to move forward. What is also key is how you are going to connect with your child. Start habits that are going to build in lifelong skills. Don’t fight technology – connect!

Issues of choice – trying to instill your own values at times runs up against the values of the people your kids hang around with. It happens with adults too. As families absorb more and more cultural norms of other people, they might move away from their core beliefs. The option of choices of values will clash if people are not careful. I love Michael Jospehson from the Institute of Ethics, he says, “The longer you wait to adjust the trajectory of a rocket that is going off course, the more severe the adjustment will have to be.” This is so true for our children.

Tips that might help your child

Please use “Foreign” carefully in your child’s vocabulary. When we use it to describe a policy or use it as ‘foreign policies,’ this is acceptable. When your child (or you) uses it referring to a person, it is not acceptable. Calling a person a ‘foreigner’ is offensive to most people in the world. If your child has this mindset, it automatically sets them that the other person as an outsider. It makes it seems as if that someone doesn’t belong. You wouldn’t want your child to be referred in such a negative way. Most kids just want to fit in regardless of where they are living. Help them out by not letting them use the word foreign too often.

Please limit ” Overseas” as a standard word in your global nomad’s life. Remember they don’t cross-oceans each time they travel to a new country. Many people prefer the term ‘abroad’. Nowadays, more and more people use worldwide or abroad in lieu of saying ‘overseas.’

If you are coming from the USA, do you kids a favor and don’t let them use “America” as a common word. When we refer to “America” as a country, some people around the world can get very confused. Do you mean, North America, Central America, or South America? It is wrong for your child to think they are from THE America, it seems so negative. It seems acceptable for citizens of the United States of America to refer to their country as America, but when your child is abroad, it is seen as ethnocentric and in poor taste. Teach your child to say “the United States.”

Introduce “Yet” into your family

Kids love to announce that they’re 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.”
At that moment, your mom instinct is to fix the situation. You say, “Oh yes you are!”

HINT  – This never works, because it puts the kid in the position of actively defending his or her ineptitude. It’s a lose-lose. As a parent, ignore the instinct to fix things. Instead, just add the word “yet.”

Add the “yet” in a matter-of-fact tone – “I’m not good at math becomes You’re not good at math yet.”

“I’m not good at volleyball” becomes “You’re not good at volleyball yet.”

The message is: Of course you’re not good because you haven’t worked at it. But when you do, you will be good. “Yet,” tells a clear story about the value of effort and struggle, and that story is aligned with the way the brain grows.

Valentine’s Day does not have to only be about LOVE


Not all classes or kids want to talk about “Love” on Valentines Day.  Try these positive and lively emotions instead:  Amusement, Delight, Excitement, Happiness, Joy, and Pleasure.

An added benefit is the pictures are from around the world and all ages of people so kids can connect to something. It is also with the music, “Believe in you.”  So a positive message is being sent out to everyone on this special occasion. I feel all children need to know more ’emotion words.’  Enjoy!

Share stories of Caring/Love

Each time a child describes an experience he has had, he constructs part of his past. This adds to his sense of who he is. Every story your child tells, or acts out through play, or writes contributes to a self-portrait.

I love to show teachers and parents how to use storytelling to strengthen their classrooms and their families. Did you know that being an expat puts in you a category that would make up the fifth largest nation in the world?

I Owe Asclepius a Rooster


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

 

Do you know philosophia? 

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

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

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

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


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

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

–       waiting at the airport for the plane

–       waiting for the Santa to show up

–       waiting for the summer holiday

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now a look back at expat family history –

Simens Rooster
Simens Rooster – What is he thinking?

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

“Mom, can we have chicken breathe?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chicken Essence Simens
Chicken Essence is 7% protein

 

Expat chicken soup
Spicy?

 

 

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

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

Pet Rooster

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

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

 

 

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How to Survive the First Month of School


Parents (locally and abroad) search for things that make their children successful. What would you do if I told you the top three ways to help your child were free? Would you take time to help your child be successful?

School Buses

Every Family needs help when it comes to school success – three free tools!

The backpack already has some crusty unknown item on the corner, the colored pencils are half in the smashed box, and half of them in the bottom of the book bag and your family wants to know how it can survive the rest of the school year. I want you to focus on that but also what you can do to help your child for the rest of his/her life.

Parents need to focus on what is most important to a child’s success. I know the focus of academics is what most of us what to focus on.  It is easily measured. Somewhat confrontational – you just have to get the grades and for many families this focus in never ending. The “B- ” really needs to be an “A.”  But we “A” could be a “higher A” so it factors into the honors at graduation. Academics is the wrong focus.

Focus on friendships more than academics

According to a recent study, friendships is what parents need to focus on. Adolescent social connectedness was a better predictor of adult well-being than academic achievement. Please read that sentence again and share it with your family. When kids have a lot of friends in childhood and adolescence, they tend to grow up to be happy adults. I am not saying grades don’t matter, we all know they do.  I am saying turn the focus so at least 50% of the time you are aware of the social and friendship needs instead of just the academic pressures of school.

Concentrate on breathing

Practice this with your whole family: Put one hand over your heart and one hand on your stomach. Breathe in slowly through your nose. Focus on the air coming into your lungs and on how it feels as your belly expands. Pause briefly, relax, and then exhale through your mouth, counting slowly to five. We all know this simple exercise will diffuse stress, cause us to focus, and to keep ourselves from overreacting. But we seldom teach our children to breathe! We need to let them see this in practice so Mom or Dad…breathe in public so your kids can see the benefits of this simple free tool.

For students the power of breathing is amazing. Research has shown us that focusing on their breath can be powerful for students: It reduces stress, stimulates creativity, boosts test scores, and improves focus.

Focus on play and family time

Don’t stress out your children.  I love the concept of play time, down time and family time.  This video explains “PDF.” Play-Down-Family

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Life is just functional if you are not connecting as a global nomad


A reflection on my first teaching job

My point is after we cover Maslow’s hierarchy of food, water, shelter, safety, and security- after our basic needs are met, we need to belong. We need to connect. We need to belong to a family, community, a race of people, a tribe, and a great school.

We need to connect when we don’t connect – life is just functional.

Many global nomads travel around the world but only half heartily work at connections. They are always saying “when I get home”  or “I can’t wait to go back home this summer.”  Yes, I can relate, but I also know how important it is to make a strong connection to your host country. You need to be connected to your experiences so live each day for a connection and be glad that you were able to find one in this hectic world we live in now.

Notes on presentation – Focus on Reconnection from Keynote at Bangkok Teacher’s Network –

Let me take you back to “my world.”  I spent 20 years in North West Kansas in the USA –  traveling about 300 miles from my home to exotic family vacation in places such as Cawker City to see the world’s largest ball of twine. A ball of string that weighs about nine tons and has a circumference of 40 feet.

Or when we went to Coffeyville to see a replica of a two-pound hailstone that fell in Kansas on Sept. 3rd. 1970.  I grew up in a very “exciting” place in the Midwest; my hometown was the Cow Chip Capital of Kansas.  Every year people from around the world would come to my town to throw cow chips like a frisbee to see how far they would go.  We had a population of about 120 people in our city, and during the Cow Chip Capital festival, the place would grow to over 500 people.  That was my life.

ER cow

History – going from there to here

You’ll never believe what happened!

I got a scholarship to study “education” in Hawaii so having never been on a plane, I left Russell Springs, Kansas to study on the island of Oahu in a small Catholic university.  Graduation came too quickly – Hawaii is lovely.  I decided to continue the island lifestyle and took a job on the Island of American Samoa.  Now, this is why it is amazing that I am standing here talking to a room full of educators.  I almost quit my first week of school.

I liked the small thatched garbanzos of shelters that served as our classroom that overlooked the ocean.  I loved the breeze and the cement floors and as I settled into my classroom without any walls, I had visions of teaching reading and writing to my kindergarten classroom of 16 students.  I was excited and nervous. Eager.

 I reconnected with my principal who had hired me in Honolulu and thought I was all set. On my way out of school, I stopped by the school office to see if anyone else was around and got to meet my new vice principal.  Here stood one of those Amazon type men, famous football player like and actually “huge” Samoan man in a beach sarong or as they are called in Samoa lava-lavas.  I tell you this was the largest, shiniest – shirtless man I had ever seen.  I should have seen the bear hug coming, but I did not.  After I slipped out of this massive bear hug first-day, I collected myself and decided to ask some fundamental first day questions any new teacher might ask.

“Is it possible to get a blackboard for my classroom?”  and “What exactly should I wear to school – or what teacher’s dress code do you have?”

This 350-pound man, leaned back on backed heels, glanced at me from the head to my toes and backed up, cleared his throat and replied, “I like all of my teachers to wear a top- when they are teaching.”

I knew I was not in Kansas anymore.

Imagine me – coming from north-west Kansas by way of a Catholic university planning to show up topless on my first day of school.

I had to write home and tell my family about this island encounter. (way before email and skype). We all must find humor in our lives and share those jokes.

As expats, it is vital that our family back home knows what we are doing, so they get this connection to our real life.

My blackboard did show up the next day. Well, it wasn’t what I thought a blackboard should be like.  My blackboard was really a piece of plywood and a bucket of black paint.  But I was determined to have something to write on in the classroom besides the sand outside the room. So I painted my board – black and then attempted to get it dry in the tropics during the rainy season.

 Which brings me to another huge concern for a new teacher – if the paint won’t dry. Image with the moisture and humidity does to a box of chalk.  This was the first time I cried due to my job.  I was starting to think Kansas might look pretty good about right now.

BUT my real teaching problem had not even started! 

My first day of actual class with students – again, almost had me in tears.  What new kindergarten teacher needs three sets of identical twins in their first classroom experience!  Six of my students – were just a clump in my head that I could not separate.

 Of course, I could get the two American blond boys from the two Samoan black haired males and the two Samoan black haired ponytailed girls but I couldn’t get Term and Tin straight, I couldn’t get Tasi and Tessi figured out and I could not get Sasha and Sara figured out.

But I did connect to those kids.  I did connect to the other teachers and I did connect to the school.

 Connection is the core of all good educators. 

 The connection is one thing we all have the power to do.

 

 

Starting a New School? Tips to Help Your Child


 

Are you excited or nervous?

Are you excited or nervous?

 See the new environment

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

Get a local resource person

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

Proper use of “Family Time.”

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

#1 Rule for Success

My number one rule for all parents is – Do not show up late to the start of the school year. Friendships form so quickly that a kid that misses out on the teacher trying to make class connections with peers, he/she will suffer. This also means do not show up to school with an overly tired child. Getting off a plane on Sunday to start school on Monday can set up a child for social failure. As parents of global families, what has been your “rule of thumb” or “success strategies” that work for you family? I’d love to hear them.

Note: Related posts to starting a new school – New schools and emotions and Ahhh – Survived the first week of school

 

 

 

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