J Simens.com

Learning from Failure with Marshmallows at Home and at School

As an expat family heading “home”, I am often asked what am I looking forward to this summer.  I wish I could come up with wise and wonderful words but often I just say what comes first to my mind.  Yesterday, I said, “I am looking forward to buying marshmallows.”   Yes, I will be excited to be back in the USA where I can buy marshmallows that have not already been melted by sitting on a dock somewhere waiting to be unloaded. I am excited that I can buy several different types and sizes of marshmellows.

From “Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child”

smores cupcake

Family rituals create closeness

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”. Also many rituals can be based around food. We make S’mores. They are a favorite campsite treat for young and old. They are sticky and gooey, and loaded with sugar and carbohydrates.


We always spend our summers in Lake Tahoe so during this prime campfire time we enjoy our S’mores ritual. But, we don’t limit our consumption of S’mores to the campfire. We have them in fireplaces, the dashboards of hot cars, gas kitchen stoves, and microwaves.

Jackie is five-years-old. She tries to replicate our ritual all by herself. As the burning marshmallow smell fills our home, we are baffled. No one is cooking in the kitchen. We head out across the house looking for an explanation. I see Jackie sitting on the edge of her bed and notice a black lump of ash on her fingers.


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Global Family: Each child has a unique Identity

Balikpapan ExpatsWe are putting on a free webinar this week which would be perfect for anyone relocating anytime. The title is “New Country, New School.” sign up here.  Thursday, 21st at  10 AM BalikpapanTime.


What a wonderful introduction. 


We are very excited to have such a renowned author and specialist, Ms Julia Simens presenting a workshop for our AIS parents and friends, based on the title “Needs of Cross Cultural Kids”. (Being an educator, speaker, author and consultant, this has provided Julia the opportunity to work with over 8,000 families on five continents.  We are very fortunate in having Julia here in Balikpapan and we are thrilled she can share her expertise with us. It should be a very informative presentation. Please check out the link: http://indonesiaexpat.biz/meet-the-expats/meet-julia-simens/

So many of the families I work with want to know a few key things at every presentation that I give. They want to know the correct terms to use to describe their family and children. They want to know what and why transitions are the way they are and how to prepare for them. Then, they want to know how to relate it directly to their own issues.

I am excited to give this presentation to the Australian School located in Balikpapan. You can advance through the presentation below by clicking on the forward button. If you do not want the music, be sure to click the volume button on the lower left side of the presentation.  Videos that are imbedded will not play automatically so you will need to click on they to get them to start.


Activites to do:  Identity and Time Line

To understand why “knowing your child’s identity from his or her view point is important”, please do this activity.

List everything that makes up your child’s identity. Such as:

  • Gender – male or female
  • Cultural Grouping
  • National Identity
  • Religious Identity
  • Passport Country
  • Mom’s heritage
  • Dad’s heritage
  • Identify Identification

Here is an example of a student I used to work with:

He was a six year old male. He lived in a household that was English and Indonesia. His main cultural grouping was Indonesia. He was being raised a Christian. He passport was from the USA.  Mom was American, Dad was Indonesia. He identified with being a basketball player and really good at making jokes.

Then we did his actual time line:

He was six years old so we needed to account for his time and where he lived. When you are dealing with a young child try to keep track of moves by 1 or 6 month changes. Some global families go ‘home’ for 2 months over the summer and that should show up at 10 months in host country and 2 months in ‘home’ location.

Did his parents realize how much "Thai" influences were in their child?

Did his parents realize how much “Thai” influences were in their child?

Born in the USA , spent six months there. Moved to Indonesia and sent 1 year there, family moved to Thailand where they spent most of each year. They did try to spend a month in Indonesia and one month is the USA each year if possible. If you account for each month of this child’s life, his life chart looked liked this. 15% USA, 23% Indonesian and 62% Thai.


Some people quest why this type of break down is important or why they should even think about it in regards to their global family.  Here are the top five reasons why we need to know and understand our child’s own timeline.

  1. Parents might see their child’s cultural identity differently than their child does.
  2. Parents may impose an identity on their child, which many not be the way the child sees him or her self.
  3. Parents must not rely on a school to know the issues their child is having with cultural adjustments, unless they share them with the school.
  4. Many children moving to their passport country are not ‘moving back or moving home.’ Home is actually their parent’s home.
  5. Kids love to be unique so knowing how ‘special’ their own life or timeline is can be a very positive  understanding of  ‘self’  they can be proud of.
Screen Shot 2014-08-19 at 4.34.17 PM

Favorite Food: Indomei (still)

My own child is still less from the USA passport belonging – then where he lived abroad. His time in the USA was limited by a short stay when he was one year old and then summer holidays. He has never lived there for any length of time. This might have brought up the issue of where to go to college or university.  Some global souls do not pick their passport country to go to university. This can be hard to explain to grandparents and extended family.

Global Families should also be aware of this concern. 

(From – Erin Sinogba/Brice Royer/TCKID/ Expatica) Many CCKs also face challenges that unfortunately manifest themselves professionally. Many CCKs are schooled in educational systems that do not translate in their passport countries. A Korean student, who received her education in English while living in Malawi and Kenya, may not perform well at a university in Korea, where she needs to write papers and give oral presentations in Korean.

As a result, her professional opportunities in Korea will not be as wide as those for another Korean student who had been raised in the Korean educational system. This challenge is especially pronounced for CCKs who wish to pursue skilled professions such as medicine and law in their passport countries. Because of their highly specialized terminology, education and proficiency in the language of the passport country is essential for success. Unless CCKs receive supplemental education in these languages, they may miss out on opportunities in these areas.

jackie's time lineAs globalization becomes more and more a fact of life, CCKs are a model for tomorrow’s professionals. It has taken 23 years for our daughter’s time line to show that she is now more USA than any other culture she has lived in. As she heads off into the workforce, she will be equipped with wonderful things this global live has given her. She will continue to hold a special and unique worldview, where she can  self-identify with more than one cultural background.


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Remember What Kids Need as They Head Out Abroad!

Many of my families are gearing up to have children head off to a semester abroad or college. We often discuss what is vital to bring!  Each child and situation is different but we all need a “GREAT” list to make sure we don’t forget those important items.

Thanks  to www.projects-abroad.co.uk for creating this graphic.

The Ultimate Travel Checklist

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Summer parenting tip worth a fortune

High Five - helping your child thrive

Do you want to implement something that will guarantee academic success for your child?

Do you want to learn how to introduce them to this during the summer so it works when school starts?

Note taking is the one thing your child must master

Computers are wonderful.  Old fashion flashcards really do work. Teaching your child how to take notes the “best” way is a very important activity to attempt this summer.

Show your child how notes can be used like flashcards because you write them in a form where you separate a “stimulus” from a “response.”  The stimuli are cues or questions (think: front side of flashcard), while the response is the answer to the clue (think: back of flashcard). 

Simple to do in your notebook. This is where you are expected to take notes in class but you can easily make them your teaching tool.  Put the stimuli to the left of a margin, while the responses are to the right. The key advantage of this is that just by putting a sheet of paper on top of your notes, you can hide the responses while leaving the stimuli visible. This makes a great study guide.

explain the process - teach this skill

explain the process – teach this skill

There are many types of notes taking system but often our kids learn about them too late. Why can’t your child learn a simple system in elementary and high school?  Jack Milgram has uploaded 40 wonderful ways to take notes!

Note Taking Methods for Effective Learning: 40 Best Templates

Information on handwriting

Many writers boast about the benefits of writing with pens or pencils. Elementary school students who wrote essays with a pen not only wrote more than their keyboard-tapping peers, but they also wrote faster and in more complete sentences.

The art of note taking and the art of handwriting are also beneficial for adults.  Research has shown that it keeps your brain sharp as you get older.  

Why not spend some time this summer doing something that will benefit both you and your child?


Related information here A Learning Secret: Don’t Take Notes with a Laptop. Students who used longhand remembered more and had a deeper understanding of the material

Related blogs – Early success for preschool children and Here for Global Families: Identity risk factor so potential problems are minimized. Many expat families will enjoy this blog.


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CCK’s First Crush: Love from the eyes of a cross-cultural kid

First love

We all know that children fall in love! Easily!  They see someone that looks inviting and they are warm and open and cupid’s arrow hits them.  The problem is this might happen at any age.

jsimens valentines day

When it happens to your child when they are in middle school you are eager and ready to help them understand how they might be feeling. When it happens in High School you caution them on taking things too fast.

What happens to you when it is your five or six year old?

How about when it is your eight, nine or ten year old that falls in love? When my son was 11 he wanted to write a book about students in love in an international school. I wondered if he had enough information.  He sat down and started typing.  Four days later in the summer holiday, he had about 35 pages of words about love in an elementary school.  As an educator, I had to sit back and say, “What do I do to help my students when this happens to them?”  As a parent, I wondered, “Do I support my child enough when this happens?”

Then I think about a summer  years ago and a conversation that I overheard between my nine year old and his grandma. He was explaining to Grandma about the girl he had meet at the lakeside park on the swings. He said, “Grandma, did you see that really pretty girl at the swings?”  Grandma was trying to determine who this girl was and asked simple questions like, “Did she have the purple swimsuit or was she the one with the red hair?”

When your child is very experienced in the international world, his/her answers might not follow this type of logic.  I hear my son say, “Well Grandma, she had very warm  golden skin. It was not really like an Indonesian color but more like Malaysian skin. Do you know where she is from?

Grandma replied, “I am not sure, tell me more.”

“She had warm tan skin and big brown eyes with a cute smile.”

“I didn’t see her.”

“She might be from some other place, maybe she is from Myanmar.”

Remember my son has spent most of his live living in South East Asia.  This was his frame of reference and he could understand the uniqueness of each region even at the age of nine. He had not been exposed to all of the types of people in Nevada, USA.

I wonder if this could have develop into a “crush” if he had ever run into that “little warm golden skinned girl with the great smile” at the local park again.

More about his book can be found here.

Spirit of Saint Valentine - Grant Simens

What sort of data would you find at your last talk?

world heart

I happen to be a very lucky person because I get to work daily with an amazing group of parents.  An increasing number of children are being raised in foreign countries as their parents are being sent abroad by their businesses or government agencies or they are people who want to see the world. These are the people I work with.

I get hired by schools, PTAs and organizations to talk about transitions, what we can do to help our children in this global lifestyle and how to work within a school system to get the best for everyone. Of course, each venue is different and the participants can vary a lot.

Number of Moves per Family

Here is a snapshot at one group at a presentation.

Expat moves

The majority of these parents were already on their 4th or 5th move.  One family had already completed 7 moves. Two of the parents in this group were from the host country and had not moved, yet.

The Importance of the Host Country

When I conducted a small parent workshop in Indonesia, we had a very interesting group of parents.  Many of them had lived in a variety of places.  Here is that snap shot of what they said when I asked them to list the countries that they had lived in longer than four months. These countries came up, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Dubai, Egypt, France, Holland, India, Ireland, Libya, New Zealand, Oman, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, The Netherlands, the UAE, and Venezuela.

The following countries had 2 participants having lived in them, Australia, Azerbaijan, Japan, Kuwait, South Korea, USA, and Viet Nam. The only common countries with four people living in each country were England and Scotland. The only country with double digits was our host country of Indonesia with eighteen people in this group currently living here.

The Importance of Language Ability

I only conduct my talks in English but my parents in one presentation spoke these languages, Afrikaans, Dutch, English, French, Gaelic, Gujarati, Hindi, Indonesian, Portuguese, Spanish, Vietnamese. It was an excellent time to stress the need for multiple languages.

Many TCKs also face challenges that unfortunately manifest themselves professionally. Many TCKs are schooled in educational systems that do not translate in their passport countries. A Korean student, who received her education in English while living in Malawi and Kenya, may not perform well at a university in Korea, where she needs to write papers and give oral presentations in Korean.

As a result, her professional opportunities in Korea will not be as wide as those for another Korean student who had been raised in the Korean educational system. This challenge is especially pronounced for TCKs who wish to pursue skilled professions such as medicine and law in their passport countries. Because of their highly specialized terminology, education and proficiency in the language of the passport country is essential for success. Unless TCKs receive supplemental education in these languages, they may miss out on opportunities in these areas.

When I do a workshop on transitions, I feel it is important to understand where the parents might be in their transition cycle. Here is a typical snapshot of length of time in a general location. Of course, certain companies use different guidelines on what is ‘normal’ for their employees. This holds true to missionaries, military and other global nomad norms.

length of time in your home










About Julia –

As an educator, speaker, author and consultant, Julia has a gold-medal global perspective on children and parenting.  Parents look to her for guidance because she has raised her own two children overseas while worrying about schools, medical conditions, friendships and loss of extended family contact. She and her family have navigated nine international relocations, which has provided her the opportunity to work with over 8,000 families on five continents.  It’s helped her understand the similarities of emotions children share around the globe. She has personally gazed into the eyes of young children from around the world and helped them successfully transition into their new environment.  She is the expert on emotional resilience and the expat child.

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The Book of Afformations World Tour!

Do you know NOAH ST. JOHN?  If not, you need to.

“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.”
– Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

I first came across Noah because of his book “Permission to Succeed”.  Having two kids at University I also shared this concept of Noah’s:

Remember the difference between simple and easy.
However, and this may sound like a contradiction (but it isn’t),
remember that there is a very important distinction between simple
and easy. Simple means something that is not complicated, complex,
or difficult to understand. Easy means something that takes little to
no effort to accomplish. What is simple is not always easy. In fact, one
of the biggest problems in our industry is that people often confuse
simple and easy.”

This lead to many great discussions on what classes to take in college, how to approach that roommate situation and even into time management conversations.

What I like most about Noah’s work is his belief in the mind. He feels, “The human mind is an incredibly miraculous thing”.  As parents, we need to help get this across to our children and I believe we need to do this starting early in their lives.

Imagine what your child can do if they understood the CPR (Current Perceived Reality)!  Even as adults we need to take stock in ‘where we are’ and ‘where we want to be’.


I was provided with information on the new book, The Book of Afformations, by Noah St. John, in the hopes that I would share my honest opinions.  I received no monetary compensation and the opinions expressed are my own.  I chose to share this book with you because I believe that our thoughts do form the outcome of our lives.

Who Else Wants More Ethical Decisions in the World

Do emotions help us make more ethical decisions?

I believe they do.

If the child cannot understand their own emotions or tune into the emotions of others in their family or with peers, this is a huge risk. If the child is unable to make ethical decisions, they are a danger to themselves and a risk to society.

The future leaders of the world may well be our own global nomads. We need to make sure they can understand “emotions.”  Many people know the seven basic emotions: Anger, Contempt, Fear, Disgust, Happiness, Sadness and Surprise. By the time a person is holding political offices or are CEO’s have they forgotten what they learned as toddlers?

Teach them early - jsimensproject.com

The toddler years are an important first step in emotional regulation (the process of learning how emotions make you feel inside and healthy ways to show these emotions to others).

When a child learns to regulate or control their emotions, they learn how to:

  • recognize what they are feeling
  • show those feelings in ways that don’t hurt them or others
  • cope with their emotions
  • This process starts when your child is a toddler and takes many years.

Two reasons we must help our expat children

  • Many expat children are quite adept at all stages and thrive in their cross-cultural awareness, but I do see that it is hard for some to ‘belong.’ It is hard to be loyal to someplace if you feel you are just passing through. Since all children spend so much time in school or connected to school activities, it is important that parents foster this loyalty to the new school and new community. Expats need to know what they are feeling.
  • Through socialization, children learn how to express what they feel about the environment they are in and the people they are around. If they cannot do this, their social and emotional foundation is at risk. The chance of being misunderstood is greater. They might not have strong, healthy communicative relationships and therefore they may be isolated. Expats seldom thrive in isolation.

Education at home and in school must contain more than good behavior, basic facts, and skills. Each child must feel they are important and worthwhile; they need to know they matter.

Emotional resilience is good for people and society. To have a productive life we need to laugh and be connected. To have a balanced life, we have to have highs and lows.  We need to give children a variety of experiences. If a family says, “We matter to each other.” then I know that their family is healthy.  If they matter to each other, they know their own emotions and the emotions of others in the family.

Step by Step Plans to Expand your Child’s Emotional Knowledge

Jsimensproject.com was a look at the global nomads around the world that we all love.  Look at the video links to use with your kids to see if they understand why each picture was put with a particular emotion.  Many photos are from around the world so that every child will relate to some of the pictures.

Positive and Lively Emotions

  • Amusement
  • Delight
  • Excitement
  • Happiness
  • Joy
  • Pleasure

This is the state of experiencing humorous and entertaining events or situations and is associated with smiles and laughter.

Positive/Lively Emotions video:


Negative and Forceful Emotions

  • Anger
  • Annoyance
  • Contempt
  • Disgust
  • Irritation

This is often an unpleasant mental state that is characterized by irritation and distraction. It can lead to emotions such as frustration and anger. Being easily annoyed is called irritability.

Negative and Forceful Emotion video:

Negative Thoughts Emotions

  • Doubt
  • Envy
  • Frustration
  • Guilt
  • Shame
  • Boredom
  • Despair
  • Disappointment
  • Hurt
  • Sadness

These emotions are often glossed over by the parents. They try to ‘joke’ their child out of these feelings or tell them to grow up. Or even tell them to ‘let it go’ and move on.

Negative Thoughts Emotion video:

Positive Thoughts Emotions

  • Courage
  • Hope
  • Pride
  • Satisfaction
  • Trust

These emotions are hard for a child to pin point. They need to have adults explain them in real situations. Get your child to feel more than ‘happy.’

Positive Thoughts Emotions video:

Quiet Positive Thoughts Emotions

  • Calm
  • Content
  • Relaxes
  • Relieved
  • Serene

Serenity is often hard for a parent to explain to their child in this fast paced world today.

Quiet Positive Thoughts Emotion video:

Reactive and Caring Thoughts Emotions

  • Interest
  • Politeness
  • Surprised
  • Affection
  • Empathy
  • Friendliness
  • Love

Parents need to highlight these emotions and give them a name so their child really “can” see and understand what they mean.

Reactive and Caring Emotions video:

Most of the schools I have given presentations to have taken these videos and created lesson plans to help their students understand their own feelings. One school used them in cross over lessons in the Homeroom and Art classes. Another Preschool spent six weeks on emotions, using one video per week to focus their lessons. Then these kids went to the Middle School and shared with a class what they knew about their emotions. Priceless!

One school used them in cross over lessons in the Homeroom and Art classes. Another Preschool spent six weeks on emotions, using one video per week to focus their lessons. Then these kids went to the Middle School and shared with a class what they knew about their emotions. Priceless!

Please let me know if you or your school needs more information on how to use J-Simens project and these video resources.

We Need More Ethical Decision Makers in the World

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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