J Simens.com

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 risk 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 have the ability to understand “emotions”.  Many people know the 7 basic emotions: Anger, Contempt, Fear, Disgust, Happiness, Sadness and Surprise. By the time a person is holding political offices or 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:


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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 absolutely 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 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 for 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.

Focus 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 children 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”.

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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

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.


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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.


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