J Simens.com

Graduation Rituals for Kindergarten: Is there a worldwide theme?


I believe that experiences in the early years of your child’s life deeply impact him for the rest of his life.

Rituals are emotionally enriching. May is often the month for Graduation. Graduation from preschool, graduation from Kindergarten, Graduation from elementary school and graduation from High school (USA focus).  Some graduations are fun and some are stressful.

I believe that these levels can be important milestones but in the younger years, we really need to have the event be driven by the children and make sure it is age appropriate.

I just experienced an age appropriate ceremony.

The children had each published their own writing story. They shared their new books by inviting their parents into the classroom. They had decorated the room, they had made their own brownies in the school kitchen, they poured their juice, served the guests first and were as ‘proud’ as any child could ever be. Parents took a ton of pictures. This was a successful ritual that marked a milestone. These children had moved from Kindergarten into the larger elementary school.

Then I attended a different kindergarten graduation.

Parents decorated the room, they purchased a cake, children had to wear uncomfortable clothes. They had it in a huge auditorium. Some kids were scared to walk across the stage alone. Parents took a lot of pictures.

This was a school created ritual. Kids received a diploma but they did not show the same pride as the children who had produced their own book from their computer and a printer.

There is no right or wrong way to create a ritual but often these things evolve into something far off from what they started out being in the first place. Sometimes new parents come onto the scene and want to make it “better and bigger” than last year. They lose site that this celebration should be meaningful to the children and that the children should be involved and engaged in the process and not just photo props.

Rituals are memories – have you checked on yours lately?

When I graduated, I can remember the dress I wore, who I had to try and walk down the isle at the same time matching step to step and I remember walking across the stage to get a single red rose.  I don’t remember the importance of that graduation, just that we did it.

Julia Wright and Dan Starns in Winona

 

When I graduated from University – I remember every detail of this ritual.  I remember how hard it was to maintain the grades I needed in order to get the scholarships I needed.  I remember locking in a job before I walked across the stage to get my diploma. I remember every person who was on that stage that day and what they said to me.  Due to the time of the event, I only had friends at the graduation.  I remember my friends. Some are still close friends 30 years later.

The ritual that stands out the most for me is my son’s preschool graduation.  He attended an Indonesian international play school. The kids spent several months learning about their host country, the music, the customs, and the rituals that happen in Indonesia. When their special day came, they got to pick out an outfit they wanted to wear as a celebrational outfit. They got to pick if they’d do a dance, a song, or share art from their host country. My son decided to recite the poem “Pelangi, Pelangi”.

Pelangi, pelangi

Alangkah indahmu

Merah, kuning, hijau

Di langit yang biru

Pelukismu agung

Siapa gerangan

Pelangi, pelangi

Ciptaan Tuhan.

Later I learned that the English words to his poem were:

Rainbow, rainbow
How beautiful you are!
Red, yellow, green
On the blue sky.
Who is
Your great painter,
Rainbow, rainbow?
I’m a Creation of God.

I love this ritual if it is driven by the young students – I hate this ritual when it is driven by the parents and has no connection to the child.  What is your school doing this year?  It is not too late to make some changes and make it a ritual that is meaningful.

How Aware Are You, Socially?


I spend an enormous amount of my time trying to help children see how they fit in with their peers and how to understand what social clues are out there to know what behavior is acceptable. It is a fun but challenging job.

 

Some kids are quick to see the benefits of being socially aware others could care less. Children who come into my office are there to get help and support. It is not the branch of the school that deals with punishment. So often, kids think my office is fun, and we celebrate their strengths. I reflect on my work as a ‘party’ most days. In a  recent conference in Washington DC, I told them I had the best job in the world.

Where ever you are, celebrate with friends and family.  Join the crowd and use #WorldPartyDay to share on social media.

Since 1996, April 3 has been declared World Party Day.  Did you celebrate? One year, I did not, I was involved in two of my least favorite things in the world…travel in economy class and a phone notification that my mother was in the emergency room.  Yikes, not a celebration of any sort.

This year, I am in Roatan with my best friends, Pauline and Carol. We will be going to El Paso for the super baleadas to start our celebration. We are hoping to listen to Mickey Charteris talk about Caribbean Reef Life this evening.

Why #WorldPartyDay

“The idea of a worldwide party appeared as a work of fiction in Flight, A Quantum Fiction Novel, by American writer Vanna Bonta. The trilogy’s first book, published in 1995, ended with a countdown that was to take place on April 3, 2000, postulating that on that day the entire world would celebrate synchronously in elevated social awareness.”

Do you know this TCK?

In her early life, Bonta’s cultural experiences branched worldwide from her American-Italian-Dutch ancestry. Her father, a military officer, was raised in a small town in the American south. Her mother, a fine art painter, was born and raised in Florence, Italy. Bonta traveled the world with her family, living in Thailand as a young girl for six years when her father was stationed there as a diplomat.

Vanna attended an international school with children of many nationalities who practiced different religions. The experience fostered an understanding and interest in universal humanity, as well as an environment for learning four languages.

I love this massive worldwide phenomenon now in progress involves millions of individuals, organizations, and corporations around the world who are realizing a responsibility and ability to contribute positively to the collective future of Humanity and Earth.

Throughout April, I will be continuing the World Party Day theme!

I will be celebrating when we (a child and me) look into their social situation and can see what he/she can relate to and what they can do next. I look at social awareness as knowing ourselves in society and knowing what is going on in society. It is a two-prong situation.

So why do we need to be aware, because information about the society and its issues make us more responsible for the community? If kids are taught about social issues and problems, they will make an effort to do something about it, therefore improving society as a whole.

social awareness
social awareness

Do emotions help us make more ethical decisions?

Many of you know I work with kids and their feelings – big time. This is key to so many things in their life.  Do emotions help us make better 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.

There are a lot of social problems around the world. It is essential that more and more people be made aware of these issues so that we can fight them as a united world. Social awareness also makes the individual more mature and thoughtful when it comes to making important decisions for themselves or society.
Here are some of the more creative campaigns from around the world on social awareness.

Notes:

Don’t miss the debut album from World Party Karl Wallinger’s insightful songs deal primarily with the responsibility of the individual to recognize and cope with the problems of the world. The song, World Party, is well worth a listen. Wallinger is a multi-instrumentalist, enabling him to demo and record the bulk of World Party material as a one-man band.

World Party Day or (P-Day) was celebrated in  United States, France, England, Africa, Italy, China, Korea, Vietnam, India, and Thailand. There is a simultaneous celebration of World Party Day that occurs in every continent of the world. The celebration has no religious or political connections. The theme of World Party Day celebrations is a “universal human right to fun, peace, and life.”

Global podcasts featured a variety of music and radio stations reading from the novel Flight.

The Quadrille Dance Parade is a fun event – check it out!

April – Resilience is Beautiful


child abuse

April is Child Abuse Month in the USA.

Protective factors are conditions in families and communities that, when present, increase the health and well-being of children and families. They are attributes that serve as buffers, helping parents who might otherwise be at risk of abusing their children to find resources, supports, or coping strategies that allow them to parent effectively, even under stress. All international teachers and counselors need to know what protective factors they can offer the parents they work with.

Sometimes the global nomads are the ones at most risk.

I was on an American Foreign Service Association panel on TCK’s, where Ruth Van Reken pointed out that sexual abuse was a worldwide concern. Ruth is the leading authority in the social science field of ‘third culture kids”, ‘third culture adults” and “cross-cultural kids.”

Research has shown that these protective factors link to a lower incidence of child abuse and neglect.

Six Protective Factors

1) Nurturing and Attachment
I often blog about the importance of attachment, in fact, I do it so much, that I am considered an attachment specialist. When parents and children have strong, positive feelings for one another, children develop trust that their parents will provide what they need to thrive, including love, acceptance, positive guidance, and protection.

The impact of nurturing on development:

  •  Information about infant and toddler development, including brain development
  • The importance of an early secure attachment between parents and young children
  • Examples of secure parent-child attachment at all ages

Parenting strategies that promote nurturing:

  •  Cultural differences in how parents and children show affection
  • How fathers nurture children
  • Ways to engage other important adults as part of a child’s “nurturing network.”

2) Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development
Parents who understand how children grow and develop can provide an environment where children can live up to their potential. Addressing developmental challenges such as inconsolable crying, bedwetting, eating or sleeping problems, lying, school issues, problems with peers, and puberty is important things parents need to know.

3) Parental resilience
Resilience is the ability to handle everyday stressors and recovers from occasional crises. Parents who are emotionally resilient have a positive attitude, creatively solve problems, effectively address challenges, and are less likely to direct anger and frustration at their children. When parents identify and communicate what worries them most, there is an opportunity to offer some coping strategies and resources to begin to deal with the stress. Parents are not always aware how their ability to cope with stress may impact their capacity to parent and their children’s development.

Find ways to build resilience

  • Stress management techniques, such as regular exercise, relaxation to music, and meditation or prayer
  • How to prevent stress by planning ahead, anticipating difficulties, and having resources in place
  • How to anticipate and minimize everyday stress
  • How to handle major stressors, including accessing resources and supports from family, friends, faith communities, and other community resources

4) Social connections
Evidence linked social isolation and perceived the lack of support to child maltreatment. Trusted and caring family and friends provide emotional support to parents by offering encouragement and assistance in facing the daily challenges of raising a family. Sometimes parents will not identify a lack of social connections or emotional support as an issue. Instead, they may express concern about a child’s behavior problem or their depression.

Benefits of a broad social network

  • Helps ease the burden of parenting
  • Models positive social interactions for children and gives children access to other supportive adults
  • Provides support in crises
  • Offers opportunities to help others

5) Concrete support for parents
Many factors beyond the parent-child relationship affect a family’s ability to care for their children. Language or cultural barriers may make it difficult for some parents to identify services and carry out the necessary contacts. Providing information and connections to concrete supports can be a tremendous help to families under stress or in crisis.

Picture 19

6) Social and emotional competence of children
Just like learning to walk, talk, or read, children must also learn to identify and express emotions effectively. When a child has the right tools for healthy emotional expression, parents are better able to respond to his or her needs, which strengthens the parent-child relationship. Parents can help children learn to identify and properly communicate their feelings to others.

You can play a major role in helping parents explore and assess their child’s emotional and social development with some of the following strategies:

  • Help children understand their emotions by first giving the feelings names and then encouraging them to talk about how they are feeling.
  • Use pictures, books, and other visual elements to help the child understand his or her emotions.
  • Give children opportunities to suggest different ways he or she can deal with feelings.
  • Teach children the different methods for responding to feelings, conflicts, or problems such as taking deep breaths, stepping away from the situation to calm down, or asking an adult for help.
  • Praise the child for healthy emotional expression.

History of Child Abuse Month (USA)

Increasing public awareness of the need to ensure the safety and welfare of children  (1974) led to the passage of the first Federal child protection legislation, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA). The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives resolved that the week of June 6-12, 1982, should be designated as the first National Child Abuse Prevention Week. In 1983, April was proclaimed the first National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

In 1989, the Blue Ribbon Campaign to Prevent Child Abuse began as a Virginia grandmother’s tribute to her grandson who died as a result of abuse. She tied a blue ribbon to the antenna of her car as a way to remember him and to alert her community to the tragedy of child abuse. The Blue Ribbon Campaign has since expanded across the country; many people wear blue ribbons each April in memory of those who have died as a result of child abuse and in support of efforts to prevent abuse.

When the U.S. Surgeon General named 2005 the Year of the Healthy Child, there was renewed commitment to make child abuse prevention a national priority. OCAN invited 26 national organizations to be national child abuse prevention partners so the message could reach a wider audience.

Julia Simens normal 1

Notes: adapted from the US Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families

Preventing Child Maltreatment and Promoting Well-Being: A Network for Action 2012 Resource Guide or find additional resources on Information Gateway
National Alliance of Children’s Trust and Prevention Funds. (2011). Parent ambassadors: A parent’s guide to participation using the strengthening families approach. http://www.ctfalliance.org/images/pdfs/TN_ParentGuide.pdf (PDF – 1823 KB).
The Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning. (2010).Teaching your child to identify and express emotions. http://csefel.vanderbilt.edu/documents/teaching_emotions.pdf (PDF – 2774 KB).
ZERO TO THREE. Tips on nurturing your child’s social-emotional development.
http://main.zerotothree.org/site/PageServerpagename=ter_key_social_socemottips&AddInterest=1157

Expat and Empathy: Two of the best “E” words in the world


Picture 42

You know you are an expat when…I had to meet up with someone, and I suggested meeting outside the Southwest Terminal at the Reno Airport. I had the whole city to pick for an excellent location, and the airport seemed to work best for me.

Check out this blog about EMPATHY:

Everybody needs somebody! This is why most expats spend a portion of their summer time around family and friends. They are re-connecting. When I need to meet up with a service provider in the community, I ask him to meet me at the one place in Reno I feel I know well. We met at the International Airport.

Model and mirror – If you look at a person’s face and read their emotions, it is easy to understand how mirroring works. If you are not sure how a person is feeling, try to make your face look like their face and check your inner emotions. How are you feeling? This is probably how the other person is feeling. Or at least it is a good start to understanding what they might be feeling. When you model empathy for your children, they learn so much. I still have a passion that our kids will be better in the world than we are. I try to model empathy every day.

Put yourself in their shoes. As the traveler with twins was struggling with their car seats, I remembered what it was like to travel with two children under the age of three. She didn’t seem to have enough hands.

Ask if you can help. I stopped my conversation with the service person I was meeting and walked over to ask the traveler if she needed help. She was trying to get the stroller to open up, she had one child in her arms and the other one was holding on to her knees. I started to lean towards the stroller to yank it open. Wham! She put the child into my arms and dealt with it herself. With one quick movement, she opened the stroller, put the child on the floor into it and then turned to me. The smile she gave me as she took her baby out of my arms was priceless. No other words were needed. She went on her way to check-in, and I returned to my conversation.

Treat others the way you want to be treated. I listened carefully to the service person and respected his time and expertise. I quickly made my USA commitment for services I knew nothing about since I have not lived in the USA for so long. I knew this representative knew a lot more than I would ever know about his product.

Hurtful or helpful. When the bus loaded with out of town guests pulled up right by me, I had to give directions as each person came off since they could not seem to see the various check-in counters. As you know, once you help one person you seem to be approachable and friendly, so more people will approach you. I needed my “Welcome to Reno” badge!

You feel better, and they feel better. They got where they needed to go, and I went home feeling good about my afternoon at the Reno Airport without traveling.

It was an afternoon of empathy.

I love this video and how they were able to capture “Empathy” so well.  What has been a moment in your life that you can’t forget because someone was able to show you empathy? What did they do that touched you? Please put your story in the comment section.  Thanks.

Picture 51
Simens – Family Tradition

Do you “feel” your Identity?


What is cultural competence?

When many people talk about having cultural competence, they come up with some key things that showcase your competency. They are

  • respect for difference
  • practice curiosity, eager to learn
  • willingness to accept there are many ways to view the world
  • recognizing & rejecting own pre-existing beliefs about culture
  • avoiding over-generalizing or labeling persons

 

PolVan Cultural Identity Model

Where do I fit in?

I have worked a lot with children who are adopted. They often look different from their family, but as a “whole” the family unit thinks alike.  Many people can relate to being a foreigner, especially if they are travelers.  As soon as you start weaving down the aisle of the airplane and hit foreign soil, you look different from the Host country nationalities, and you think differently from them.  For many people, we tend to hang around people that are a lot like us.  People that look alike and think alike are called “Mirrors” in the PolVan Cultural Identity Model.

I have recently repatriated to the USA.  I am a “Hidden Immigrant.” I might look like most of the other women shopping in The Village Market, but I certainly think different from them. When I am looking at the fresh turkey breasts, I am checking the expiration date only because in some of the homes we have lived in abroad the frozen turkeys were often well passed their prime.  One year, we were surprised to find a Thanksgiving turkey in May, but under closer inspection, it had been frozen and refrozen on the shelves in Balikpapan, and it was already five months past the expiration date. I am not thankful for ancient turkeys.  At Village Market, they are only two days old or less.

What does it mean to belong, to have a home, to know where you’re from? “Neither Here Nor There” is a 35-minute documentary that explores cultural identity for people who have grown up in places other than their home culture, known as Third Culture Kids.

For more information, please visit the website:NeitherHereNorThere-TheFilm.com

Here is a nice way to look at identity.What does your identity sound like?

I love this  Cultural Competency Continuum

Cultural Destructiveness

Attitudes and practices (as well as policies and structures in organizations) are destructive to a cultural group.

Culture Incapacity

The capacity to respond effectively to the needs, interests, and preferences of culturally and linguistically diverse groups is lacking.

Cultural Blindness

The predominant philosophy is one that views and treats all people as the same.

Cultural Pre-competence

There is awareness of strengths and areas for growth to respond effectively to culturally and linguistically diverse populations.

Cultural Competence

Acceptance and respect for culture is consistently demonstrated in policies, structures, practices, and attitudes.

Cultural Proficiency

Culture is held in high esteem and used as a foundation to guide all endeavors

Family Going Global – Time Decisions


As I gear up for my 9,682-mile flight to attend the Families in Global Transition annual conference, I decided to look back at pivotal moments that my own family “knew” being global nomads would be O.K.  What better way to share that than with memories of their past.

When should we move abroad?

Every family asks, “When is the best time to go abroad with kids?” My response has always been when you feel you are ready or want to. Remember the first thing you need to do. That is to get everyone in the family frequent flier cards.  We missed out on some essential flights by waiting until our oldest child was two years old before getting her the first Frequent Flyer card.
First get your kids an FF mile card – global family needs

Often traveling with children is not the best but we all power through and get to our final landing location. Here is Jackie’s first exposure to her Frequent Flyer card. We were in Perth, Australia and often traveled to Denver International Airport to see her Grandma and extended family members. She was not that impressed.

You are never too young for a Frequent Flier Card - Never

You are never too young for a Frequent Flyer Card

The second questions parents often ask is “How do you tell your family that they will be moving!”  This is also one of those times when the sooner you do it, the better just like the FF card!

You need to set the stage!

You need to build the drama and then let them know what their new adventure will be.  We were in an ideal situation, our company had moved us back to the head office, and we were lucky enough to have Grandpa and Grandma live in that city.  It was fun because the kids were four-years-old and one-year -old so they got a lot of fun Grandparent time.  Then we got the invitation to move to Jakarta. Now the kids were five and one-half years old and two and one-half years old so we had to make sure that the kids would be excited to move so far away and start a new adventure.

Get them excited by what interests them!

I decided to show them books about the Indonesia and the neat places we might see.  But the biggest hit was the books about packing and the massive trucks!

Yeah! We get to move! And there is a big truck!!

Yeah! We get to move! And there is a big truck!!

As parents, you have the right to focus on what makes the most sense to your family at that point in time. To have long discussions about missing Grandparents didn’t make sense since time and distance were strange concepts at this age. We needed to focus on what was going on right then. That was boxes and trucks for our family!

Focus on what your family needs in the here and now – global family needs

After the initial focus of moving, the next biggest hurdle is the actual flight.  For many people, this can be a 4-hour flight from one part of the country to another, but for many of us, it was often several flights and some over 13 hours long. We all call these our ultra long-haul non-stop flights. According to the airlines, these flights are commercially operated with no scheduled intermediate stop of any kind, and a route length is over 7,500 miles!

Many of us, often have several flights and some of these flights are over 13 hours long. Ultra long-haul non-stop flights can be enjoyable if your child can eat and go to bed and treat it like a regular night of sleep.  If they can not – it is an awful situation for everyone. There is no place to go, no place to have a meltdown and no way to escape until you have landed.

Now the longest non-stop scheduled airline flight is from Dallas/Fort Worth, USA, to Sydney, Australia. This flight is almost 17 hours! That would have been great when our kids were small, but it still meant we would have had a flight from Denver to get to Dallas and then a flight from Sydney to get to Perth!

Recently I have been flying Toronto to Hong Kong and these 15 hours flights are no longer fun. Some people say traveling with kids is never fun, but as a mom, I have to say I liked flying with my kids.  I must also admit that sometimes we might not have done the traditional things families do on planes.

How do you kill time on the airplane with a two year old?

How do you kill time on the airplane with a two-year-old?

Yes, that is my two-year-old with a paintbrush on a plane! These were “paint with water books.”  I know that now these books are hard to find. Thank goodness there are some still on Amazon. Two-year-olds can sit for an hour or so paint these books, and the clean up is not that much. Like most things – they change. We had the one-time use ones and loved them. Now they make ones called “water WOW ones.”  The WOW ones dry and then you can do them over and over and over again.

Time changes everything.

I love to see global families. I know they are building a ton of special memories for their children. If you happen to run across Grant or Jackie in some airport, please ask them what was more enjoyable traveling when they could easily curl up in the airplane seat or now as they are over 5ft 10+ tall?

If you see me looking out the window of 22A looking sad, just smile and walk on.  You will not want me to share the “extended” version of how hard it is to travel alone when you are used to traveling with children. You won’t want to hear about Jackie wearing big girl panties on the plane when she was two or Grant heading off to business class alone since “Mr. Simens” got upgraded. He was seven year old – leaving Jackie and I in economy class.  Sometimes the empty nest issues hits you in the strangest places.

I am flying to Washington DC from Lombok, Indonesia where I just spend a wonderful week of rest and relaxation!  What a perfect way to start a long trip. As we sat on the beach, the local ice cream man arrived on his motorcycle. The song instantly transported us back to Jakarta where we raised our kids for five years.  The music brings a tear to my eye as I remember Grant running to the front door of our home singing, “I’ll be good, I’ll be good as I eat the ice cream.”  We still don’t know the real words to this jingle, but we are aware of our family’s version.

Relocating: Surviving The First Year


Many families find that they are well prepared for relocating.

Simple airport travel around the world when you are relocating!

They have done all the research on the moving company, and some of have even provided packing experts to help them. In the hectic months leading up to a big move, most couples spend so much time considering the outward or tangible aspects of their relocation that they don’t take care to protect their relationships.

But what happens after the move is over?

Parents need to regroup and make sure they have their priorities right. Sometimes the hanging of pictures isn’t that necessary. Taking time to reconnect with each other will help the family unit remain healthy. All moves are stressful. Remember – you are moving the center of your life from one place to another!  Always consider “Family First.”

Key points to help your family thrive

Working with families and young children, these are three key points that every parent needs to do when they are moving their family:

  1. Reassure toddlers, and even preschoolers, that they will be coming along with the family as they move. (I know you are laughing but…) A surprising number of young children see their family’s possessions being boxed up, sold, or thrown out, and they wonder if they will suffer the same fate.
  2. Put off redecorating your children’s new rooms for a few months unless they ask you to decorate. Using the old bedroom pillows and bedding is like taking a security blanket. It eases the transition to the many other new things they are facing.
  3. Pay attention to the ways the design of your new home influences how you spend time with your children. The increased privacy of a larger house can sometimes make it harder for children to adjust. The new home may not have the same type of central family gathering place, such as a combination kitchen and dining area, as the old one. You may not realize you’re not spending as much time together as a family as you used to.

 

Home can be anywhere for a Global Nomad

Remember, to be honest

I believe it is always important, to be honest. Be honest with yourself when the transition is starting to make you feel stressed. Honest with your partner when you need help or support with something during your move and settling in period.

Being fair to your children is vital. When the kids are young, it was very important to not make false promises. Saying, “It will get better” might be a lie. Saying, “Don’t worry, you will see them again” might be a lie. Kids need to be able to trust their parents so be careful and do not set yourself up where your children will start to doubt you.

What to look for after your transition to a new location

Change in behavior is often the first clue that a child is undergoing something that is causing his or her stress. He/she might start avoiding the things he used to love. Or he/she might start taking risks or doing things that seem out of character for your child.

If a child ever asked to see the school counselor or ask for or you to help them by setting up an appointment, parents should make that a top priority. Even if the parent feels there is not a need. This sends the message that it is okay to seek support.

The most common problem parents have in a new location is not dealing with concerns as they come up. Parents often take the “let’s see if this will change” attitude and become passive in situations. Many times the parents would have handled the situation differently in their past community, but they are hesitant to intervene in the new situation. Parents need to trust their gut feelings. If a parent is hesitant in a situation about their child, it is possible that they are letting something become the new norm in their child’s life instead of stopping it quickly by a timely intervention.

Transitions = Change

Transitions might not be from a geography change, but even the change from middle school to high school can change a family. The change of going to pre-school will be a transition. As a family unit sometimes the transition will be very smooth for many people in the family. You can’t assume that it is going the best it can be unless you are willing to ask these hard questions, “Are you as happy as you want to be?” and “Do you have everything you need to be successful?” These are two key sentences that we need to ask ourselves to ensure as parents we can deal with the demands it takes in raising your family in this new location. Then take the time and ask your partner and each of your children the same questions. Listen to them and see how as a family unit you can all move forward.

Celebrate the uniqueness!

Each family needs to have a healthy family identity. This should be full of things the family likes to do and participate in. You might be the family that reads. You might be the family that supports the local orphanage. You might be the family that loves to watch sporting events. As a family, you need to have a strong identity. You need to create family rituals that you will have year after year regardless of where you live.

Expat Family : Supporting changes around the world


Many of my friends are International school teachers and they celebrate 100 days of school.  I have put two things I hold dear to my heart. Kids and Emotions.  Here are my favorite 100 emotions that we can help every child know and learn! You can download an easy tool to see all 100 basic emotions here.

 Emotions – Jsimens 100 days

 

world heart

 

If you are a parent raising your child abroad, it is important that you know about emotions but you also need to know about “Transition Education”

 

The first researchers we had on this subject were Unseem and Langford. They said we need to provide children with the knowledge and skills to successfully manage transitions while affirming and celebrating their unique experiences and backgrounds.

Most children are affected by a transition in some way during their lives.

If they do not move, it is likely that at some point a friends, relative, or classmate will move. The children left behind will also experience adjustments. Helping a child understand the cycles of a transition and being able to label how they are feeling helps them and others in their life.

History of Transition Education

Useem said in 1976 – She found children growing up outside their home country shared unique characteristics. She was concerned that few educators were aware of this.

Mary Langford in 1998 shared the same concern and conducted research among international schools. She asked – “What is it that educators understand about global nomads and what are international schools doing to accommodate their needs?”

This was the first study in the field of transition. – Educators thought international schools have to have a role in meeting the needs of these children. It logically follows that schools everywhere have a responsibility to meet the needs of their mobile population. Debra Rader in 1998 made a model of transition education.

I travel around the world giving presentations to educators, parent organizations and school administrators explaining to them the need to support the families as they relocate around the world. Here is an example of one of my talks.

The common experience of international mobility – for kids they can lose their sense of security, feel disoriented when their routine is changed and all that is familiar is taken away. It is important to balance past experiences and focusing on helping them adjust to the new place. As educators and parents, we must “see” and “know the child” and where they have been or their history. This affirms their sense of self and gives them a sense of security that will help them settle into the new place.

Moving back – Children often have certain expectations of “Home” and are disappointed when these expectations are not met. They think they are going to feel completely comfortable and have a sense of belonging – yet things have changed. Some kids even want time to stand still while they were gone…it does not. But most important is – many children moving to their passport country are not really moving back – but in fact, it might be the first time they are going to be living there. “Home” in this case, is actually their parent’s home. Their version of “home” is where they have been growing up.

The process of transition – remember parents and children respond differently to these stages and may move through them at different rates. The attitudes of parents are often reflected in the attitudes of their children.

Problem-solving skills –children who move are adjusting to a wide range of new circumstances and well-developed life skills are a tremendous asset.

Friendships and relationships – leaving and making friends can be the greatest concern for both adults and children who move.

Personal and cultural identity – easily seen, words, behavior, food we eat, clothes, festivals we celebrate – these things make up our culture. Children are influenced by the cultures of babysitters, teachers, friends, neighbors and other people who are significant in their lives.

My favorite books that every school counselor and global parent need to read.

New Kid in School” Using literature to help children in transition By Debra Rader and Linda Harris Sittig – view it here.

Belonging Everywhere and Nowhere: Insights into Counseling the Globally Mobile by Lois J. Bushong, MS. – view it here.

These would be perfect valentine day gift for your international school teacher, counselor or parent.

Don’t forget my favorite valentine day book for expats written by my son when he was 11 years old living in Lagos, Nigeria.

Spirit of Saint Valentine - Grant Simens

A friend made this for me and I am still laughing. Hope you have a wonderful celebration with those that you love.

 

 

Five Minutes to Make You Think! Join FIGT17NL in The Hague (March 2017)


Lucky you! On March 24th – I bet you will be glued to your seat listening to seven experts in this global world.

Ignite

What can you say in 800 words!

At an Ignite event, each speaker has a time limit of five minutes and must use 20 slides with each slide advancing automatically after 15 seconds. This forces speakers to maintain a rapid pace. At a just-comprehensible clip of 160 words a minute, Ignite speakers can utter about 40 words per slide, making a total of 800 words for the whole talk.

Volunteers organize FIGT17NL Ignites – we ask participants to speak about their ideas and personal or professional passions. Ignites all over the world have one motto, “Enlighten us, but make it quick!”

AT FIGT17NL in The Hague, you will get to hear these great topics from these experts!

 

Expat Networking in the New Age  by Rita Golstein-Galperin  

Business cards? Fluorescent-lit ballroom with too-warm hummus, boxed wine, and stiff suits? Over-rehearsed elevator pitch? Ditch all of those. If you are looking to truly connect with people and (re)create your tribe — it’s all about your “value funnel”. No, we will not be seeing the light at the end of it, but we will learn step-by-step strategies to truly connect with people, build lasting relationships and amplify your expat experience through people around you. It’s the new-age networking reality.

How a TCK English Teacher in a Hungarian Village Created a Globally Local Network by Megan Norton

Megan had lived in eight countries before she decided to uproot herself again to move to a small village on the Hungarian-Austrian border to be an English teacher at a secondary school. Having moved all her life, she assumed this transition would be “seamless”, never imagining the challenges she would experience adapting to life in a post-Soviet developing country. In this Ignite session; Megan will capture the culture shock and the community she navigated in this small village. From implementing the “Flat Stanley” project with her students to integrating herself into community development initiatives, she will showcase how single, young, independent women can build their “tribe” abroad across networks.

Finding Your Voice, Your Tribe, and Hearing Other Voices Through Blogging  by Janneke Muyselaar-Jellema 

Janneke uses a blog to raise awareness, to create a platform to share comments, to increase coping skills, to give parents and educators insight into the world of (adult) third culture kids. She will share her experience of blogging over the past five years and more than 200,000 page views later. Through her blog, she has found her voice, enjoyed the freedom of the Internet, and found her tribe. She will give insight on the dilemmas of choosing the language to blog in, popular topics and how we can use blogging as a tool to raise awareness

The Power of Team Sport to Create a Diverse Tribe by Lisa Travella-Murawsky 

When thinking of the word sport, what often comes to mind? Do you think of physical fitness, skill development, competitiveness, and coordination? While many of these attributes contribute to the excitement and enthusiasm for team sport, it is possible to think beyond these borders and use terms such as community, common language, welcome, and inclusivity. This Ignite introduces how the Brussels Sports Association (BSA) model enables families in global transition to find a tribe outside of the traditional work and school communities. It answers the questions: “How is the common language of sport able to break down traditional barriers, and allow the expat family to find a relaxed, non-intimidating tribe quickly? What are the crucial elements in the BSA sports model that encourage this sense of belonging and collaboration for a diverse busy expat community?

Childhood Losses, TCKs, and Identity Development by Maria Lombart

This Ignite considers TCK childhood losses and how they influence identity development. When an adult TCK considers their identity, they may not relate it immediately to the liminal experience they had as a child, living between cultures, and to the repeated losses of identity anchors. It is vital that TCKs understand this layer of their experience and that parents of TCKs be prepared to manage the effects of loss to strengthen the positive aspect of constant moving.

Exploring the ‘Why,’ the ‘How’ and the ‘Who’ of Muslim Expatriates by Maryam Afnan Ahmad 

Is there such a thing as the Muslim Expat? Does the term expatriate even apply? Are they a single homogenous community? Are they represented, underrepresented or worse, misunderstood? What factors may be limiting their participation on forums like FIGT? How does one engage, empathize or even understand this community of Muslim expatriates? Given the current political and social world climate, Muslims all over the world are caught in the glare of renewed intensified analysis. Maryam is a Muslim ‘chronic expat’ herself and would like to use her presentation to take a look at the Muslim expatriate experience and whether it is different from other oft-documented expatriate stories. Her main focus is to find answers on whether it is possible to practically increase understanding of and engagement with Muslim expatriate communities.

Finding Joy and Abundance as an Expat – Planning For Your Fulfilled Life Abroad by Terry Anne Wilson  

The complications and emotions of transitioning can offer little time to cultivate our own personal growth, especially when ensuring children are settled. Empty-nesters also find transition challenging as school networks no longer exist. Deliberate steps can be taken to identify your skills, strengths and most importantly, your passion. Building a life in a new country provides the ideal platform to carve a new path, seize new opportunities and establish a ‘new tribe.’

Please join us at FIGT17NL to hear these fantastic presentations!

Notes:

The first Ignite was held in 2006 in Seattle, Washington, United States (US), and was the brainchild of Brady Forrest and Bre Pettis.

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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 . . .

Starting a new year is the perfect time to have your child share about 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 hear 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 actually 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 hear 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 Today

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 love 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 own graphic novel, add backgrounds, choose characters and props to appear in your scenes, add dialogue and captions.
  3. MapSkip
    The purpose of MapSkip is to create a weave of stories about the places in our lives. Create a free account and mark places in Google Maps with your own stories and photos.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Toontastic
    Toontastic is a storytelling and creative learning tool that enables kids to draw, animate, and share their own cartoons with friends and family around the world through simple and fun imaginative play! With over 2 million cartoons created in over 150 countries, parents and teachers rave about the app and kids can’t stop creating!

 

 

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