J Simens.com

Lessons from Momma


Every quilt tells a story.  This quilt tells an epic tale.  It started in the year, 2000 deep in the jungles of  Sumatra where I began my second quilting project.  “Lessons from Momma” quilt pattern from Terry Atkinson, where we were to make 12 quilt blocks to learn a variety of quilting techniques.

I finished two blocks and put it away.

I carried it over 8,000 air miles to Nigeria and finished three blocks before putting it away.

Then it was over 7,000 miles back to Thailand where it just sat for four years. I had so many other things to do in Thailand that I didn’t have time to quilt.

In Balikpapan, I pulled the quilt pieces out again and made three more blocks before putting it away once again.  When I finally got everything in Incline Village, It was time to finish this 18-year-old project.

I reconnected with my original quilting buddy Geri and asked how to finish up the border. She mailed me the information so I could finally finish my quilt. Because I am currently a member of the Bee Inclinded Quilters, I decided to have the quilt top quilted with honey bees and beehives.

I did learn several valuable lessons while working on this quilt. 

Not just quilting techniques from “Lessons from Momma” but also lessons that my mom taught me.  Never give up. If something seems too hard, ask for help. Beautiful things happen when you nurture things, and if you fail, you can try again.

This quilt project has taken the same amount of time that most parents have their children before they head off to be living on their own as adults.  I will often look at this quilt and think of the beautiful position I have been in during the sandwich generation between my mom and her grandkids.

Expat Easters and the Importance of the Egg!


Easter is an important holiday for our family

When I get ready to make another international move, I try to get all my ducks in a row. I put all my eggs in one basket, so I can carefully get ready for the move. I know many of you will think we should not have all of our eggs in one basket but when you commit to go to a new job, a new location, a new school, and a new culture – you need to be fully committed. You need to have everything set and ready to go! You need to carefully lay out a plan!

 

Getting all your ducks in a row - or all your eggs in a basket!

Getting all your ducks in a row – or all your eggs in a basket!

When many expats move, they have this vision that they can build up their lives into some nicely layered experience. They blend their home culture into their new culture. Making layer after layer, build up into a beautiful, pleasant experience for the whole family. Not only do they want all their eggs in one basket, but they also want to stack their eggs! I am not sure this works very well for many expats.

 

stacking eggs

Amazing Egg Art with the artist standing by it

Reality seldom meets our expectations

As an expat, you can quickly get sidetracked and forget what is most important in your family. You get worried about your child’s interactions. You worry about the exposure your child has to something different from his or her home environment.

I can easily recall a valid concern I have had in each location we have lived in:

  • Pago – Pago – Will the ship ever arrive with basic supplies? (Laundry soap, tampons, and toothpaste)
  • The USA – Houston -Will my boss get arrested for fraud? (The only job I have every quit)
  • Singapore – Will we make it home often enough to stay connected with family?
  • Perth – Will the kids know their grandparents?
  • USA -Danville  Can we pay the bills?
  • Indonesia – Jakarta -The preschool vs. a working mom saga
  • Indonesia – Duri -Will the limited amount of friends scar my child’s interactions?
  • Nigeria -Will having security guards with automatic guns on the school bus harm my child’s development?
  • Thailand – Will the exposure to the seedy parts of the town harm my children?
  • Indonesia -Balikpapan – Will our kids every come to visit again?
  • Retirement – USA/Honduras -Will I ever have close friends again?
Sometimes we feel like we are in hot water and out of control!

Sometimes we feel like we are in hot water and out of control!

But this is our life and as Expats-

We are known to rise above the heat and make the best of the current situation we are in.

Sometimes an international move is not in your family’s best interest. Different decisions have to be made. Often these same decisions are part of a family’s life that are not global nomads. Sometimes a family just runs into a tricky part of their life, and one family member needs a different type of support than what the family current offers.

Family in Crisis

Often when a family is in crisis – a family ritual can help the family feel connected and safe.

Family rituals are important

Children tend to love family rituals, even if they don’t admit it. Rituals provide a sense of security and can be soothing. A family ritual is anything your family does together deliberately. The routine of whatever you do is what counts. It can be anything. Just make sure you do it consistently.

Rituals are emotionally enriching. It is never too late to start a ritual. Some children may resist being involved in such rituals. But if rituals are presented in a non-controlling manner, and you manage your expectations, all family members will ‘get on board’ much more readily than you thought.

I have worked with many families that want to start building closer family time, and sometimes the rituals begin with just one person, but if that person feels it is essential and keeps trying sooner or later, the event can become a ritual. Other family members can start to enjoy the routine.

Sometimes the ritual comes from having another culture in your life

We have always celebrated Christmas over the top! We use beautiful Christmas plates with lovely scenes on them. Some are Santa related, and some have a religious theme. These plates travel around the world with us. We only use them during the Christmas season, but our children were always ‘delighted’ when I would get out the Christmas plates.

One Easter, my mother, was visiting Indonesia.

We had a lovely Easter egg hunt in our garden and headed off to church. When we got home, our maid had set the table for our beautiful Easter Feast. She had laid out the Christmas plates. She put the artificial Easter grasses around the center of the table and carefully laid our Easter eggs out as decorations. Then she had carefully added the silver tinsel we put on the Christmas tree.

The table was lovely but ‘strange’ for my young children and even more bizarre for my mother from Kansas. She was not used to Christmas plates and tinsel at Easter time. I told our maid the table was lovely.

“Sri, the table is lovely, but we seldom use these plates, except at Christmas,” I stated.

“Isn’t Easter like Christmas?” she asked.

We must have all had blank faces because she then replied, “You know with Jesus and all that Christian stuff?”

Yes, it made sense to our Muslim maid to have plates that celebrate Jesus’s birth also to use those plates to celebrate his death. We had not made the connection and had not used our Christmas plates in that fashion before this unique Easter celebration.

Now it is a family ritual.

I am often not as brave as Sri was at Easter. When we have other families over for an Easter celebration, you will not see my table fully decorated with Christmas plates and Christmas tinsel.

Easter at jsimens com

But you will find a lovely plate of deviled eggs.  As more and more eggs disappear, you will see that they have been sitting on one of our beautiful Christmas plates. I will need to remember to pack a Christmas plate and leave it in Roatan for when we have Easter in the Caribbean. We have to make sure one of our unique global situations continues to be a family ritual.

Families who move together – grow together.

Momma Raised Me Right! (Remembering her Birthday)


Without a lot of time, think of three things or events you did with your parents.

Quick write them down. Then look closely at these three things and ponder these three questions.

  1. Was it alone time with a parent or a group event?
  2. Did the cost of this time involve a little money or a lot of money?
  3. How often did you get to do that with your parent?

Now the hardest question, are you passing on any of those events as traditions in your family?

Emotional Connections in the Family

The most reliable deterrent to teenage high-risk behavior is a strong emotional connection between your child and yourself. This is even more evident in our global nomads. TCKs need to have traditions to help them feel grounded no matter where they end up in the world.

In 2011, I was honored to be part of the “Gratitude Book Project – Celebrating Moms and Motherhood, editor, Donna Kozik.  I wrote a short article about my mother and the power of “ummmm” or allowing silence to be a critical part of a conversation. Due to the nature of my job, I meet people from all over the world.  Many of them are Moms.

When you watch the video below, I am sure that you will find at least three things that Anita Renfroe mentions.

These three things will be a significant part of your life. Therefore, you can be part of the “Momma raised me right” group.  (Even if you don’t like country or even know Minnie Pearl – you will find three things that all moms want for their kids).

Anita Renfroe – Your Momma Raised You Right! from Anita-Renfroe on GodTube.

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 8.00.25 AM
From “Celebrating Moms and Motherhood”

When I came home from school devastated that I didn’t make the team, she listened and said, “Ummm.” We had many “Ummm” conversations throughout my school years.  I wanted to go someplace unique for college. When I showed her the college applications, she said, “Ummm.” My scholarship was 4,500 miles away from home.  We had many “Ummm” conversations in college.

When I told her that my husband would be taking a job overseas and we planned on raising her grandchildren as global nomads, she said, “Ummm.” When her grandkids talked about machine guns on their school bus to ensure their safety, she said, “Ummm.”

I am a family therapist, and I use “Ummm.”  It is one way to convey warmth and yet not be judgemental.  My mother gave me more than I ever knew. With every “Ummm,” she was giving me the chance to explore things myself, believe in myself and grow as a person.  My mother was giving me resilience!

Happy Birthday Mom!

Happy Birthday, Mom – we all miss you.

Strengthen the Global Family – Emotions and Storytelling Techniques


 Sameness – Fosters a Strong Connection

When you and your child have something in common, whether it is a fondness for food, a sports team, or working on this memory book, you’re strengthening your attachment through ‘sameness.’

Emotional Resilience and the EXPAT CHILDSeveral of the families I work with have seen the movie, “Inside Out” and it has made them want to re-create some of the emotion stories they had written.  I encourage families to build emotion stories based on their lives and have written Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child: practical storytelling techniques that will strengthen the global family. When I watched the movie, I loved how Phyllis Smith (Office) portraited “sadness.” According to director Pete Docter, each emotion is based on a shape: Joy is based on a star, Sadness is a teardrop, Anger is a firebrick, Fear is a raw nerve, and Disgust is broccoli. He noted that he likes broccoli very much, however. The writers considered up to 27 different emotions but settled on five (Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear, and Anger) to make it less complicated. Some of the primary emotions that ended up being cut included Surprise, Pride, and Trust.

Working with emotions and understanding them

Throughout my workbook,  I include a dictionary definition of the emotion about which you are reading. This will ensure that both you and your child are clear about the meaning of that emotion and share the same understanding of it.

Most people believe they know what emotions are. They think of emotions as particular kinds of feeling that they label with such words as happy, sad, angry, or mad. We all recognize that emotions are a part of our daily lives, and they are continually being expressed indirect or subtle ways in our relationships to children, parents, friends, co-workers, and lovers. We assume the listener understands these terms because of similar experiences and through their resulting empathy with us. What should you do, though, if the listener does not know what a word such as anticipation or disgust means? It is up to you, as a parent, to help build your child’s emotional vocabulary through their experiences.

 Some people can hide their emotions while others are like an open book. Although no one teaches us the meaning of the emotional expression on the face, most of us believe we can read emotions from people’s faces. Parents will attest to the fact that they are the experts when it comes to understanding their own children’s faces!

 

Humans interpret and use a repertoire of about one hundred emotions in their routine interactions.

 

Steven Gordon (1990), in Social Structural Effects on Emotions, asserts that the origin of emotions is not in biology but culture. Children who straddle several cultures as they move around the world, and children who live daily in multicultural homes, need to have the firm foundation of understanding emotions.

In the movie, did you notice, that the size of the console expands and grows more complex as Riley gets older?

There are some reasons why the study of emotions is difficult. Among them is the fact that the language of emotions is complex and often ambiguous. People are aware that they, and probably others, disguise or hide their feelings for various social reasons. We usually do what our culture informs us is normal or expected. The expectation of air travel is often that children belong in the back of the plane. If they are allowed in the business section, they should remain quiet, and others should not notice them. As Expat families, we know this is not true. If the company gives you a business class seat when you relocate from one assignment to another assignment – Enjoy!

Painting on a plane! Perth, Australia to Denver, Colorado

Painting on a plane! Perth, Australia to Denver, Colorado

Concept of opposites

When I start to work with children on building an emotional vocabulary, I like to begin with the concept of opposites. Children love to talk about opposites, and many children’s picture books cover topics such as short/tall, big/small, and hot/cold. I usually start my consultations with the emotions happy/sad, but to build up your child’s vocabulary, we will use the word joy.

BASIC EMOTION / OPPOSITE EMOTION

Joy (Happy)/ Sadness (Sad)

Acceptance (Like)/ Disgust (Not Like)

Fear (Scared)/ Anger (Mad)

Surprise / Anticipation

In the movie, aside from the five standard colors of the memory orbs based on their corresponding emotion, there are also grey memory orbs, which contain general, non-emotional based information such as phone numbers, names of U.S. Presidents, and piano lessons. When a memory is old and faded, it darkens to a sepia-black color, and the “video” of the memory in the orb becomes faded and blurry and with muffled sound.

It is hard to work with any emotion in isolation. Your child will usually pair up emotions because he/she likes to understand extremes. Some parents go directly to the emotion that they feel their child needs to work on; other parents will go smoothly from one emotion to the next. If emotions seem to be hard for your child to express or understand then, you need to start at the emotion that is the easiest for them to connect with. I encourage you to do what feels right for your family.

Travel and the TCK – global family

 

The expatriate lifestyle usually allows families to live or travel to unique locations. Talking to your child about his experiences will help expand his emotional vocabulary.

In Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child, the initial eight stories take place around the world. We go to Australia, the Cook Islands, and Egypt, where you will experience joy, surprise, and anticipation. Then you are off to South Africa, Thailand, and Indonesia to experience fear, anger, and disgust. Since many of our emotion stories revolve around the stories of children in international schools, please note that international schools can be in any location in the world. You will experience sadness at one international school. The expatriate lifestyle usually allows families to go to live in unique places, and it builds on geographical skills due to the ability to travel on relocation and during vacation time.

 

Primary emotion stories

Our family’s short stories that take place in a variety of locations. The emotions are described in these short stories. Then it covers why the situation is so unique. Some of these stories were from my daughter, Jackie’s, experiences around the world and some were from my son’s, Grant’s experiences. To make it more predictable for young children to read or understand, I have made each story be about a boy called Jack.  If you are reading to a two or three-year-old, sit with them in your lap or lie down next to each other. Let them hear your voice acting out Jack’s words and his mother’s words with two different views. Let him see the pattern in the stories.

If you are reading to a four or five-year-old, you can ask them if they know what is coming next. You can take turns being Jack and repeat his words after they are read. You can also do as suggested above.

If you are reading with an older child, ask him what he would like to do. How would he want the story to be read? Would he like you to read the dictionary and location page and he could read the story page?

See if your child can take some of their own experiences and place them into our emotion stories. Most children can relate to other children. Ask your child, “When did you feel like Jack?”

boy with animal

Nature and Joy go hand in hand.

 

 

Joy

Oxford English Dictionary

  1. A vivid emotion of pleasure arising from a sense of well- being or satisfaction; the feeling or state of being highly pleased or delighted; exultation of spirit; gladness, delight.
  2. The expression of glad feeling; outward rejoicing; mirth; jubilant festivity.
  3. A source or object of joy; that which causes joy, or in which delight is taken; a delight.

For a young child: Your face is really, really happy. You feel wonderful. You might even want to dance. This is joy.

Geography

You can experience joy while swimming with the dolphins at Monkey Mia. Monkey Mia is a remote spot geographically; it lies on a long, thin peninsula within Shark Bay in Western Australia. The water is warm and beautiful. As you stand in knee- deep water, wild dolphins come right up to the white shell beach and swim around you. Wild dolphins have been coming to Monkey Mia for over 50 years. It is the only place where dolphins visit daily, not seasonally, and it is free. It is a World Heritage landmark. If you are lucky, you might get to swim with a mother dolphin and her calf.

 

A child’s version of the story of Joy

The evening ritual begins. The sun starts to set, and Jack rubs his eyes. As Jack and his mom start the short walk across the beach to their beachfront villa, she asks him, “What was your day like?”

“Let me think about it,” Jack grabs her hand, looks up with a smile and continues the walk.

“How was your day?” she leans over and asks again as he snuggles into his bed.

“Mommy, I had a good day today. What should I dream about tonight?”

“Dream about what you experienced today,” she softly says as she leans closer and smoothes his pillow.

“Mommy, I am thinking about all the joy I saw today. I am going to dream about that baby dolphin and how he stayed so close to his mother. I am going to remember the smiles on everyone’s faces as the mommy dolphin swam right up so close to you. I will remember their joy when they realized that the dolphin picked you to swim with because both of you were having a baby. I am going to remember my joy when I saw you with the mommy dolphin and how you laughed and played with her. I am going to remember how much joy I had when I got to touch a baby dolphin. Mommy, that is what I am going to dream about.”

“Do you know how much I love you?”

“You love me a lot.”

“More than you will ever know,” she says as she smiles and kisses him good night.

He just smiles and snuggles down in bed pulling the covers up towards his chin.

“Mommy, I love mommy and baby dolphins. Good night, Mom.”

“Good night, Jack.”

Joyful - happy

 

 

Sad

Oxford English Dictionary

1. The condition or quality of being sad (in various senses).
2. The gravity of mind or demeanor; seriousness, soberness, staidness. 3. Gloomy appearance; dark or somber hue.

For young children: Your face is almost crying. You want to hang your head. You keep your eyes down towards your feet. You sigh really loudly while you take a deep breath.

Geography

You can experience sadness when your friends leave your international school. Sadness is an emotion characterized by feelings of disadvantage, loss, and helplessness. Third Culture Kids (TCKs) often have unresolved grief due to the amount of loss they experience as they move around the world.

Often children may be thinking, “I was just getting to know my friends, oh great – more goodbyes and I was just starting to feel good.” The frequent breaking-off of relationships due to relocations may often cause sadness in children.

A child’s version of the story of Sadness

 

Time goes on. The evening ritual continues.

The sun starts to set, and Jack rubs his eyes. As Jack and his mom start the short walk up the stairs to his bedroom, she asks him, “What was your day like?”

“Let me think about it,” Jack grabs her hand, looks up with a smile and continues the walk.

“How was your day?” she leans over and asks again as he snuggles into his bed. He is no longer smiling.

“Mom, I had a very sad day today. My friends are leaving my school. I’m sad. What should I dream about tonight?”

“Dream about what you experienced today,” she softly says as she leans closer and smoothes his pillow.

“Mom, I am thinking about how sad I was today. I am going to dream about my entire list of friends who will be leaving this year from my school. Did you know someone from my cross- country team is leaving? My best friend who arrived here the same time I did is also leaving, and two kids that I always go to the movies with will be going. Mom, that is what I am going to dream about tonight. What will I do without my friends?”

“I know you will miss your friends. How are you feeling?” “Sad, very sad.”
“Do you want to dream about being sad?”

“Yes, because I will miss my friends, but I also want to dream about new friends. Well, maybe I won’t dream of being sad. I am already looking forward to new people arriving at my school. Since I am on student council, I will be involved in the new student orientation. Maybe I will get a new friend when I help all the new students settle into our school.”

“Do you know how much I love you?”

“You love me a lot.”

“More than you will ever know. Maybe you can keep in touch with your friends. Perhaps you will get to know some of the new kids coming to your school.” She smiles and kisses him good night.

He does not smile but just shrugs his shoulders and snuggles down in bed pulling the covers up towards his chin.

“Good night, Mom.” “Good night, Jack.”

 

Min-A is sad

Notes: Pete Docter‘s inspiration for this film came from watching his daughter go through this turbulent part of growing up.

Phyllis Smith (who plays Sadness), Mindy Kaling (who plays Disgust), Bill Hader (who plays Fear), and Rashida Jones (who plays Cool Girl’s Emotions) have previously starred together in The Office (2005). While Smith, Kaling, and Jones have recurring roles in The Office (2005), Hader had a cameo appearance in one episode.

For those of us that have lived in the San Francisco area – When Riley is on the bus back to Minnesota the bus is leaving San Francisco. The bus approaches the on-ramp to the Bay Bridge, and a sign says something about a toll ahead. There is no toll going eastbound on the Bay Bridge.

Avantika is sad
Shir is sad   Keenan is happy

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


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

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

    Expat’s World Full of Heart


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

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


Some things would make moving easier . . .

Some things would make moving easier . . .

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

Connections

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

A Look Back at This Year

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

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

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

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

I Learned a Lot

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

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

Expat Children Can also Tell Interesting Versions

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

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

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

My Favorite Free Digital Storytelling Tools

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

 

 

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


CCK minority puzzle

Out of the Vault:

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

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

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


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

My World

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

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

Filtering – Connecting and Choosing

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

Identity Development

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

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

Wen’s excellent project on identity development

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

Why “corporate” needs to get involved

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips that might help your child

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

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

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

Introduce “Yet” into your family

Kids love to announce that they’re not good at something. They usually do it just after they try something new and challenging, and they say it with finality as if issuing a verdict. “I’m not good at math! I’m not good at volleyball.”
At that moment, your mom instinct is to fix the situation. You say, “Oh yes you are!”

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

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

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

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

An Expat’s Job is to Flutter Around: Hectic or Peaceful, That is Up to You


wing-flapping rates - 50 times per second

Wing-flapping rates – 50 times per second

Happy Groundhog Day, it is a popular tradition celebrated in the United States and Canada on February 2. Weird Holiday in my mind and I never got into celebrating it – ever.

I am sitting on my patio watching the hummingbirds feed. Roatan is the kind of place you can just sit and watch hummingbirds. I wish our kids were with us but one has a new job and one is still in college. We want them to be successful doing what they are doing.

 

Planning Ahead

As the Easter holiday season approaches all the Expat’s in the world might be thinking about their family. It is amazing how some people are in a hectic frenzy while others are taking a very peaceful voyage.  I am talking about how we go about getting our offspring all in one location or how we decide on where we will spend the holidays. It is not an easy task.

I find myself caught in a “groundhog” type of day. (This refers to the movie where Bill Murray has to relive February 2 Groundhog Day over and over and over hoping to get the day right) I flip between flight tracker of my son’s travel from Honolulu or my daughter’s trip from Los Angels and a peaceful movie about pollination. Looking at a live flight tracking map of an 16-hour flight is just not that much fun. I find Louie Schwartzberg’s : The hidden beauty of pollination much more exciting.

The connection between the two events – you might ask?

It is sometimes the little things in life we take for granted. It is the connection of nature’s tool for survival, we will protect what we fall in love with. Pollination is a love story that feeds the Earth. It reminds us we are part of nature and we’re not separate from it. Having a child reminds us that we will try to protect them even if we know that by tracking their flights we can’t really “help” in any way but we are connected.

Raising expat children reminds us we are not separate from our families, we are intertwined on Earth.

Schwartzberg said, “What motivated me to film their behavior was something that I asked my scientific advisers: “What motivates the pollinators?” Well, their answer was, “It’s all about risk and reward.”

Like a wide-eyed kid, I’d say, “Why is that?” And they’d say, “Well, because they want to survive.” I go, “Why?” “Well, in order to reproduce.” “Well, why?” And I thought that they’d probably say, “Well, it’s all about sex.” And Chip Taylor, our monarch butterfly expert, he replied, “Nothing lasts forever. Everything in the universe wears out.”

And that blew my mind. Because I realized that nature had invented reproduction as a mechanism for life to move forward, as a life force that passes right through us and makes us a link in the evolution of life. Rarely seen by the naked eye, this intersection between the animal world and the plant world is truly a magic moment. It’s the mystical moment where life regenerates itself, over and over again.

I see expat children returning to their families current home as a mechanism for life to move forward. We are the links that form the family. It is truly a magical moment when you see these global nomads reconnect with their families in airport terminals around the world.

The following video shows both the power of doing something over and over:

 

Photos:

http://images.travelpod.com/tw_slides/ta00/af8/ad6/hummingbird-roatan.jpg

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


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

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

Share stories of Caring/Love

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

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

Anthropologist worst or best event ever: Expat Family Collection of Life at the Dinner Table


The “Ring of Fire” is a fantastic zone!  It has over 452 volcanoes and is home to over 75% of the world’s active and dormant volcanoes. Living in Indonesia, I often wondered what would happen if there was a cataclysmic event in my own expat home. What would my ‘collection’ say about the people living in this space and time?

 Anthropology is the study of humankind, past and present.

What makes me wonder about my expat anthropologist nightmare is how disconnected it might have seen to Pompeii. When we went through the city of Pompeii in Italy, it was interesting. The town was laid out under the 4 to 6 meters of ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD. It had a complex water system, an amphitheater, and even a gymnasium. It was fascinating to see how this collection of ‘life’ happened. I was very impressed with their daily family life.

When I first got married in 1987 (31 years ago), I wanted to create a wedding registry that would give me the perfect table setting for my entertainment pleasure. Not really, but I was told that I needed to do this! My husband didn’t have a strong opinion of what we needed. I asked the bridal registry assistant for help.  I remember her wise words.

First, think about how all these different types would fit – not just into your current décor, but the look of your dream home.

How would I know that this meant either a two small bedroom home in Pleasant Hill, California or the 7,500 square feet home in Jakarta, Indonesia?  Or was my dream home in Balikpapan where the whole back section of my house opens up into a tropical garden. Or was it my beachfront home on Roatan where I just watch the movement and behavior of the sea life out my front door? What is my dream home?

 Second, plan for the future.

I am sure this wedding planner had never dealt with an expat! How would you possibly know how you’d entertain 20 years from your wedding?  Should I include chopsticks because we are going to be living in Asia?  Should I ask for more spoons since they are the primary utensils used in Southeast Asia? Or should I ask for caviar spoons? A lovely set of spoons made out of mother of pearl, gold or wood but not silver since it would affect the taste of the caviar. Or did I want/need sporks, sporfs, or spifves? These are different combinations of a spoon with a fork or knife.

 Then she asked me to analyze my skills.

She asks me to think about the dishes I would love to make. Would I want fishplates?  Huge pasta bowls? A turkey platter for Thanksgiving dinner?  She forgot to ask me about ethnic food! Would I be serving tapas?  What about sushi? What about a bowl that is fit for the feasting of water buffalo entrails? Maybe I would need a large enough tray to put several baleadas on it in Roatan. Or the perfect bowl for Goong Ten in Thailand.

Goong Ten is a beautiful Thai dish that means, “dancing shrimp.”  Yes, they are alive! Goong Ten are small transparent little shrimp that are mixed in a metal bowl with a special sauce.  They make a very active salad!   I like the saltiness and the pleasant ‘crunch’ of this salad.

Finally, she asked me to imagine a dinner party.

I am sure she never had this combination in mind!

  • Appetizers and pre-drinks – miniature glass beer mugs from Australia to hold shots of whiskey
  • Soup course- Lovely bowls from Lombok Indonesia – the Sasak pottery
  • Soup tureen – Beautiful work of art from the Hof Pottery in Australia
  • Round platters that work well for meat – from the Lekki markets of Lagos, Nigeria
  • Oval platters that can hold anything from bread and cheese from the heart of the Chatuchak Market in Bangkok, Thailand
  • Dessert plates – from Royal Heritage line in Indonesia
  • Tiered serving tray – from the truck stop in Colby, Kansas
  • Dessert sterling silverware with ‘Spider Orchids’ from the John Harris collect in Western Australia

 

Dorothy and the Scarecrow sit under the Balinese Dancer by the Royal Hertiage Flatware - Kansas Day Party 2014

Dorothy and the Scarecrow sit under the Balinese Dancer by the Royal Heritage Flatware – Kansas Day Party 2014 in Balikpapan, Indonesia

 

Expat's collections on the dinning room table our hard to explain.

An Expat’s collections on the dining room table are hard to explain to some people.

 

Sunflowers, Pie and Friends - what more does an expat need?

Sunflowers, Pie, and Friends – What more does an expat need?

Being a serial expat leaves a lot to the imagination and even more for an anthropologist to sift through.

One of the best exports from the state of Kansas is its talented youth.  William Allen White wrote “A song for Kansas Day.”

Wandering children of Kansas away,

By mountain, by desert, or sea,

Feasting or fasting, at prayer or at play,

Whatever your fortunes may be,

Open the doors of your hearts to the breeze.

Prairie winds never are still,

Hark the surf in the cottonwood trees,

the breakers that boom on the hill.

Open your soul’s windows – let in the sun –

The prairies sun gay with delight.

Where’er your wondering pathways have run,

Come home tonight.