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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.

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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.

 

 

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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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Does Family Time during the Holidays turn into Drama?


Drama with Pancakes

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 or ceremonies 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 start with just one person, but if that person feels it is important and keeps trying sooner or later the event can become a routine that the whole family looks forward to attending.

Rituals are Good for Families.

  • They create a climate of support and security.
  • They can provide emotional healing.
  • They create a sense of family togetherness.
  • They create a structure of shared time.
  • They can develop a sense of shared joys and positive memories.
  • They can bring humor into the family.

Most children enjoy reminiscing about good times. Many family rituals are what make up our memories. Talking about the fun times that your kids had together in the past can be a great way to help them reconnect. Build these connections when they are young so everyone can stay connected through their teen years and when they go off to college. The family rituals and emotion stories of your family’s past will keep siblings connected because they are sharing a common experience.

Good Memories Help Eclipse the Upsetting Ones.

It can be a smoothing experience for both parents and children to review past experiences (pictures, video, stories), sharing your emotions to past experiences. Many families seem to have gaps in their lives. Usually, this is because everyone got too busy to ‘recall’ the fun times while they were still a memory. Maybe your ritual will be for everyone in the family to record the ‘moment’ that was the most fun this past year. Then do the ‘moment’ that causes you to laugh the loudest this past year. Finally, do the ‘moment’ that made you feel the happiest with your family this year.

Family Rituals Create Closeness.

My family has a series of rituals that we love. Some are tied to holidays, birthdays, and special events, but some are just around because of their longevity and fun. When your children are expatriates, often parents look for things that might connect their child to their ‘home.’ Also, many rituals can be based around food. We make S’mores. They are a favorite campsite treat for young and old. They are sticky and gooey and loaded with sugar and carbohydrates.

One ritual we have is making your initials with the pancake batter. I make a killer “S” actually it is a “2” but when modified just a little and when flipped over – it is a perfect “S.”  Then I have to make “J” these are easy just a make a loose “L” and when it is flipped you get a perfect “J.”  I got lucky and only had to master making a “G” which I discovered is a backward “9”.  I am not sure if my kids thought my pancake initials were perfect but I do know that they loved the ‘drama’ in my breakfast making! So the Christmas I made snowmen pancakes, I was amazed how much easier it was. Three circles in various sizes connected just big enough that the cooking tool could still flip them. I breezed through the bowl of batter and wondered if we could now do special snowman birthday pancakes instead of the initial pancakes! My kids said “no.”

Our Christmas rituals are not what many of our extended family members think of when they think of Christmas.  Often we do a trigenerational Christmas on a warm tropical beach. We have loved Ko Samet, Ko Chang, Rarotonga, the Canary Islands, Roatan, and Aitutaki plus more tropical islands at Christmas. Our ritual is often sitting on the beach and watching the sunset on Christmas Eve then an excellent seafood meal.  Our kids have had to make Christmas trees in strange and far away places because we didn’t have a tree to put the packages under. One year a tree was made from the plumeria tree on the balcony. One year all of the pillows from the hotel room including the couch pillows made an awkward leaning tree by our young children.  One consistent thing that we have always carried around the world for our Christmas is the handmade Christmas stocking that my sisters made for my kids.

christmas stocking
Used from 1991-2012 Yearly

These precious Christmas stockings often find their ‘privileged’ position in my carry-ons as we go from one assignment to the next assignment. Somethings just can’t be put into a suitcase and somethings can never go by ‘slow boat’ to our new home. I am sure the TSA people wondered why I was carrying two Christmas stockings in my carry-on bag in August when we moved from Bangkok to Borneo one year.  It was to maintain one of our family rituals!

I think it will be hard for me to pass on these stockings to my children – I might want to keep them always.

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Celebrating the Universal Spirit of Christmas: What I Learned From My Global Life


An Expat's tale of 12 Outstanding Christmas Memories

An Expat’s Tale of 12 Outstanding Christmas Memories

Celebrating Christmas abroad

can be a

once-in-a-lifetime treat!

Here are my 12 favorite ways we have celebrated Christmas.

1. With my friends from Brazil – they shared the myth of the animals discussion about the birth of Christ. Then their children acted out a rooster crowing “Christ is born,” an Ox saying “Where” and the sheep answering “In Bethlehem.”  These were the cutest kids ever. Our Turkey dinner turkey was served with white rice flavored with walnuts.

2. With my friends from Vietnam. As an old French colony, Vietnam is the home of one of the largest and most active Catholic populations in Asia. Our holiday celebration was several weeks after New Year’s Eve. We celebrated “Tet,” the Vietnamese holiday for the Lunar New Year. I thought the green wrapped sticky rice cakes were too pretty to unwrap but we did unwrap the Chung Cake and it was lovely. We also enjoyed the beef braised with cinnamon. They called it Thit Bo Kho Que.

3. With my friends from Italy – First Sunday of Advent where we shared a lovely dinner. Their children told us about lighting candles in their windows to guide baby Jesus who will deliver gifts. The story I loved the most was told by their six-year-old about the candy cane coffee cake. He said, ” There was a candy maker who invented this for Christ. It was hard cause Christ is the rock of ages. It is made into a “J” for Jesus but he liked to turn it upside down to remind him of the sheep herders staff or

He said, ” There was a candy maker who invented this for Christ. It was hard cause Christ is the rock of ages. It is made into a “J” for Jesus but he liked to turn it upside down to remind him of the sheep herders staff or cane”  It was white for the pureness of Christ and red for the blood he shed for sins. If there is green on it, it is a reminder that Jesus is a gift from God.”

Mary at the Simens Home, Photo by Grant Simens

Mary at the Simens Home, Photo by Grant Simens

4. With my friends from Germany – they shared with us their unique items they got from the Christkindlmarkt!  In Bangkok – Seems like we have many of the same Christmas traditions which did make sense since our Christmas roots are from Germany. I still have the manger scene from that party. I do believe the Lebkuchen (gingerbread) was the best I have ever had. I was impressed with the punch (Feuerzangenbowle). It was hot mulled wine, high alcohol-percentage rum and open flames. What’s not to like about that!

5. With my friends from Russia – Father Frost visited on New Year’s Day where we had a tree lighting festival and exchanged gifts. We had pickled cucumbers to “go with vodka” and the largest bowl of caviar placed on chipped ice that I have ever seen. They had made Kozulya,  cookies in the shape of a deer, goat or a sheep. They are traditionally enjoyed during the first days of the Christmas season.

6. With my friends from Turkey, we celebrated December 6th the Feast of Saint Nicholas as the beginning of the Christmas season. We had Turkish coffee and Kaymakli Kuru Kayisis (cream stuffed apricots).

7. With my friends from Chile, we shared “monkey’s tail” on the island of Bali.  At first, I was worried but then found out that Cola de Mono (monkey’s tail) spirits with coffee, milk, and cloves. Yummy! We also had a Chilean Sponge cake that was flavored with cloves and nuts (Pan de Pascua).

8. With my friends from Korea – Did you know Korea is one of the largest and fastest growing Christian population in Asia? We had the best night singing Christmas carols. Loud and, again and again, our favorites ones. It was the first time I saw a Santa in a blue Santa suit. He is known as  known as Santa Harabujee) or Grandpa Santa.

9. Spending Christmas in Spain was a wonderful experience. With our friends from Madrid, we saw many life-sized manger scenes and the first time we celebrated the Eve of Epiphany (January 5th). The Three Wise Men placed gifts in the shoes our children left outside of the hotel door. The hotel manager asked us to join in this tradition.

10. Our son, Grant after visiting the Czech Republic told us of the festival of Saint Nicholas on December 6th and the Three Kings Day on January 6th. That sounds like a whole month long of wonderful food and fun. I did like the gold-coloured sweet Christmas bread – (vánočka or štola).

11. On Rarotonga, Cook Island we went to midnight Mass and all the children were dressed in white and looked like angels. Their singing was magical.

12. With familyany location. Special memories made and shared. Christmas is truly the time to connect. We often celebrate with rituals that involve food and fun memories.

Home can be anywhere for a Global Nomad

Home can be anywhere for a Global Nomad – Booklet by Jennifer Schnoebelen

 

 

Embrace the “global-ness” we all have and share a part of our life with your quasi-family you have collected during your time abroad.

 

 

We are now celebrating the holiday season in Lake Tahoe.  I have several friends from the past and newly found friends. In fact on the timeline of life, we have only just met but who knows we might run across each other around the world as we all celebrate with our nuclear family in our chosen place to spend Christmas this year.

I have been so lucky!  I have had many once-in-a-lifetime unique treats!

Notes:

To do List in regards to Christmas and food:

  • Brazil  and try Rabanada (French toast)
  • Italy and try Panettone in Milan, Pandoro in Verona, Panforte in Tuscany and Prosecco in Veneto.
  • Germany and try a Christmas Stollen (Christstollen)  a fruitcake with bits of candied fruits, raisins, walnuts and almonds and spices such as cardamom and cinnamon. Try a Pfefferkuchenhaus – a gingerbread house decorated with candies, sweets and sugar icing (in reference to the gingerbread house of the fairy tale Hänsel and Gretel)
  • Cuba to try Crema De Vie – Cuban eggnog, made with condensed milk, rum, sugar syrup, lemon rind, cinnamon, and egg yolk.
  • Denmark to try Æbleskiver – traditional Danish spherical pancakes (a type of doughnut with no hole), sprinkled with powdered sugar and served with raspberry jam. To also try Julebryg – Christmas beer.
  • Jamaica to try  black cake – a heavy fruit cake made with dried fruit, wine, and rum.
  • Lithuania to have a Twelve-dish Christmas Eve supper – twelve dishes representing the twelve Apostles or twelve months of the year.

 

 

Are Izzat’s a dying breed?


MemoriesTo children who successfully navigate a lifetime of change, the world is a garden of exotic gifts, a house of treasure to explore and take in. Transferred from place to place, young and porous, global nomad children collect and absorb experiences. Their personalities become amalgams of those cultures they internalize and claim as their own. Perched for a while in a new environment, they experience each move as an occasion for growth, a chance to blossom in new ways.

From – Unrooted Childhoods -“ Memories of Growing Up Global

Not Wanting to be at the International School

It all started 16 months ago.  Izzat walked into my international school. He did not want to be here. He had moved to a strange country. He did not speak English, and he wanted to be safe at home with his Mommy.  He was five years old.  This was his first school experience, and he was 5,000 miles away from what he had called home.

Izzat’s parents were eager to fit into their new location, and they wanted their son to fit into school. Izzat was scared he didn’t want to be here.

We spent the first ten days of the school year joined at the hip.  Or I should say, as long as Izzat could hold my hand or my leg as we walked around the campus trying to do my counseling job. Many of the other students asked if he was my son.

I could get Izzat to go to recess because he liked to play with the balls.  I could get him to go to lunch because he was hungry. As far as going to class, he had not bought into the fact that school meant ‘learning.’ He didn’t understand that school meant doing what the teacher wanted and being with a whole bunch of other kids his age.

Finally, he decided to like the smaller English as a Second Language class, and I was able to have periods of time in my office without Izzat. His parents were wonderful, but they did not know how to help him. His teachers were excellent, but they could not get him to stop coming to my office whenever he got stressed or confused. They were wonderful, but he just was not comfortable in their environment. His peers wanted to support him and help him, but he often would run away from them and seek me out.

It was a very long time to get Izzat comfortable enough to stay with his peers. whWe gradually went from mastering the comfortable zone of one activity towards another one.  We were blessed that the Physical Education teacher asked Izzat to stay longer and help with the other classes where there were other five years olds. This free time allowed me actually to see some of the other kids I was serving. Slowly the need to be by my side was replaced to be near the other adults in his school day. Slowly his ability to communicate in English became stronger.

When it was time for Izzat to start school his next September at our school, he acted like a real pro.  He only stopped by once in a while to chat.

But That First Week of December was a Sad Time for Me. 

Izzat ran across the playground, yelling in English for his friend to stop. Izzat said, “Wait for me!”

He grabbed my hand and gave it a squeeze and then it quickly it became a full body hug. It was quick but intense.

He said, “Ms. Julia, I am moving to a new school.”

I replied, “I will miss you, when will you leave?”

Izzat proudly stated, “Before Christmas.”

Then he ran away to play with his friend.  As I turned to go into my office. He ran back.  “I will really miss you.”

This is a child that has mastered making friends, learning a new language, being a risk taker and being bold. At our school, he had many houses of treasure to explore and take in.  As he moved to his new school, I hope he took the lessons he had learned here. He had successfully navigated a lifetime of change in just 16 short months.

Christmas is always an interesting to time to reconnect with family and friends.  Sometimes, when I least expect it, I get a note from parents I have worked with or from their children. Today as I was searching for a unique Christmas decoration, I ran into the note I got from Izzat when he was going to get ready for his last semester in High School. I remember his small hand tightly clutching mine, and I wonder how big and strong his hands are today.

Sometimes Christmas memories make me cry.

world heart

Perception: Spot On or Off this Holiday Season?


I am always amazed when I realize “my perception” is off.  As a counselor, you are often able to see things others do not see.  You might notice small changes.

As a Mom, you are always able to see or feel when something just does not seem right.

Here is your chance!  Watch this and let your brain comprehend if you were ‘spot on’ or why you were so “shaking my head off.’

 

Family functions at the holidays can make some people leave while SMH and some even SMDH or /O\. Why is this?

These events can seem like a room full of people with the psychological phenomenon called change blindness. This blindness is when a change in a visual stimulus goes unnoticed by the observer.  Many families are not very observant especially when they only see your expat family once or twice a year.

How many of your family members actually know you or know your kids?

Research on change blindness developed from investigations of other phenomena such as short-term and working memory. Although individuals have an excellent memory as to whether or not they have seen an image, they are extremely impaired at recalling the smaller details in that image.When we are visually stimulated with a complex picture, it is more likely that individuals only get a gist of a picture and not the image in its entirety.

Change Blindness seems to me to be very similar to an ‘Expat Extended Family Gathering’. Although your relatives have an excellent memory as to whether or not they have seen your children, they are extremely impaired at recalling the smaller details of what makes your child tick. They only get a gist of your child and do not understand them in their entirety. – Julia Simens

This was well said by James R. Mitchener on his blog “Third Culture Kid Life.” He said, “I am a TCK, and so no matter where I go, I am always a minority. My culture is not shared by anyone because it was built out of the fragments of so many different pieces of so many different cultural puzzles.”

This is why it is important for parents to talk to their TCK’s before a visit “home.”

  1. First, remember it is not their home. It might be your’s or your partner’s home.
  2. Second, relatives will have selected memory about your children and their habits, dreams and real life events.
  3. Third, your children will need to realize that no-one has the same different cultural pieces that they do so miscommunication might occur.

For some adults sharing a tale from their own ‘strange’ Christmas past that ended in humor will make your children feel more comfortable if things start to feel weird for them.

Here is an exchange we had in our household many years ago

“Remember how sometimes you feel pressed to say the right thing or do the right thing?”

“Yes, I hate that feeling.”

“One Christmas, each of the nieces and nephews all got fun games and things to do when we were visiting our old aunt.  Except, for me.  I got a pair of forest green stockings. Not socks but panty-hose, pull up type leggings. I was ten!”

“What did you do?’

“At the time I was greatly disappointed, but I said thanks and looked at my Mom. She quickly looked away from me so that made it even harder to understand why my aunt could be so ‘wrong’ about a gift for me. But now I realized my Mom just wanted that part of the day to be over so no one’s feelings would be hurt. Now I can laugh about it.”

“Why?”

“Well, my aunt was off target in so many ways.  I was only ten and never wore any type of stockings yet.  I never wore green – ever. I mostly wore jeans and seldom a dress. They were so hideous I couldn’t even change them with any of my cousin’s gifts.  I couldn’t even get my older sister or Mom to take them after Christmas.  I don’t think I threw them away until I was moving off to college, eight years later.”

“So you kept a bad gift for eight years!”

“Yes, but every time I had to move them I would think fondly of my aunt because at least she didn’t ‘forget’ me, she just forgot what I would like.”

Please spend time with your kids explaining situations that might happen at the extended family gatherings so everyone can come away with memories that are worth keeping a whole lifetime.  Families are precious and even more so for our global nomad families.

What was the best thing you told your kids before a large family gathering?

logo jsimens christmas
So often family gatherings can be a much-wanted event, but as adults, we are often unprepared for it.  Tom Gagliano has an excellent book out “The Problem was Me: How to End Negative Self-Talk and Take Your Life to a New Level.”  This might be a wonderful Christmas gift for yourself or one of your loved ones. Listen to  “How to Reduce Holiday Stress” with Tom Gagliano.

Notes:

SMH – Shaking My Head
SMDH – Shaking My Damn Head
/O\ – Frustrated, hands on head

Comments off

Are Celebrations Like THANKSGIVING Good For Us?


What is your favorite Thanksgiving memory? Why are these memories important?

Postcard of memories past

I am often asked, “How can we identify risk factors for our children, so potential problems are minimized?”

My Top Three:

  1. Family is the key
  2. Knowing your ‘emotions’ is essential
  3. Family memories and family traditions build strong kids

Do emotions help make more ethical decisions?

I believe they do. If the child cannot understand their 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 danger to society.

If the child does not have a sense of “family” this is a huge risk. The impact of a strong family identity and the connectedness factor is often long lasting, giving messages to the child that they are loved and accepted and belong to a wider network of people who matter.

It is my perception that no child is immune from pressure in our current, fast-paced, stressed filled environment so families have to be aware that at any time in their life a child might need help and support. They need to cope better with everyday challenges and be able to bounce back from disappointments. The concept of resilience is straightforward if you think about kids needing to thrive emotionally, behaviorally, academically and interpersonally. Families need to use Thanksgiving as a time to connect.

Cross- cultural impact of this holiday

I often tell parents that their perspective on an event is not the same as their child’s.  Sometimes the smallest things can be misunderstood.  Every year, as a family, we try to do the traditional turkey and stuffing as we celebrate this event.  Imagine my confusion when one of my children wrote in a school journal!

“My favrit Thanksgivn dinr is turkey stufed with tacos”  or translated into adult-speak…

“My favorite Thanksgiving dinner is turkey stuffed with tacos.”

What I commonly called my “Thanksgiving stuffing” was full of great things. Besides the usual bread and chopped onions simmered in butter, it had celery, sage, and sausage.  Living in a Muslim country for most of their young lives, ground pork or sausage was not very often served in our home.  We did have our fair share of tacos with ground beef. It made complete sense to my child that we had tacos inside that big old bird!

I often decorate things to make the special event even more ‘unique.’  I have been known to put candy fall leaves on my sugar cubes. I have made little stocks of wheat out of vegetables and sunflower seeds. I have even written names on brussel sprouts just for the fun of it.  I wonder what my kids wrote about those traditions? Or if the teacher even believed that was what happened at our home on Thanksgiving.

I love to celebrate!

Happy Thanksgiving Jsimens