J Simens.com

Connections – My best buddy just left :(

What does a good friend mean to your child?

jsimens Friends

“My child’s best friend is moving!” This was the panic call I received yesterday.  It is a very valid concern for many parents, even more so in International Schools where the population is so transited.

As an international counselor, I have had many of our parents insist that their child must be with their best friend in the next school year. Due to the movement in International Schools, this means at some point shortly, this child will seem friendless and it so sad when their ‘best friend moves on.

Every child needs to feel connected and involved with other children. This is often through a common interest, gymnastics, after-school activities, sleepovers, etc. This does not mean that during the school day that they need to be only connected to their best friend.

Connections are Important

It is vital for a child to have a connection or a best buddy to help them through transition times. It is nice to see a familiar face when you have the first day of school. Or it is nice to be with a few friends when you move from elementary school to middle school. There are times that a connection is a significant part of a child’s life.

The most significant pitfall is when your friend limits you from making new friends or making friends that might open your choices or focus on things to do. It is hard for a child to get interested in a new sport or new musical instrument if they never hear or see a peer involved in the activity. Kids learn by seeing others do it. If you have a reluctant reader do you just want them to be with other boys who love to play outside all the time or do you want them also to have a friend that loves to read and will get them into trying new books?

The Parent’s Role

I feel it is important for children to have close connections to their family and well as friends. To forge that vital close connection, you need to understand the way healthy relationships develop. I have a master’s in clinical psychology and work with a focus on family therapy with our international population. I often educate parents on Neufeld six stages of attachment ‘.

1. The most primitive and basic stage of attachment is Proximity. Through touch, contact, and closeness, the infant begins attaching to his or her parents.

2. Secondly, toddlers seek Sameness with their parents, mimicking their mannerisms or dress and looking for ways to be the same as their parents.

3. The third stage is Belonging or Loyalty. Often three-year-olds will be very possessive and say “my mommy or my daddy.”

4. Four-year-olds seek reassurance of the strength of their attachment to parents by wanting evidence of their Significance. This is the fourth stage.

5. The fifth stage develops around the age of five when we see the beginnings of genuine Love as attachment goes deeper and deeper.

6. And finally, the sixth stage. From age six onward, if the attachment roots have gone deep enough, we have a child who allows him or herself to venture out into Being Known.

This creates the foundation for virtually every relationship your child will ever have, beginning with parents, and later with siblings, friends and intimate partners.

This Attachment is the Cornerstone of Parenting

It can help with keeping your child on track academically, managing challenging behavior, and maintaining the all-important role of being the one they turn to for advice and support.

BUT, sadly parents often put more of a focus on their child’s friends than they do on their own parent/child connection. They take it for granted that because they are parent and child that the connection will be strong.

I feel child to child friendships are vital, but they are also very ‘natural.’ If children are given some freedom with the day, they will find friends and enjoy doing things together. If a child has too much structure and no free time, finding and keeping friends become the job of the parents and it tends not to be natural and therefore not a very strong connection for the child.

Let Your Children Play

How Aware Are You, Socially?

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


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

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

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

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

Why #WorldPartyDay

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

Do you know this TCK?

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

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

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

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

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

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

social awareness
social awareness

Do emotions help us make more ethical decisions?

Many of you know I work with kids and their feelings – big time. This is key to so many things in their life.  Do emotions help us make better ethical decisions? I believe they do. If the child cannot understand their own emotions or tune into the emotions of others in their family or with peers, this is a huge risk. If the child is unable to make ethical decisions, they are a risk to themselves and a risk to society.

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


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

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

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

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

Sandwich and a pie – does life get any better than this?

Hands old lady

Sandwich Generation – Does life get any better than this?

A mother’s touch . . .
This is one of all time highest hits on my blog. With 3.14 today, I thought I would re-posted it with some updates.




This has been a favorite posting – according to the number of views it has received.

(Out of the vault) – On March 14, I was able to spend a day that was almost heaven.  Or at least what I hope heaven is like.  I was within arms distance of both my mother and my daughter. When you live on different continents, this is special. This means we were able to hug each other if we wanted to hug each other. We were able to look into each other’s eyes, and we could see each other’s smiles.

With all the news and concerns about the sandwich generation, sometimes we forget we are fortunate to be able to share the aging of a parent with our children, their grandchildren.  As my daughter, Jackie says, “This is what old age should look like and I hope I get to share it with you.”

beautiful daughter

A daughter’s touch . . .

March 14th is Albert Einstein’s birthday, but that was not unique enough! For many people 3.14 might not be that much of a “special day”  but for us…  it is Pi day. Most people I know are content to celebrate the world’s most famous mathematical constant to its second decimal place, but for some, it can be way more fun. I love the people who get carried away with this stuff and celebrate 3/14 by staying up to 1:59 in the morning and then waiting until 26 seconds past the minute to take this first bite of Pi Pie.

Do you celebrate Pi Day?

We are not that silly besides those of you who know me when was the last time I was up at 1:59 in the morning eating pie. Okay, some of you do know me and can quote when this has happened.

Celebrate Pi Day! Pi is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. Math enthusiasts around the world celebrate Pi day on March 14th.  William Jones first used the symbol for pi in 1706.

Pi = 3.1415926535

Jackie, my daughter, told me if she is lucky she will get to have all of her electives at college to be math classes her senior year! Therefore making a math connection is perfect for our family ritual. Now she has completed her Masters in Applied Mathematics and working on her MBA; it is even more exciting!

These rituals are vital for all families but essential for global nomads.

Historically, we had always loved Grandma Wright’s pies. To combine both, math and pie, seemed appropriate to spread some love. Family rituals are to make connections and show love.

The first Pi Day was in 1989 and created by Larry Shaw. He worked in the San Francisco Exploratorium as a physicist and had coworkers march around a circular space and then let them eat pie.  They still celebrate Pi day at the Exploratorium. Musician Michael Blake performed a one-man symphonic ode to pi by assigning notes and chords to each digit and then playing it to 31 decimal places on ten different instruments. The result is a catchy yet haunting tune that is bound to top the pi charts.

With the use of computers, Pi has been calculated to over 1 trillion digits past the decimal. Pi is an irrational and transcendental number meaning it will continue infinitely without repeating.

As I try to blog with some pattern or continued theme, I hope to continue this blog without repeating myself or thoughts. (oops just repeated a blog- but only because it has over 5,856 hits- and that is a lot of hits on my blog site)

I am still debating if I should be irrational or not?

It does seem rational, balanced, sane and healthy having both my child and my mother in the same room at the same time eating pie.

I am an expert at making pies, mostly because I made a ton of pies in 4-H when I was young.  I am a firm believer in the mastery of something when you are young, and when you still think it is fun.

In 4-H, I did a lot of different activities. I raised sheep, JC and Casey were my pets until I sold them. This money went towards college, and I was only ten years old when I raised them for almost a year. I did public speaking. I did knitting (I still can’t cast off).  I made clothes, I cooked more food than you can imagine and I even did leather work.

Adults in the community spent time teaching us how to do things. We had pride in our finished products. We won ribbons, and if our project was good enough, we could take it to state and compete with lots of other children.  My exposure to 4-H helped me get one of my scholarships to college.

I was the Betty Crocker award winner, meaning I had to take a written test about cooking and prove that I understood the concepts behind ‘cooking.’ When you are trying to put yourself through college, all scholarships are huge, and you are so appreciative to get them. I am glad I learned how to cook when I was young, I am delighted I was able to apply that knowledge in math, science, etc. other aspects of attending school.

But I am most proud of is being able to teach my children how to make a pie!

Julia Simens normal
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zanthia/4248760387/
photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/59798891@N05/5466633757/

Celebration of Personal Heroes: 9/11 is a time to celebrate strengths

Out of the vault – Proud to be a part of this book!

The Gratitude Book Project: A Celebration of Personal Heroes

Co-Author Julia Simens

It”s a time of remembrance and celebrating strength.

As across the United States and the world, we commemorate the 15th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001; it’s time to celebrate the strong. I’m proud to announce that I was a co-author of a unique project celebrating personal heroes from The Gratitude Book Project.

Even though the characteristics of a hero may be different from one person to another, the underlying theme of heroism is uniform throughout in the sense that they are all admired. Heroes define our aspirations and expand the perceived limitations we have of ourselves. They remind us of whom we want to be and how we’re going to get there.

Maybe you consider your father a hero or maybe you feel the hero within yourself. Maybe your hero is a firefighter or a teacher. Regardless of who your hero is, they are all defined by the same characteristics and celebrated in The Gratitude Book Project: A Celebration of Personal Heroes.

Narratives from the book include inspiring stories such as:

“Imagine My Surprise” by Anne Bennett, expressing gratitude for the New Yorkers on the 9-11 attacks that she witnessed.

“Job Well Done” by Sabrina Jones, describing the heroism of a single parent and the emotional and physical strength they must possess.

“You’re a Hero, Too” by Cat Traywick, inspiring us all that we can make a difference because of the hero within ourselves.

I’m one of the co-authors.

My contribution to the book centers around being overseas and living in the sandwich generation. If you are not aware of this terminology, it means being in a mid-life tug of war. The ‘Sandwich Generation’ is a generation of people who care for their aging parents while supporting their children.  My mom was getting older, and my daughter was off in college, but this throws my expat lifestyle into this mix, and things become very complicated.  Living thousands of miles away adds a new concern being in this sandwich.

My mother had to move off of our Kansas farm due to health reasons and decided to relocate near her family in Colorado. My daughter relocated to college about 60 miles away from my mother for an entirely different reason. For once, I could fly into one airport and visit two family members.

Two key things I learned:

  1. Sometimes moving closer to family members does not necessarily mean they will make time to include you into their life.
  2. Allowing a closer opportunity can indeed make some relationship richer.

My mom was able to spend about two years with her older sister eating lunch together almost daily and every day sharing a morning coffee. Her sister moved into the same apartment building as my Mom, so they had a few wonderful years reconnecting. My daughter would head out after class, grab Chinese takeout food and drive the hour up to visit my mom each week. During these lunch dates, she got to learn about our family history. Often, Aunt Jody would attend these family meals. My daughter did the small things that will make an older person’s life better. She made sure the jars in the refrigerator were not too hard to open. She checked the pills were not running out. She gave my mom something to look forward to each week. I was living 8,500 miles away from my mom – my daughter was my personal hero.

Picture 6 1

My favorite ‘sandwich’ in the world

With so many inspiring stories of gratitude to our heroes, The Gratitude Book Project: A Celebration of Personal Heroes is sure to warm your heart with love and appreciation for those whom we admire.

Do you know the Worldwide Stats? Protecting our kids


Famous words we hope to all hear.

There were over 5,500 deaths and over 1.5 million accidents from distracted driving and texting last year. I wonder what the numbers would be if we checked it out worldwide? ( so many countries do not keep stats)

TXT ME L8R is a bridge at the crossroad of technology and the vulnerability from distracted driving and texting. I believe TXT ME L8R is a solution to the global problem of distracted driving and texting.


If the phone is traveling faster than 5 mph then TXT ME L8R disables the functions of the phone. Your teenager can not send or receive text messages, use any of the apps on the phone (there is an exception list), all in-coming phone calls go straight to voicemail, and outgoing calls can be blocked. The app also auto-replies to the sender “TXT ME L8R – I am Driving”.

Check this out.



Yes, it does work on our International kids phones!



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Geography Barriers in our Expat Lifestyle

Anyone whose main goal is to help others instead of thinking of obstacles to put in their way is definitely a hero in my eyes. When this person happens to be your own daughter, words can’t convey how you feel. Jackie is my hero.

My personal hero . . . Thanks, Jackie

Being part of two worlds that do not easily overlap, I am often flapping around the world like a bird without wings. When my “sandwich generation” collides with my expat work world, it seems like a disaster in the making. Having a child head off to college in the USA when you live 8,500 miles away has been hard. The challenge of adding another geographic barrier into my life as my mother ages has been hard.

Special time with my Mom

Special time with my Mom

Jackie is not an adult. She is shouldering the normal burdens that are associated with attending college: maintaining her own apartment and helping out with an aging grandma. When her classes are over, you will find her on the way to Grandma’s apartment. She takes lunch to her, catches up on what Grandma might need, and makes sure that I am kept in the loop of what is going on in regard to everyday life with my mother.

Sometimes the things Jackie does are small―making sure her grandma can open the jars that are in her own refrigerator. Sometimes the things are huge―making a three-hour trip just to help Grandma get from the airport back safe into her own apartment late at night. Jackie does all of this willingly.

As I report on Jackie, a teen hero, it makes me confident that this current generation of teens has some heroic and selfless people to run the world in the near future.

Now my mother has had to move to a full time nursing facility so she is not located near my daughter.  She is now living near my younger sister.  I am still separated by too many miles to count.  As expats, we need to have a whole group of family and friends who will step in and help when there are geography barriers in our lifestyle.

At the FIGT (Families in Global Transition) conference we had speaker after speaker talk about

The Global Family: Redefined

As my own family naturally changes, my global family is consonantly changing. I love the power of my own family to support my global lifestyle. I only hope that I can return the favors to them in the near future.



Related article Here.

My story about Jackie was featured in A Celebration of Personal Heroes Produced by The Gratitude Book Project® Team, a division of Kozik Rocha, Inc. Smashwords Edition Copyright 2011 Kozik Rocha, Inc.

Review: Is your summer plan helping your child?

School Buses

School – Out for the Summer!

Many families put children into summer programs to “help” the child.  Sometimes you need to re-evaluate these programs. Are they doing what you want or need them to do?

Sometimes summer is better off spent in quality summer family time!

When I first started working with children, I would have said 99.9% of the time it is great to be five years old.  Now, I listen to kids…really listen to them.  It is just as hard to be five as it is to be fifteen.  Just different things matter but they still matter to the child.

Often a five year old will say his or her mind says one things but his or her mouth says another. This seems to be a common theme in teen years also. After working with some people, I have come to know it is also a common concern with adults often. How to teach a child to listen to their inner voice or mind, WAIT, and then let their mouth work is really hard work? You have to catch them in teachable moments so you can point out the skills they might want to have done instead of what they just did.

Research after research shows that this type of work is best done in small groups so each child can learn after each others comments, mistakes and successes. But it takes a very special person to do this group work.  They can’t preach. They can’t compare the kids in the group. They can’t expect their suggestions to be done the first time. They do have to be consistent. They do have to like each child in the group. They do have to have the patience to go over and over basic social skills.

Often parents put children into summer classes or situations hoping they will gain some ‘social skills’.

These classes seldom address what the child really needs. In fact, they often let the child try on more unsuccessful peer interactions and get away with more inappropriate behavior.

Children learn so much more with the interactions between themselves and their parents. This is when real learning starts to happen.

As a five year old told me…some fun things can be hard to do…and some hard things are actually fun!  Depends on the teacher!

Think about who is spending time with your child this summer – are they sending the right messages to your child?  If not, you need to step in and inform them that your expectations are higher and your child deserves more.

Don’t be passive when it comes to the role models in your child’s life.

Notes:  Photo http://www.flickr.com/photos/52462679@N06/5

Death: Overseas when the unthinkable happens

When a Family Member Dies Abroad

A  checklist for the most difficult of times.

The passing of a loved one irrevocably alters family life but it can impact an global family way more than you ever thought!

After a death, there is so much to deal with. Some things may be put on hold. But …This must be done, though, and it is better to do it sooner rather than later.

Status of Residency

Check with your embassy on the status of your residency in your host country. If the deceased is the ‘work permit’ holder things might move very quickly on your staus of being legally in that country.


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Death and Taxes: But what is just as certain in an Expat’s life?

With USA tax deadline looming, I can only spin it as I know how …the expat way!

repairs abroad
Repairs Abroad – HELP ME!

Benjamin Franklin said, “The only things certain in life are death and taxes.”

Taxes Worldwide

I have lived with USA taxes since I started working back in 1972. I was one of the lucky ones to get a summer job working at the local grain elevator. We would weigh the trucks going into the area full of wheat and then weight them after they dumped off the wheat. I got to check for moisture in the wheat which required crawling up into the bed of the truck and taking a random sample of the wheat. I often had wheat in my socks and shoes the rest of the day no matter how hard I tried to clean them off.

Recently, I was at an English class for non-native speakers, and we had five different languages improving their English skills. We were asked, “How many of you have driven a truck?” I was proud to be able to stand up and respond, “I have driven a truck.” This was impressive to many of the ladies in our group.


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