J Simens.com

Strengthen Your Child’s Resilience


traveling shoes

My traveling shoes!

It is never too early to start collecting memories of your child’s emotions. This is especially true for children who are global nomads.

Due to the fast pace of our lives, we seldom have time to close specific chapters. We get on a plane, and within hours of departing one culture, we land in another. Parents locate new homes, establish new routines, and hire new ‘quasi-family members.’

Families start all over again

As we Skype, Twitter and blog ourselves around the world, we need to take time out to collect some emotional memories that are beneficial for the whole family.  Emotion stories can help you strengthen your child’s resilience and by doing so make a significant and positive change in their life.

I am often asked, “What are the psychological challenges one faces when relocating to another country?” The most significant challenges always seem to be to give up the stereotypes that you already have about the new location and to be able to understand that culture or geography location genuinely. Media always puts in your mind what this location will be like, but it is often the best of the best (ideal vacation spots) of the worst of the worst (crime/property).

There is seldom any reality check on what is the norm for that area. When you land you already have full knowledge of what happens in your new location, but you do not have the complete picture. You do not have a balanced understanding of that city or the lifestyle you will be having.

Part of the Puzzle

Letting go of stereotypes

Hong Kong is a perfect example of needing to let go of stereotypes since a person seldom experiences what you see on TV while living in Hong Kong. Just now if I google Hong Kong, it is more than securities and futures and skyscrapers. Hong Kong for kids, at first, seems hard with it’s packed streets and heat. Soon the only thing you’ll find yourself short of is time because there are so many events and attractions.

One critical psychological issue in all expat or people who move around is the need to belong or have loyalty to their ‘unit”.  After we cover Maslow’s hierarchy of food, water, shelter, safety, and security – after all our basic needs are met we need to belong. We need to connect. We need to belong to a family, a community, a unit, a race of people, a tribe, a great school, a good job or something.

If we feel connected, we are happy and fulfilled

Parents can ensure social and emotional stability in their changing environment by blending past and present. You have to connect to both the new location and your previous locations or home.  The importance of attachment and those vital close connections is what makes a person happy. If you understand how relationships develop, then you have more success as a global nomad.

I like to think of this as proximity – sameness – belonging – loyalty and significance as levels in a healthy connection.  Let me give you an example of this:

In Hong Kong – Often work is a place to ensure social and emotional stability because of the relationships you can make in this environment. At the school, you have many different people you come in contact with (proximity). You may be from different nationalities but have children the same age (sameness). We are all very different, but we have the sameness of belonging to the same school that brings us closer together. When you spend day to day in the same environment, a person should feel like they belong. It is only people who choose to work, take breaks, eat lunch in isolation that misses out on the critical ingredient of belonging. Many people have loyalty for the job they are working in, or they would just quit.

Significance is vital for global people

You need to feel like you got something beneficial out of your time in your host country and you need to feel that you gave back something to it.

The way you leave a location sets you up for your new place.  If you continue to feel liked you missed out of something because you didn’t live in your home country or you felt put out because you assignment was ‘too hard’ or you felt that you wanted to leave the country and say good riddance quickly…then your next job will also seem shallow and not significant. The baggage we carry around the world should be our clothing and not our anger, disappointment or sadness.

Families with school-age kids are lucky because they have the benefit of having a natural connection to a whole group of similar people.  It is essential for a family to deal with the emotional side of relocating. This is something that you just can’t for granted or that it is no big deal.  Relocating does have an emotional side, but that does not mean it has to be negative.  Any change is emotional.

Top five tips for Parents who relocate their Families

  •  Build resilience in your life and your families life – This is the ability to bounce back when things are not going well. It is shown in your attributes, the more positive qualities you have, the higher your chance of developing a strong resilience.
  • Build a vocabulary of emotions, so everyone in the family knows what the other members are feeling.
  • Proactively address the need for positive role models for your children (or yourself) as you move around the world, it is likely grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins are thousands of miles away. These people frequently serve as important role models, so it is important to not to replace them but to find more of them. The more healthy adult and friend connections of both genders and various ages the better.
  • Build persistence – Persistence is an area that families all over the world can work on. But for expat families especially, this is important because too often the ability to drop out of things ‘because we are moving soon’ masks the underlying issue – lack of persistence. We need to make sure we are not leaving as an opportunity to run or hide from things.
  • Build play into your life. In our hectic expat lifestyle, we often overlook the notion of play. All families need to spend time together having fun.

 

 

 

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

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Graduation Rituals for Kindergarten: Is there a worldwide theme?


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

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

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

I just experienced an age appropriate ceremony.

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

Then I attended a different kindergarten graduation.

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

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

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

Rituals are memories – have you checked on yours lately?

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

Julia Wright and Dan Starns in Winona

 

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

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

Pelangi, pelangi

Alangkah indahmu

Merah, kuning, hijau

Di langit yang biru

Pelukismu agung

Siapa gerangan

Pelangi, pelangi

Ciptaan Tuhan.

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

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

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

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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/

Family Going Global – Time Decisions


Out of the vault – but timely since #FIGT18NL  is just around the corner. You should attend!

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!

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 cannot – 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 painting 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 hit 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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