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.
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”.
Merah, kuning, hijau
Di langit yang biru
Later I learned that the English words to his poem were:
How beautiful you are!
Red, yellow, green
On the blue sky.
Your great painter,
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.
Many families find that they are well prepared for 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A friend made this for me and I am still laughing. Hope you have a wonderful celebration with those that you love.
Lucky you! On March 24th – I bet you will be glued to your seat listening to seven experts in this global world.
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!
The first Ignite was held in 2006 in Seattle, Washington, United States (US), and was the brainchild of Brady Forrest and Bre Pettis.
To 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.
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.”
- First, remember it is not their home. It might be your’s or your partner’s home.
- Second, relatives will have selected memory about your children and their habits, dreams and real life events.
- 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.”
“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?
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.
SMH – Shaking My Head
SMDH – Shaking My Damn Head
/O\ – Frustrated, hands on head
I can handle the first insult (according to my culture) but the second one puts me over my comfort zone.
What has been your favorite Thanksgiving story?
And it is Thanksgiving. And we invited the guests. And it was early in the evening. Thanksgivings as a new wife can be stressful.
Then my husband moved me 1,500 miles away from where I call home.
Then he invited a whole table full of his co-workers. You might think this is a Thanksgiving that is memorable. At first, when my husband suggested that we ask his colleagues from China who have never had a traditional American Thanksgiving to our home, I was eager. I had visions of everyone sitting around smiling and enjoying the feast I had carefully constructed. I was up early; the house smelled wonderful with the mixture of butter, onions and sage and a host of other things ready to be stuffed in the turkey. Then I tackled the homemade pies.
Growing up in Kansas and spending hour after hour in my grandma’s kitchen, I can make a “mean” apple pie, and the must have pumpkin pies. I stirred, stuffed and muffed around the kitchen all day. At 5:00 pm our guests were to arrive. At 4:45 pm everyone came right on cue. Eight of the nine visitors had a camera around their neck. This should have been my first hint that this might not be a typical Thanksgiving dinner.
For you see my new husband was the boss!
Yes, I had forgotten to factor in that perhaps our guests that I thought were so eager to come to Thanksgiving was, in fact, doing a “work obligation” on their day off. At the start of the event, everyone just mingled around, and I began to relax. We exchanged names and proper words while my husband was eagerly getting everyone a drink.
["Then our first cultural mishap occurred.."]
The Chinese spokesman cleared his throat and said, “Mr. Simens, Thank you so much for having all of us here to celebrate with you and your fat wife.”
My husband looked awkwardly at me, but his “deer in the headlight looks” told me he wanted to see my reaction and intervene if he needed to. As you know, I am well aware of cultural nuances, so I tipped my head and smiled. Pardon the pun, but I knew I was a big enough person to take this comment as a praise in China – a compliment and not an American put down. As we all settled down to the large dining room table, they asked me to explain each dish and tell them a little about them. This was more like the event I had in my mind, as a teacher sharing the joys and education of Thanksgiving.
Teaching always gives me joy
I talked about the importance of corn bread, from the American natives “Indians” such as the Cherokee or the Chickasaw the original recipes they had for these corn dishes. I explained how cranberries are a group of evergreen dwarf shrubs that produce vines up to 2 meters (7 ft) long The fruit is a berry that is larger than the leaves of the plant; it is initially white but turns a dark red when fully ripe. Then I explained why we have both sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes. I saved the best for last – the huge turkey. Then the observation that made the first “fat” remark seem tame happened.
“Mr. Simens, Wow, your turkey is as fat as your wife.”
“Let’s eat”, my husband said, trying to avoid any more discomfort.
The second in command of our Chinese friends felt my husband just didn’t get the compliment. He said, “Mr. Simens, We mean you are a very lucky man, you have a really big turkey and a really big wife.” ”
Bon Appetite!” my husband tried again as he laid his hand carefully across my leg and patted my thigh. He was stroking it. Was he trying to comfort me or was he just getting into position to restrain me if I decided to lunge across the table at the company representative?
Later, I was about to relax and start to enjoy the meal when I noticed everyone was eating. I hoped no one would talk with their mouth full of food (another American issue). I then gave an inaudible thanksgiving prayer “Please don’t let anyone mention the word fat again this holiday season.” Then I silently wondered what this group of people might be doing for Christmas. What might they say about a twenty pound Christmas Brined Fresh Ham?
I hope you and your family are creating Thanksgiving memories and better yet . . . Telling stories of Thanksgiving past so you can build up your child’s family emotion stories. Notes: The Guineafowl made its way to Europe from Africa via Turkey. Therefore they called it ‘turkey.’
(First printed in 1990 – by Julia Simens)