J Simens.com

Siblings – let them fight!

After so many parents came into my office complaining about the relationship between their children.  Fighting. Fighting. Fighting.  I always tell the parents to rethink the fighting. Siblings who simply ignore each other and have less fighting – their relationship remains cold and distant in the long term.

As we age, it is important that our children remain in contact with each other

Dr. DeHart at New York College compared how four-year-old children treat their younger siblings versus their best friends. The kids made seven times as many negative and controlling statements to their siblings as they did to friends.

Parents can help an older child see how they treat siblings by asking a simple question. “Would you say that to your friend?” and let the child reflect on that.

Parents can also show their kids photos from the past where they looked like they were having fun and enjoying each others company. Remind them that they can connect without fighting.

Yeah! We get to move! And there is a big truck!!

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All parents have lost it …at sometime

With school now in full swing for many families, I wonder if any of you have lost it? Yelled when they should not have? Walked away in the middle of conversations with their children?

Of all the families I have worked with I have always had parents share one time they “lost it”.


I think we owe it to ourselves to prepare our children for times when
we might not act as expected or we might need them to understand. I
call these ‘teachable moments’ that happen before you actually lose it.


1. You see a Mom yelling and yelling at her kids don’t just quickly
walk by and pretend it did not happen. Go to a place far enough away
from the scene so you can talk to your own child and ask “What do you
think is going on there?” Then have a discussion on why a parent might
behave that way.

2. TV is also a great place to see abnormal behavior so talk about
what you are both seeing. When the young star comes home pregnant and
the mom just smiles ask your child “What do you think your best
friend’s Mom might say or do?” “What do you think might say?”

3. When you see a person getting medical attention don’t hurry your
child by.  Just slowly walk away, and then later talk about the situation. “What
happened to her kids?”, “What do you think was the most important that
that child could have done in that situation?” “What would you do if
Mommy fainted at the Mall?”

Travel, Stress and Me

I have traveled around the world so many times with my own two
children that they have had lots of teachable moments because travel
tends to bring out the worse in some people. Use those moments to
show your children that humans have different behaviors according to
the emotions they are feeling. They only thing you can do as a human
is to really understand your emotions and how your actions cause
reactions in others.

One time I thought I was going to pass out in a major overseas airport
and I said to my son that I was feeling really sick. He replied,
“Don’t worry Mom, I will be sure to grab your purse because it has our
passports and you won’t want it to get lost.” Smart boy.

After the fact as parents, we must always be responsible for our
actions. The best way to address this is not to apologize for our
actions but to tell our kids “Mommy wishes that I would have done
this or this instead, I am sorry I didn’t respond like I wanted to at
the moment.” You need to model appropriate behavior on what to do if
you happen to blow an interaction. This is the best way for children
to learn to be honest about their feelings and yet responsible enough
for their actions.

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She’s a cow – Are these words you want to hear about your daughter?

school counselorsDoes your child stand out like at “cow” in her new school?

Questions to ask your TCK or CCK!  As an expat student moving to a new school, how do you stand out amongst the vast sea of other students? How do you get potential friends to pick you over others? You need to be remarkable. Being academically good is, well, not good enough. You need to be the purple cow.

What color are you?

The purple what? The purple cow means someone who is out of the ordinary. In a pasture, a purple cow would stand out from the rest; you’d immediately notice the cow. A purple cow garners attention. When your child is a new student to a school, he or she deserves recognition. As a parent, we hope this is positive attention.

The term purple cow came from the title of a poem written by Gelett Burgess in 1895 but was popularized more recently by Seth Godin’s book, Purple Cow.

Things that new students can do to draw friends to seek them out

According to my children

  • Your face says it all, even if you are nervous a smile can go a long way.
  • Don’t cling to the first person that says hello to you.
  • Never have an opinion of a teacher, kid or school event the first two weeks, give yourself time to see what matters. Being quick to have an opinion might isolate you from some great friends.

 For your older children:

Here is a short set of ideas on presenting yourself to a new school in a more remarkable way, thus grabbing everyone’s attention and separating yourself from others in your class.

  • Have a unique, but honest way to greet people. If you have a lovely Spanish accent, welcome them in Spanish even if you are from Tokyo.
  • Wear a discrete necklace or bracelet from your past “home” so it is a conversation piece. Wearing your name in hieroglyphics might get you a friend.
  • Tape postcards from your favorite places on the front of your notebooks, so it shows your name and the locations that you love to visit. An excellent way to connect with other students.

These ideas assume your child is already proficient with making friends if they are not, then improving their basic skills should take priority because it does them no good to try new things if they can’t make eye contact, smile and be interested in other students.

PS on a personal note:  If your child asks for a horse – they want a horse! I was lucky enough to grow up in Kansas and if we wanted a horse…we got a horse. I got Mr. Brown one snowy Christmas morning. I never asked for a purple cow.



When your child doesn’t get the teacher you want!

“My perception is the best perception”

This is what most parents must overcome when it comes to evaluating a child’s upcoming teacher.

I have worked on five continents and the worry about the new teacher is world-wide. Having worked with 8000+ families, I do have a few tips on how to make the best of this situation. This is a topic I can talk about for hours so I will answer some of the questions and stay on your target.

How do most schools make classroom assignments?

This is totally up to a school district or private school. It runs the gamut from random to sophisticated sociograms based on good academic and social working pods. Some schools try to balance out gender, nationalities, academic abilities and needs (Language, Learning support, Behavioral). Other schools start with parental requests of teachers and allowing children to pick one or two ‘friends’. One school I worked with gave each child from the same family with the same teacher so the teacher and parent connection would grow with each child.

When a parent requests a ‘certain teacher’ sometimes it is for all the wrong reasons.

Some teachers are very good with PR but not so good at teaching, other teachers might be the one who connects the best with the kids causing more educational progress for the child, but these same teachers might find the adult interactions, not their strength. Guess which teacher will have the best reputation of being the better teacher?

When parents don’t get their ‘first choice’ they must trust in the educational process and believe that the school has their child’s best interest at heart. Every school wants what is best for the student. I always tell parents to take care of the “kid” and let the school take care of the “student”.  Subtle different but helps gets the point across that sometimes what we see as a parent that might be good for our ‘kid’ might not be in their best interest as a “student”.

The best way to start any school year is to stop thinking and talking about this new year -the unknown.

Instead, start talking about your child’s strengths and successes from other school years. All children approach things feeling stronger if they are reminded of past successes. When a child comes into my office upset about moving to our new school, I always ask them what they did really well at their old school. We chat about what things they were successful with and what things they did to make and keep friends. This focus on their strengths is what makes them feel good about themselves, parents should do this also.

Focus on your child’s strengths not the unknown interactions with a new teacher or a new situation.

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First Impressions vs. Fixing the Bad

How something appears is always a matter of perspective

How something appears is always a matter of perspective

As the author of “Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child,” I have worked with over 8000+ families as they relocate around the world.

The child’s image (social or self) is critical to how successful they will be in the school setting.  It seems like summer holidays just started, but International teachers and students are already heading back to get ready for another school year. What happens if your child negatively starts off the school year?


Bad raps happen

Getting a bad rap is as easy as one lousy comment made at the wrong time, or not reaching out to the right kids on campus. Sometimes it can be for liking the ‘bad’ teacher. It can be for wearing a weird t-shirt or even not wearing your hair in a style they are used to seeing. Amazing how quickly a community will judge others. Even more amazing how this happens in schools!

Parents can be vital in helping their child learn to negotiate in this crucial social climate. Not all parents help! Sometimes, parents can do more harm for their child because they are the ones creating the negative feelings, so it goes from the mother or father being pushy to the child being obnoxious in the minds of others in the community. When in fact, the child has not done anything.

Don’t set your child up for failure because as a parent you are overstepping your boundaries. As parents, we all want to connect with our child’s teacher, but she doesn’t need a new BFF. Other parents see your interactions, and it might create some negative feelings from other parents as well as the teacher.

What parents can do


Change the perception

Using simple language and being truthful. “In the past, my daughter was rude to others, but now she is older she understands how important it is to work together on those joint projects.”  These type of words given to other parents while working on the PTA, or attending school events will help shift the thoughts about your child. But a parent can never take the responsibility for their child’s behavior and fix it.  If your child needs to make an apology, it has to come from your child, not you.

Tips for kids

#1 – Search out a child that is well liked and try to see why you are so different. Are you standoffish and he is warm and welcoming – seek to master one skill this ‘expert’ does that you do not do?

#2 – Compare yourself to the peer group you would want to be involved with. Do they all wear the school colors and you only wear black? Don’t copy them but think about how you present yourself.  Most kids want to connect and be part of a group. Perhpas, you could acquire some of their articles that they have. If everyone carries a backpack and you still have a roller case for your books and supplies – change. If everyone eats the school lunch, try to give up your homemade brown paper bag sandwiches.

#3 – Understand the importance of good impressions and see each new situation in a school as unique and give it your best shot. Sometimes a change in one class will leak over into other situations you are involved in. With any change, kids and teachers will start seeing you in a new light. You don’t have to be the quiet Freshman you were or the awkward Sophomore you were – hone your intuitive style and make a fresh start this year.

Tips for Parents

#1 – Do not say to  your child’s teacher, “Must be nice to have had the summer off!” Instead, say something like “I hope you’re refreshed and ready for ten months of go, go, go!” Remember that a lot of teachers spend their summers upgrading their credentials or planning coursework. Keep your passive-aggressive comments to yourself.

#2 – Don’t try to discuss major issues during the drop-off time, instead set up a meeting with the teacher. Major issues need to be brought to the teacher’s attention ASAP such as a death in the family, a divorce or a recent move, but these can be done by email, so the teacher knows the needed information. Let the dust settle at the start of the new school year and then set up an appointment for the minor things you feel the teacher should know about your child. Remember when you are dropping off or picking up your child, the teacher still had 24+ kids that he or she is taking care of so this is not the time to talk.

#3 – Don’t freak out over class placement! Not everybody gets the teacher they “think” they want. Another teacher might bring something unexpected to the table. A child not being with their best friend might open up a whole new world of socialization and skills.

Good thoughts

Photo – http://awakentoyourdeeperself.com/healing-limiting-core-beliefs-shifting-perspectives/
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Working with Kids this Summer —Words Worth Knowing

I have had my fair share of working with kids during the summer. It has been in summer youth camps, vacation bible school and tutoring. I always want to let the child know I appreciate the work they are doing in the summer.


Do you say “nice job?”

When I get stuck and want to say “Wow, nice job” because I am in a hurry or have too many children to get to, I have trained myself to say, “It looks like you put a lot of effort in that project.” With the “wow’ comment I would see the kids look at me.

With the ‘effort’ comments, I always get a smile and often the child will tell me what part he/she is most proud of without me asking. I like to offer this type of opened ended comments first to see where the conversation takes us.

Let the child guide your understanding.

Sometimes I think the picture is so colorful but the child will point out that he put a lot of effort into making the lines straight so the picture frame is perfect. If I had not allowed him to guide my understanding of what he is proud of we would have never had this conversation.

It does take more work to have the genuine conversation but I know it is more real to the kids and therefore more valuable. I often hear them re-telling other students about our conversations.


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How great is your CQ Knowledge? CQ?

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What is Cultural Intelligence (CQ):

CQ is the capability to function effectively in culturally diverse situations (Ang & van Dyne, Handbook of Cultural Intelligence, 2008). It predicts and explains why some people thrive and some struggle in culturally diverse settings. It consists of four complementary capabilities or dimensions: CQ Drive, CQ Knowledge, CQ Strategy, and CQ Action.

I believe that our cultural intelligence is not fixed; it develops and grows through experiences. This is why it is vital that your global nomads interact with their host country. With your family values as a framework, you can foster cultural understanding and respect with your children thus giving them this benefit for their whole life-time.

CQ Knowledge, i.e., the level of understanding about how cultures are similar and different, plays an enormous part of being an expat child but it is not the most important thing a child learns living overseas. My children learned how to give a greeting in Thailand, how to behave in an Islamic environment and how to sing happy birthday in five different languages before they reached the age of 10.

Real learning came from two key areas of all international assignments —motivation and action

When I look back over my children’s time as expats, these two areas of motivation stick out in my mind because they were driven by children under the age of ten. Please note I will be using ‘he’ instead of ‘he or she’ but this does not mean all of these references are about my son. (He has told me I need to stop writing about him…hum?)

Wanting to make a difference in a child’s life, he got friends to donate small items to sell so they could support a child going to school. The East Cipinang trash dump a poverty-stricken area in Jakarta needed a way for the trash pickers to get a better education. It was the motivation of my child to get others involved so children living on the dump could go to an area school.

After having malaria, it became clear that if expat kids can get it easily, then more local children need essential long-lasting insecticidal nets to sleep under. Raising awareness has been an enormous undertaking since there are millions of reported cases of malaria and many of those causing death among children under the age of five. Using summer time to continue to raise awareness in the USA to help funding go to countries with lots of malaria.

These areas of action were very important to at least one of my children.

Rescue and conservation of distressed elephants in Thailand. By spending time caring for the elephants at the Sanctuary and Rescue Center for elephants in Northern Thailand (Chiang Mai), he showed action. Elephants are officially classified as an endangered species. There are 3000 to 4000 elephants in Thailand. Elephants form their social groups, and they even have different personalities. The Sanctuary and Rescue Center is always adding to their herd, as they look for elephants in desperate need of care.

Feed the Needy in Lagos, Nigeria by spending time preparing the food and serving it, gives a child the understanding that we need to be grateful for what we have but also we need to have empathy and compassion for others who have so much less. Action like this that is on-going and demanding are actual examples of expats around the world making a difference.

Caring for the Reef system can be a worldwide experience when you summer in Roatan, Honduras. This is where you live off the second longest barrier reef system in the world, and yet you live during the school year in Thailand. The ability to clean up the reefs, care about the worldwide implications of trash in our waterways and see the impact divers can have with they are not environmental careful is terrific experiences.

Children are naturally interested in others. Children naturally care about others. To motivation and action to happen in an expat family, parents just need to add exposure and time. If parents expose children to “real life” situations in your home environment, children have compassion. If parents don’t rush but allow a child time to feel the situation and have an opinion about the situation usually “action” will occur.

Often as expat parents, we are swamped and as all parents know it is much easier to do something ourselves than to ask our eight-year-old to do something. Stop. Let your child do what they feel might make the situation better. Let them express their compassion.

Expat parents are well advised to invest in their children by helping them to increase their CQ with real-life experiences now.

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Julia Simens:  Helping Families Worldwide


Travel These Days; Its Almost This Easy!

Carpal or Carpool ???

Being an Expat – does not mean your summer is full of fun.

We often have to spend the summer getting medical clearances, updates on contacts or glasses and teeth cleaning. Sometimes we also have to throw in minor medical procedures we didn’t want to do abroad. Summer can be a scheduling nightmare.

How did you spend last summer?

One past summer, my Carpool tunnel syndrome had turned into Carpal tunnel syndrome. Here is a recap on how it is to be a driving expat!

A tight grip of the steering wheel makes the short trip seem like a significant phenomenon. As the sweat runs down the back of my knees, I peer in the rearview mirror and wonder what I got myself into in this hot Oklahoma summer. I am in a competition with myself. Can I do it – You can’t do. I know I can drive and yet I feel sick.

I am not used to driving in the USA, and here I am volunteering to take my sister’s most special ‘cargo,’ her children, to a ballgame. I think I am doing it to help out the parents, but I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. The kids were perfect. I was more like a royal mess.

I am not the best driver in the world since I have lived outside of the USA for twenty-five years. I have never had an accident while driving. I also have sat and survived six international driving tests in different countries.

In one country, the local facilitator stood over my shoulder and pointed to which box I was to mark with the (X) for each question. I passed the written test in a foreign language!

legs and high heels

I took a vision exam and then an Eye/ Foot reflects time exam in one foreign country. The first machine didn’t have a light behind the green light, so it was impossible to know when the sign was “Green” to go, but I was able to slam on each and every Red light that I saw. I passed! When we got to the reflect times machine I was so involved with the guy sitting next to me doing his exam that I forgot to do my own exam and had to start over again. The man sitting next to me had his left leg crossed over his right leg.  He was using his left leg to push the brake pedal. It was a strange way to drive because the steering wheel kept hitting his knees and he’d say “Ouch.” I thought “uncross your legs.” Oh, and I did I tell you he had on high heels. Bright. Blue. 4-inch heels. No wonder my mind was not on my test.

Honor those pregnant ladies

I showed up 8 ½ months pregnant for one exam. They gave me a written test with the Label of (B) on it. My husband got the (A) test. We assumed it was for the random need to make sure people didn’t cheat taking the test. As we started to do the written exam, the DMV staff person took my test away and gave me a form (D) to take. We both passed. On the way home my husband talked about how hard it was to convert the miles to meters and the blood alcohol amounts into liters, etc. I talked about how I had an octagon sign and what that meant and if a driver should look “both ways” prior to moving out into an intersection. The only thing I can think of is that this DMV really didn’t want a very pregnant lady upset if she flunked the test. Once again I passed!

But I might be a very bad mother or at least a bad expat mother

I sent my child off with our driver to get his motorcycle license. We had forgotten that he would also need medical clearance prior to getting his permit. When he came home successful with a new motorcycle permit he explained how you get a medical clearance form in our new location. When you get declined by the DMV for not having all the documents, your driver jumps on the back of a motorcycle Uber and goes to a medical facility. They do the medical check by asking your driver two questions. “Is this person here with you?” and “Is he sick?’ I guess our driver responded with a “yes, he is at the DMV” and a “no.” The driver gets the medical clearance on your son by a doctor who has not even stared into his bright blue eyes that are so eager to drive in the crowded streets of this major city. The driver then heads back to the DMV. The license is issued.

I am scared to death to take a drivers test in the USA. I am unprepared!

Many expats keep a USA license while they are abroad. We did not do this.  I know some of you are saying, “Are you stupid?”  What came down to making this decision was the need to following the rules of the state we live in.

In Nevada –  We were a seasonal resident so we could not legally say we lived in Nevada and therefore not legal to get or maintain our Nevada Driver’s license.

I am happy to report after two months back in the USA after retiring, I got a car. Drove a lot. Got a Nevada Driver’s License. It is good for eight years!!! Now two years later, no tickets and still driving with care.


Note: Nevada Revised Statutes 482.103 and 483.141 “Resident” defined.

  1. “Resident” includes, but is not limited to, a person:
    1. Whose legal residence is in the State of Nevada.
    2. Who engages in intrastate business and operates in such a business any motor vehicle, trailer or semi-trailer, or any person maintaining such vehicles in this state, as the home state of such vehicles.
    3. Who physically resides in this state and engages in a trade, profession, occupation or accepts gainful employment in this state.
    4. Who declares himself to be a resident of this state to obtain privileges not ordinarily extended to nonresidents of this state.
  2. The term does not include a person who is an actual tourist, an out-of-state student, a border state employee or a seasonal resident.


related blogs: Back to Basic (parenting) and worse expat parenting moments

photo – http://wedrinkoldgold.blogspot.com/2012/10/blue-eye.html


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Thriving in your new location: 8 ways to support your child when moving

I am so honored to be included in the monthly publication of BR Anchor Publishing.


BR Anchor Publishing – A Small Family-Owned Business Since 1990 – has sold over 1.5 million books domestically and internationally. Our mission: “Every relocation should become a positive and enriching opportunity for the entire family.” We strive to help families accomplish this goal through every book we publish.

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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.




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