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