J Simens.com

I Owe Asclepius a Rooster


RoosterI love philosophy. But to truly understand it you need to work with five-year-olds.  They are “so” connected with knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. They are knee deep into these things and still uncensored in their thought process.

 

Do you know philosophia? 

Some days we use speech bubbles, this allows the group to listen better when one child is speaking, and they know where to look because the speaker is holding the speech bubble over their head.

Some days when I teach, I ask them to use their thinking bubbles.  Thinking bubbles mean we have to make a connection to the story and share what we are thinking.

These are some of my favorite thoughts from five-year-olds:

  • I think that adults lie because they are afraid to go to timeout.
  • I think my maid is the smartest person in our house, cause she never loses things and helps all of us find our things.
  • I think my brain has too much information, but my hand is still in pre-school and can’t keep up.


What can you do when your brain doesn’t match your hand?

I am not saying that five-year-olds are not critical. They can be very critical. One little girl told me, “My family is just not right, I have to wait.” When I clarified with her about the things she had to wait for, it was all the things I hate to wait for also.

–       waiting at the airport for the plane

–       waiting for the Santa to show up

–       waiting for the summer holiday

I am not saying that five-year-olds lack rational argument. 

As I tried to get, one little boy to re-twist his PE shorts around so that his legs were parallel to his shorts legs instead of having two real legs coming out of one pants leg. (Hope you are following this). He replied, “Why? My legs still run fast.”

Five-year-olds embrace “philosophia” which literally means “love of wisdom.”

If you have not entered a kindergarten classroom – you need to.  This is where real learning is often taking place. This is where no questions are too ‘stupid’ to ask, and this is where connections can be made in seconds!

If you don’t know where the title of this blog comes from- 

These were the dying words of Socrates, the number one philosopher of all times, d.399 B.C. 

Now a look back at expat family history –

Simens Rooster
Simens Rooster – What is he thinking?

Never underestimate the power of a young child. When it comes to brainpower, a child has you beat. The metabolic energy consumed by a child’s brain is 225% that of an adult, so this might explain why is it so hard to understand my own child’s request for a simple dinner. As I start to prepare our dinner, my child, makes a simple request.

“Mom, can we have chicken breathe?”

My son is almost four-years-old, but he does not have a speech issue or the inability to describe food, so I am stumped on what type of food he is talking about. I do the general questions Moms ask their children when we are puzzled.

“When did we have that? What is it? Did I make it? What is it? What does it look like? What is it?

I felt like a broken record because I just could not understand what he was asking for. We were lucky enough to be living in Indonesia, and my husband and I both work fulltime, we have a nanny, so I am quick to get her advice on what type of food my child might have eaten with her.

We asked about “chicken satay” and got out the wooden sticks they typically are cooked on, and my son nodded his head back and forth with “no, no, no.” We knew this was not the correct food. We then tried Ayam goring (fried chicken) this also brought out a negative response.

The following day we tried Ayam Taliwang, this is roasted chicken served with a peanut sauce, again the response was negative.

I decided that perhaps my son was not talking about the local food but about something that I had cooked on the weekends, so I started to prepare our typical American chicken food.

It is not a fried chicken breast.   It is not chicken strips. It is not chicken fingers. (What is the difference between these – strips and fingers?) It is not a baked chicken where he can pick any part of the chicken he wants first. It is not easy to find out what “chicken breathe” really is to a young child.

I ask for additional help by calling in his six-year-old sister. She decides we need to try other chicken dishes from around that world that is often served in our household. She thinks it might be chicken fettuccine alfredo. She loves this, but he says “no”.   Perhaps this is why she said, “It must be chicken fettuccine alfredo!”

Then we try a chicken cacciatore, again a favorite hit for us but a “no” from my son. Finally, my daughter,  says it has to be chicken noodle soup.

By now every chicken in Indonesia was running for cover worried that Ms. Julia would once again try another chicken dish.

I make a huge pot of chicken noodle soup and proudly serve it up to Grant. As he shakes his head again with a “no,” I am certain that there is no such thing as “chicken breathe.” Slowly, my three-year-old pulls each and every noodle out of his bowl and carefully lines them up on the table. When his bowl is almost empty, he grabs a spoon, throws a huge smile up to me and states, “chicken breathe.”

If I had only known that “chicken breathe” was “chicken broth.”  Life would have been more comfortable in the Simens household that week.

At times, in my dreams, I still see a chicken running around the world with his little beak pushed out. The chicken is blowing air all over the place, huffing and puffing. Finally, some of that air falls into a bowl, and my son is happy!

I am sure if my son had asked for Chicken Essence by name, we would have easily found it!

Chicken Essence Simens
Chicken Essence is 7% protein

 

Expat chicken soup
Spicy?

 

 

Sometimes raising expat children causes you to be creative.  Imagine how it would be to try and explain this international treat to your children.

I always encourage expat families to share their unique stories. I also feel the printed word sometimes does not do justice to a story.  Take time to build those oral stories that will earmark your time as expats so your children will benefit from knowing first hand the emotions that are part of their own life stories and then they can pass them on to others that join in the interest of their global lifestyle.

Pet Rooster

http://www.anujpradhan.com/2005/12/mobile-blogging-unfortunate-signs.php

Photo – Rooster: http://bucharestlounge.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/rooster-bob-marion-rose.jpg

 

 

Life is just functional if you are not connecting as a global nomad


A reflection on my first teaching job

My point is after we cover Maslow’s hierarchy of food, water, shelter, safety, and security- after our basic needs are met, we need to belong. We need to connect. We need to belong to a family, community, a race of people, a tribe, and a great school.

We need to connect when we don’t connect – life is just functional.

Many global nomads travel around the world but only half heartily work at connections. They are always saying “when I get home”  or “I can’t wait to go back home this summer.”  Yes, I can relate, but I also know how important it is to make a strong connection to your host country. You need to be connected to your experiences so live each day for a connection and be glad that you were able to find one in this hectic world we live in now.

Notes on presentation – Focus on Reconnection from Keynote at Bangkok Teacher’s Network –

Let me take you back to “my world.”  I spent 20 years in North West Kansas in the USA –  traveling about 300 miles from my home to exotic family vacation in places such as Cawker City to see the world’s largest ball of twine. A ball of string that weighs about nine tons and has a circumference of 40 feet.

Or when we went to Coffeyville to see a replica of a two-pound hailstone that fell in Kansas on Sept. 3rd. 1970.  I grew up in a very “exciting” place in the Midwest; my hometown was the Cow Chip Capital of Kansas.  Every year people from around the world would come to my town to throw cow chips like a frisbee to see how far they would go.  We had a population of about 120 people in our city, and during the Cow Chip Capital festival, the place would grow to over 500 people.  That was my life.

ER cow

History – going from there to here

You’ll never believe what happened!

I got a scholarship to study “education” in Hawaii so having never been on a plane, I left Russell Springs, Kansas to study on the island of Oahu in a small Catholic university.  Graduation came too quickly – Hawaii is lovely.  I decided to continue the island lifestyle and took a job on the Island of American Samoa.  Now, this is why it is amazing that I am standing here talking to a room full of educators.  I almost quit my first week of school.

I liked the small thatched garbanzos of shelters that served as our classroom that overlooked the ocean.  I loved the breeze and the cement floors and as I settled into my classroom without any walls, I had visions of teaching reading and writing to my kindergarten classroom of 16 students.  I was excited and nervous. Eager.

 I reconnected with my principal who had hired me in Honolulu and thought I was all set. On my way out of school, I stopped by the school office to see if anyone else was around and got to meet my new vice principal.  Here stood one of those Amazon type men, famous football player like and actually “huge” Samoan man in a beach sarong or as they are called in Samoa lava-lavas.  I tell you this was the largest, shiniest – shirtless man I had ever seen.  I should have seen the bear hug coming, but I did not.  After I slipped out of this massive bear hug first-day, I collected myself and decided to ask some fundamental first day questions any new teacher might ask.

“Is it possible to get a blackboard for my classroom?”  and “What exactly should I wear to school – or what teacher’s dress code do you have?”

This 350-pound man, leaned back on backed heels, glanced at me from the head to my toes and backed up, cleared his throat and replied, “I like all of my teachers to wear a top- when they are teaching.”

I knew I was not in Kansas anymore.

Imagine me – coming from north-west Kansas by way of a Catholic university planning to show up topless on my first day of school.

I had to write home and tell my family about this island encounter. (way before email and skype). We all must find humor in our lives and share those jokes.

As expats, it is vital that our family back home knows what we are doing, so they get this connection to our real life.

My blackboard did show up the next day. Well, it wasn’t what I thought a blackboard should be like.  My blackboard was really a piece of plywood and a bucket of black paint.  But I was determined to have something to write on in the classroom besides the sand outside the room. So I painted my board – black and then attempted to get it dry in the tropics during the rainy season.

 Which brings me to another huge concern for a new teacher – if the paint won’t dry. Image with the moisture and humidity does to a box of chalk.  This was the first time I cried due to my job.  I was starting to think Kansas might look pretty good about right now.

BUT my real teaching problem had not even started! 

My first day of actual class with students – again, almost had me in tears.  What new kindergarten teacher needs three sets of identical twins in their first classroom experience!  Six of my students – were just a clump in my head that I could not separate.

 Of course, I could get the two American blond boys from the two Samoan black haired males and the two Samoan black haired ponytailed girls but I couldn’t get Term and Tin straight, I couldn’t get Tasi and Tessi figured out and I could not get Sasha and Sara figured out.

But I did connect to those kids.  I did connect to the other teachers and I did connect to the school.

 Connection is the core of all good educators. 

 The connection is one thing we all have the power to do.

 

 

Early Childhood Success: Don’t focus on academics


Blog jsimens - helping families worldwideI work with the global population as well as US based parents. I am always asked about “fostering childhood success.” I remind them that I am heavily invested and involved in early childhood care.

Parents need to focus on three key things for early success with their child’s preschool experience.

Three Key Things Parents Can Do

First – Kids need to have exposure to letters and sounds, so parents need to read aloud to their children starting at an early age. It is great to share as many possible books with your young child but also have one old favorite story that you read again and again.  Repetition helps a child understand the whole reading and writing process.

Second –  Kids need to learn how to take turns.  If a child has not had exposure to group settings, kindergarten is very hard for them and their new kindergarten teacher. Make sure kids have play dates that make them share and take turns. Events, where they get to mingle with peers but must wait to take their turn in the jumpy castle or stand in line to get their cupcake, are all learning experiences that help kids function in a kindergarten classroom.

Third – Kids need to know how to use supplies and return them to an organized manner to the location they belong in.  Many parents encourage kids to work with letters, puzzles, paper, and paste but then clean up after their child. Kids that can get the supplies they need in a classroom will be more independent in their school work in Kindergarten. The teacher also looks for kids that will help with the flow of the class and a child that returns supplies to their correct area will be seen as a leader or extremely helpful to any teacher.

Note:  I hate it when parents use the words “real school” to mean what comes after preschool.  As an early childhood development expert – I feel those years of birth to age 5 are the most important in your child’s life.

 

Summer Time breeds Neighborhood Kids and Overlap: Sane or Confusing


School Buses

School’s out for the summer!

Practical or Foolish, how are the stops in your home from the neighborhood kids?

Do you seldom see your own children? Often as parents, we only remember the negative situations with our children’s neighborhood friends. Parents need to have the real facts and data so they can back up their needs with what has been happening.

Keeping track of time is important

Summer time breeds neighborhood kids and your front door banging open and shut. Summer time generates a lot of children in your living room or backyard. Summer time can foster close family time.

I encourage parents to keep a small notebook with playtime interactions that include the date and the length of time the kids played together in their own home as well as how often they were next door at their peers home. Knowing that your child was also at their home eight times this week makes it not seem so bad when their child shows up the ninth time this week.  It is also important to realize if this was a ‘normal’ week of interactions or if it was out of the norm.

 Stop bad habits before it is too late

It is much easier to stop the overuse of your home when you first noticed it happen than trying to correct a situation after it has become more of a habit. Make sure you know what is happening at the start of your summer so you are able to modify the play dates prior to it becoming a long hot July and even longer, hotter August.

As an international school counselor I often have parents find their family living in compounds or camps so this closeness and setting a play boundary is a huge concern for many families. Some families find that their own living room is overrun with kids as soon as the school day is over. It often helps to have the rule that all kids must “go home” first before they can come back to play.  This allows all those important school papers to get to their own home instead of being left at your house.  It also allows the child to possibly eat an afterschool snack at their own home creating less of a mess in your own home. I think the biggest benefit is it allows you to check in with our own children to see what their day was like and if they have any major things that need to be taken care of before play starts.

Home first then play

This is also wise during summer hours. If your child goes off to a dance class, always make them come into your own home first before going next door to play. This allows her to put up her dance shoes and dance bag. She can grab a snack and get ready for a play date next door.  If your child leaves the car directly, those special dance shoes might remain at the neighbors and will not be easy to find before the next dance class.

Rules and Meltdowns

I encourage parents to be honest with their own children first before they approach the neighborhood kids or parents. Parents should avoid having their own child meltdown when they are addressing the problem of too much time together or limiting the use of playtime at their own home.

Once you make the rules public, you need to keep to your own rules. Families deserve to have special time as a family unit. This is one benefit of the long summer hours and the kids out of school. Don’t let your home become a place where you can’t take advantage of this family time.

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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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Let Me Tell a Story about When I Was Little . . . Said the Four Year Old


Some things would make moving easier . . .

Some things would make moving easier . . .

Starting a new year is the perfect time to have your child share about their life!

Connections

Children love stories and hearing interesting stories about family members or friends help children feel more connected to those around them. Children love to hear stories about when they were younger as well as stories about when their parents were little kids.

A Look Back at This Year

Now is the perfect time to have your child reflect on what they did last year. For a child who is four — thinking about what they were like when they were three allows them to rejoice in their growth. Now is the perfect time to also work on helping your child understand his/her emotions.

If your child gets stuck working on an emotion, take that same feeling from your childhood and expand on it, so he sees the rich language and expressions of your childhood event.

Sometimes the more complex an emotion is, the more likely that you might need to share that feeling from your childhood for your child to understand. Also, this allows you to actually connect with your child.  If your child can understand how you felt when you were his age, it builds on family connections.

Your child can develop better listening skills and learn to ask questions during story times. You children hear new words as they listen to stories, which can help build their vocabulary. Children who hear lots of stories learn how stories work. They learn that characters solve problems and how stories begin and end. This helps them understand other stories they will read later in their school years.

I Learned a Lot Today

I found out that one child was afraid to swim when he was younger but now he smiles when he swims in the big pool.  One girl used not to be able to paint and now that she is big five-year-old she can mix colors. She said her face used to be sad, but now it is joyful. One often silent boy told me how when he was little he could not build Legos and now that he was four and 1/2 he could build great big towers.

Children love to tell stories about when they were little! Please encourage them to talk about how they have grown.

Expat Children Can also Tell Interesting Versions

Some of the international kids, that I work with added these comments:

  • When I was little I didn’t speak Mandarin, but now that I am big I speak Thai.
  • When I was little, I lived in Italy, and I didn’t like noodles now that I am big I eat Thai noodles.
  • When I was little, I could dance the Bali frog dance, but now I can also do Korean Dances.

I have to say, you just have to love the thoughts and comments from expat children. Expat children love to tell stories about when they were little! Please encourage them to talk about how they have grown. Then let them share this knowledge with their extended family.

My Favorite Free Digital Storytelling Tools

  1. Capzles
    Create multimedia experiences with videos, photos, music, blogs, and documents.
  2. Comic Master
    Create your own graphic novel, add backgrounds, choose characters and props to appear in your scenes, add dialogue and captions.
  3. MapSkip
    The purpose of MapSkip is to create a weave of stories about the places in our lives. Create a free account and mark places in Google Maps with your own stories and photos.
  4. Slidestory
    Slidestory allows you to combine picture slideshows with voice narration. Each picture in a slideshow has an accompanying voice narrated mp3 audio file, optional tags, and text caption.
  5. Adobe Slate
    This lets you turn your next newsletter, report, invitation, or travel adventure into a visual story. Create your Slate story and share the link anywhere.
  6. Sock Puppets
    Sock Puppets lets you create your own lip-synched videos and share them on Facebook and YouTube. You add puppets, props, scenery, and backgrounds and start creating. Hit the record button and the puppets automatically lip-synch to your voice.
  7. Toontastic
    Toontastic is a storytelling and creative learning tool that enables kids to draw, animate, and share their own cartoons with friends and family around the world through simple and fun imaginative play! With over 2 million cartoons created in over 150 countries, parents and teachers rave about the app and kids can’t stop creating!

 

 

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Perfect way to spend a vacation -words by five years olds


thinking child

What can you do when your brain doesn’t match your hand?

A perfect five-year-olds holiday – I hope their parent’s vacation plans matched up to their child’s expectation. (note– child’s spelling as written by them)

  • playing at the beach
  • going to Maine
  • swim in the pool
  • going to McDonalds
  • going to Singapores
  • go on an airplane
  • plaaying
  • going to Bali
  • going to hawwloeen
  • going to holland and the snow
  • going shipping to put food in the hotel rfrigeratr
  • going home ot see my family
  • playng in the sand

I found a random sheet of these words in a file while looking for a “tax” sheet of paper.  It took me right back to my teaching job in Indonesia many years ago.  I wish I had put each child’s name on their personal statement to help with my memory. I do recall asking them ‘What are you looking forward to doing this vacation?”

Now is the perfect time to capture your child’s memory of their recent holiday.  I’d ask them three simple questions:

  1. If we were able to “re-do” one thing again in the vacation, what would you like to experience again?
  2. Since food, smells or sights help us remember the memories, what item do you remember the most about our past vacation?
  3. What emotion would you put on that memory?

I am always sad when I go into a classroom and see –

“My favorite…”  or “The best part of my vacation was…”

I think adults often want the kids to be happy and express emotions that they find enjoyable.  So putting the label as ‘best or favorite’ only allows the child to feel it is possible to be ‘good’ or have ‘happy’ thoughts. What happens if this past vacation wasn’t that way.  What happens if some other emotion is how the child feels about the events?

Remember to be a whole person we need to experience the highs and lows and learn how to deal with them at a young age.

Crayons - around the world

… and the whole range of emotions.

So many parents do not talk about a vacation after it is over. They just move on to the next event coming up. Young children need to reflect on their experiences and to label and file them into their memory.

So many expats take wonderful vacations but don’t take the time to make these lasting memories for their young children. It just becomes something we have done but not a “Memory” to keep. I always encourage families to revisit the holiday so they can capture some of the key things to lock away into a memory.

Here is an example of capturing one of our vacations to the  Cook Islands where we meet up with Grandparents to spend the Christmas Holidays. We were traveling from Jakarta, Indonesia and they were coming from San Francisco, CA, USA.  A story as told by my four-year-old:

  1. If we were able to “re-do” one thing again in the vacation, what would you like to experience again? I’d like to visit Grandpa at the beach again to make those circle of flowers to wear. (circlet of flowers known as an ‘ei katu) We had fun making one for everyone to wear Christmas Day. I made your‘s the prettiest! I loved Rarotonga.
  2. Since food, smells or sights help us remember the memories, what item do you remember the most about our past vacation? I liked the really yellow banana chips that were hot, salty and looked neat with red ketchup on them.
  3. What emotion would you put on that memory? I’d put overjoyed when building flower gifts with Grandpa and tickled when eating!

Med and High emotions

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Are Izzat’s a dying breed?


MemoriesTo 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.

world heart

What would Halloween be without friends?


 

Sometimes Halloween abroad is not a treat!

Sometimes Halloween abroad is not a treat!

Then it got me thinking about all the issues friends can bring up around Halloween when you are an expat child (or any child).

“Should we dress alike?”

“Should we let ‘so and so’ go trick or treating with us?”

“Do we have to share with them?”

What should be a time of family fun and fun with friends can often end in an evening full of tears. There are of course some expected heighten emotions when you add too much sugar and a later bedtime, but parents can do a few simple things to help the evening go smoothly.

1. Remember if you are celebrating this holiday abroad, the expectations might not be what the parents or the kids want. The local candy might just be ‘awful’ so remind your child that there will be lots of local kids that would love to have the candy so focus on the ‘giving’ instead of the ‘taking.’

2. Remember that it can be an evening where fitting in is more important than the outfit.  Let your child pick what they want to be or dress like and forget the parent’s wants on this when you are abroad.  Nothing ruins a holiday more than an unhappy child.

3. Remember if your child decides to exclude ‘friends’ to remind them what the core values of your family are with words. “Our family values  politeness.” Or “Our family values courtesy.”  Or “Our family values civility.” Try not to say, “You should invite her.”

Halloween is for friends! Trick-or-treating is a customary celebration for children on Halloween. Let your kids celebrate. Love your child unconditionally, but hold him/her accountable for decisions or behavior that go against the family’s values.

Sunflower Bob - "Do I have to wear this?"

Sunflower Bob – “Do I have to wear this?”

In “Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child, I wrote short stories that take place in a variety of locations. The emotions are described in these short stories. Then it covers why the location is so unique. Some of these stories were from Jackie’s experiences around the world, and some were from Grant’s. 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 voices. 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 like the story to be read?

See if your child can take some of their experiences and place them into their own emotion stories. Most children can relate to other kids. Ask your child, “When did you feel like Jack?”

Joy During Halloween – Jack’s Story

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 the joy.

Geography

Neighborhoods around the world where families are involved in Halloween. You can experience joy while going through your trick or treat bag after a late night of running around the neighborhood. As you pile the candy into two very different piles; Candy that is well worth keeping and Candy that needs to be given away as soon as possible. As you take your fifth piece of candy and slowly unwrap it, so the wrapping does not make any noise, you smile with joy.  It has been a fun evening for you and your friends. You wish it could have lasted longer.

Jack’s Story – Joy

The evening ritual begins. The moon starts to shine and Jack rubs his eyes. As Jack and his mom start the short walk across the neighborhood to their home, she asks him, “What was your evening like?”

“Let me think about it,” Jack grabs her hand, looks up with a smile and continues the walk home.

“How was your evening?” she leans over and asks again as he snuggles into his bed.

“Mommy, I had a good night at “trick and treating.” What should I dream about tonight?”

“Dream about what you experienced this evening,” she softly says as she leans closer and smoothes his pillow.

“Mommy, I am thinking about all the joy I felt tonight. I am going to dream about the parade we all took part in. I am going to remember the smiles on everyone’s faces as they walked around the neighborhood. I will remember their joy when they realized that they received some Halloween candy that they love. I am going to remember my joy when I saw you dressed up in your pumpkin hat. I am going to remember how much joy I had when I got to lug my huge trick or treat bag back home. 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 all the things we do on Halloween. I loved being a werewolf this year.  It was fun to go all over the neighborhood shedding my hair! Good night Mom.”

“Good night, Jack.”

Leaving Hair all over the Neighborhood!

 

Imagine my surprise when this video was sent to me from a friend!

 

 

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