J Simens.com

To all the Mom’s with Seniors: We have had the best job in the world

Education is one of the most important things that I value in life.  This is why I went to seek out the principal of the school and ran over the highs and lows of my child’s time at his school.  I  called it my exit interview. I felt it is important because as an educator that is not being paid by his school, I could be honest, timely and truthful about my feedback.


Children who will be ready to excel in college are the ones that have already failed.

Did they miss an assignment and their parents didn’t ask the teacher to ‘lighten up’ on their child?  Did they oversleep and their parents didn’t call and lie to the school? Did they miss out on an A by .07 and their parents said “Looks like you worked hard and I am sorry that you didn’t get what you wanted” but the parents didn’t comment about the teacher or gloss over the sadness of missing something so close. These parents are the real winners in the world.

Good parents = Good Job = Wonderful Kids

How do you measure success? Please let your children have some stress in their lives so they can grow into the best they can be.

stress diamond
Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child

For parents who have children that have grown up in a different country than their passport country, you might have some ‘interesting’ things to face. Where should your kids go to University? Where should they look for summer jobs? How or where will they get identification besides a passport?These are a few of the things you will have to iron out with your expat child.

Some things that I found out the hard way:

Getting a US driver’s license is hard due to all the rules and requirements. Many of my friends don’t own a car in the USA so their kids can’t take a driving test, you need to show proof of insurance and valid registration and rental cars won’t work.  Nevada has a great law; you have to have insurance in the state of Nevada, but you don’t have to have car insurance to drive the car off the car dealerships lot.  Oh, but yes, you do get a $100 fine if you then try to register the vehicle because you drove it without insurance.

A child might be good at flying all over the world, spend weeks traveling with friends in Europe but can’t get a hotel room traveling in some states in the USA because they are not 21 years old. If they were in the USA military, they could rent at 18 years old.

Using a company mail pouch can cause concerns in several areas. Your child might be labeled as coming from that address, so, therefore, they get pegged as a student from that state when in fact they are international.  Learning to pay bills online is easy but having to understand the US post system can be hard for some children who have always lived overseas.

Laundry can be a challenge for any child so let them do their own before they head off to Univeristy.

Connections to all family members – encourage your college student to reach out and make contact to all siblings, both mom and dad, and grandparents. Often in the past, communication was done in person or initiated by a parent to the grandparent. Make sure your college kid has a way to connect with everyone.

Hug every change you get your child soon will not be walking across your kitchen several times a day and as a parent you will miss that!

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Changing Worlds: Transitions of an Expat Family

Sometimes you just have to start at the beginning!  Do you know all of these terms?

  • Expat – one who is living outside their country.
  • Global Nomads – someone who has lived abroad as a child as a consequence of a parent’s job.
  • TCK – Third Culture Kid – a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture.
  • ATCK – an adult TCK, a TCK’s who has reached adulthood.
  • CCK – Cross Cultural Kid – a person who is living or has lived in, or has a meaningfully interacted with, two or more cultural environments for a significant period of time during childhood.
  • ACCK – an adult CCK, a CCK, who has reached adulthood.

Here is a parent presentation, we gave at Pasir Ridge International School, Balikpapan Indonesia. The prezi has several videos in it, so please just hit the little play button on the video if you are interested in what we showed the parents. Please let me know if you’d like some of the workshop information passed on to you.

Why businesses benefit from employing third culture kids

In today’s world, it is easy to take globalization for granted. Many companies today have employees who have grown up everywhere, are based on global offices, have international clients, and have regular teleconferences. Every working day is a cross-cultural encounter.

One product of this global professional lifestyle is the children who are born and raised amidst these mixed cultural contacts and settings. While removed from the rigors of international interactions in the workplace, they face unique cultural challenges of their own through the schools they attend and the friends they make. Often, these encounters differ significantly from the cultural settings at home with their parents. As a result, these children maintain a lifestyle where they constantly migrate between diverse cultural environments at home, at school, and at social contacts.

This is further complicated when their parents’ career faces change, and they must inevitably be uprooted and transplanted to new and unfamiliar places.  Then they must learn to interact in new cultural settings while simultaneously reconciling their identity with the values and experiences internalized in places previously inhabited.

As parents, we all want our kids to be ‘out on their own.’

Pollock and Van Reken describe TCKs as resilient, adaptive and possessing an extraordinary perspective on the world, as a result of their genuinely cross-cultural and highly mobile lifestyle during their formative years. These characteristics translate to valuable skills and assets for future professionals. TCKs are four times more likely than non-TCKs to earn a bachelor’s degree, and forty percent go ahead to earn an advanced degree. Many TCKs pursue work in education, medicine, and other professional positions and are also likely to be self-employed as freelancers or consultants. Multi-lingual TCKs naturally slip into international assignments, skilled jobs in government and the military and are familiar with the process of moving and adjusting to different places. The unique world-view and experiences that many TCKs possess present a definite advantage to many globally minded companies and organizations.

Goals – what are important for your family?

A key thing to remember when living with TCK’s is to remember that their lives are often about both/and realities, not either/or.


Many TCKs have an expanded view of the world because they have seen much of it firsthand, but they may not be well versed in the cultural expectations and nuances of their home or passport country.

Many TCKs have a 3-dimensional view of the world. They have seen places and cultural events in person that many others only see in National Geographic magazines.

This mobility also creates chronic cycles of separation and lost. They and their friends are frequently moving. Dealing with the grief that each farewell brings can become a major issue for global families.


Most TCKs have friends all over the world. We have even heard of “global families sorting their friends by continents”. Today’s world of social media has helped enormously. A new challenge facing some is to make “in person” friends in the new place rather than spend all of their time on Facebook with friends from a previous location.

You can find one of the best videos on loneliness here: http://www.upworthy.com/loneliness-illustrated-so-beautifully-you-will-need-to-tell-someone?c=upw1

alone but connected

Are you giving up something important?

Many TCKs also face challenges that, unfortunately, manifest themselves professionally. Many TCKs are schooled in educational systems that do not translate to their passport countries. A Korean student, who received her education in English while living in Malawi and Kenya, may not perform well at a university in Korea, where she needs to write papers and give oral presentations in Korean.

As a result, her professional opportunities in Korea will not be as extensive as those for another Korean student who had been raised in the Korean educational system. This challenge is especially pronounced for TCKs, who wish to pursue skilled professions such as medicine and law in their passport countries. Because of their highly specialized terminology, education and proficiency in the language of the passport country is essential for success. Unless TCKs receive supplemental education in these languages, they may miss out on opportunities in these areas.

As globalization becomes more and more a fact of life, TCKs are a model for tomorrow’s professionals.

If you work with the global nomad population, please get Lois Bushong’s book, “Belonging Everywhere and Nowhere: Insights into Counseling the Globally Mobile”. You can get it on Amazon.com either in printed form or electronic form. It is also an excellent tool for families who want to help their children grow as they move around the world.

Importance of family rituals

Rituals are valuable because they are a way to develop a sense of shared joys and positive memories. The most important thing a family ritual can provide is space and time for emotional healing if the family relationships need that time. Good memories help eclipse the upsetting ones. Rituals provide a sense of security and can be soothing.

As a global family what has been your biggest transition? Please share so we can all continue to learn.



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What Do Cultures See?

three things we need to doWhere is the research for our Cross-Cultural Kids?

When will we be able to share information on how they ‘see’ the world. I know about the work from FIGT and the Interchange Institute but there must be more information out there since we all becoming so much more global?

From : Ian Bullock – Is your Brain East or West?

With a few modern updates, Western culture has been re-creating the same story over and over again since Homer collected The Odyssey more than two and a half thousand years ago. Since the Greeks, the ideal of the unique and strong individual has become so prevalent in Western culture that we have stopped to realize that it is even part of our culture. Often we mistake our perceptions of the world for how the world really is.

When I work with young kids, I try to see if the predictions from psychologists are true.

  • Do North Americans children overestimate their own distinctiveness.
  • Do Americans and Canadians talk about their individual personality and personal outlook more than others do.
  • Do North Americans tend to settle arguments in terms of right and wrong.
  • Do East Asians tend to seek compromises?

My problem is I can find so few of these kids.

All most everyone I work with can’t be labeled as North American, East Asian or etc. because they have lived a significant part of their life in another country. They are cross cultural kids.

Perhaps as an adult you are more aware and comfortable with one dominate culture. New research shows that culture even affects our cognition.

Great Research - We need more for our CCKs

Great Research – We need more for our CCKs

A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology claims that Americans and Japanese intuit the emotions of others differently based on cultural training. North Americans try to identify the single important thing that is key to making a decision, explains Dr. Takahiko Masuda, the study’s author. He asked questions like these:

Did you look at the picture above?

What did you focus on?

Did you see the main basketball boy or did you see the team in the background?

Masuda studied the eye movement of Americans and Japanese when analyzing a picture of a group of cartoon people. When asked to interpret the emotion of the person in the center, the Japanese looked at the person for about one second before moving on to the people in the background. They needed to know how the group was feeling before understanding the emotion of the individual. The Americans (and Canadians in subsequent studies) focused 95% of their attention on the person in the center. Only 5% of their attention was focused on the background, and this, Dr. Masuda points out, didn’t influence their interpretation of the central figure’s emotion.

Dr. Masuda is quick to point out that Americans and Japanese are physiologically the same. The difference in eye movement is tied to the roots of our respective cultures.

Masuda stresses that no way of perceiving the world is better than another and refuses to interpret his studies too broadly. He has yet to conduct his tests in Africa or South America.

But the message for me is loud and clear.

Masuda’s study is important

Some see the world this way …

It reminds us that there is more than one way of seeing the world. Who can say what we really see when we look at the same thing?

Only by communication can we see the same.

Only by sharing our views can we see the same thing.

Only by caring enough to ask someone what they see can we see the same thing.

Please search out where some great cross-cultural studies are being documented and let me know.

What should we want to know about our CCK’s?



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Summer parenting tip worth a fortune

High Five - helping your child thrive

Do you want to implement something that will guarantee academic success for your child?

Do you want to learn how to introduce them to this during the summer so it works when school starts?


Note taking is the one thing your child must master

Computers are wonderful.  Old fashion flashcards really do work. Teaching your child how to take notes the “best” way is a very important activity to attempt this summer.

Show your child how notes can be used like flashcards because you write them in a form where you separate a “stimulus” from a “response.”  The stimulus are cues or questions (think: front side of flashcard), while the response is the answer to the cue (think: back of flashcard). 

Simple to do in your notebook. This is where you are expected to take notes in class but you can easily make them your teaching tool.  Put the stimuli to the left of a margin, while the responses are to the right. The key advantage of this is that just by putting a sheet of paper on top of your notes, you can hide the responses, while leaving the stimuli visible. This makes a great study guide.

explain the process - teach this skill

explain the process – teach this skill

There are many types of notes taking system but often our kids learn about them too late. Why can’t your child learn a simple system in elementary and high school? The Cornell Notetaking method shows you how to write notes in a very simple system.

Information on handwriting

Many writers boast about the benefits of writing with pens or pencils. Elementary school students who wrote essays with a pen not only wrote more than their keyboard-tapping peers, but they also wrote faster and in more complete sentences.

The art of note taking and  the art of handwriting are also beneficial for adults.  Research has shown that it keeps your brain sharp as you get older.  

Why not spend some time this summer doing something that will benefit both you and your child?


Related information here A Learning Secret: Don’t Take Notes with a Laptop. Students who used longhand remembered more and had a deeper understanding of the material

Related blogs – Early success for preschool children and Here for Global Families: Identity risk factor so potential problems are minimized. Many expat families will enjoy this blog.


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CCK’s First Crush: Love from the eyes of a cross-cultural kid

First love

We all know that children fall in love! Easily!  They see someone that looks inviting and they are warm and open and cupid’s arrow hits them.  The problem is this might happen at any age.

jsimens valentines day

When it happens to your child when they are in middle school you are eager and ready to help them understand how they might be feeling. When it happens in High School you caution them on taking things too fast.

What happens to you when it is your five or six year old?

How about when it is your eight, nine or ten year old that falls in love? When my son was 11 he wanted to write a book about students in love in an international school. I wondered if he had enough information.  He sat down and started typing.  Four days later in the summer holiday, he had about 35 pages of words about love in an elementary school.  As an educator, I had to sit back and say, “What do I do to help my students when this happens to them?”  As a parent, I wondered, “Do I support my child enough when this happens?”

Then I think about a summer  years ago and a conversation that I overheard between my nine year old and his grandma. He was explaining to Grandma about the girl he had meet at the lakeside park on the swings. He said, “Grandma, did you see that really pretty girl at the swings?”  Grandma was trying to determine who this girl was and asked simple questions like, “Did she have the purple swimsuit or was she the one with the red hair?”

When your child is very experienced in the international world, his/her answers might not follow this type of logic.  I hear my son say, “Well Grandma, she had very warm  golden skin. It was not really like an Indonesian color but more like Malaysian skin. Do you know where she is from?

Grandma replied, “I am not sure, tell me more.”

“She had warm tan skin and big brown eyes with a cute smile.”

“I didn’t see her.”

“She might be from some other place, maybe she is from Myanmar.”

Remember my son has spent most of his live living in South East Asia.  This was his frame of reference and he could understand the uniqueness of each region even at the age of nine. He had not been exposed to all of the types of people in Nevada, USA.

I wonder if this could have develop into a “crush” if he had ever run into that “little warm golden skinned girl with the great smile” at the local park again.

More about his book can be found here.

Spirit of Saint Valentine - Grant Simens

The Book of Afformations World Tour!

Do you know NOAH ST. JOHN?  If not, you need to.

“Noah St. John’s work is about discovering within ourselves what we should have known all along—we are truly powerful beings with unlimited potential.”
– Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

I first came across Noah because of his book “Permission to Succeed”.  Having two kids at University I also shared this concept of Noah’s:

Remember the difference between simple and easy.
However, and this may sound like a contradiction (but it isn’t),
remember that there is a very important distinction between simple
and easy. Simple means something that is not complicated, complex,
or difficult to understand. Easy means something that takes little to
no effort to accomplish. What is simple is not always easy. In fact, one
of the biggest problems in our industry is that people often confuse
simple and easy.”

This lead to many great discussions on what classes to take in college, how to approach that roommate situation and even into time management conversations.

What I like most about Noah’s work is his belief in the mind. He feels, “The human mind is an incredibly miraculous thing”.  As parents, we need to help get this across to our children and I believe we need to do this starting early in their lives.

Imagine what your child can do if they understood the CPR (Current Perceived Reality)!  Even as adults we need to take stock in ‘where we are’ and ‘where we want to be’.


I was provided with information on the new book, The Book of Afformations, by Noah St. John, in the hopes that I would share my honest opinions.  I received no monetary compensation and the opinions expressed are my own.  I chose to share this book with you because I believe that our thoughts do form the outcome of our lives.

Who Else Wants More Ethical Decisions in the World

Do emotions help us make more ethical decisions? I believe they do. If the child cannot understand their own emotions or tune into the emotions of others in their family or with peers, this is a huge risk. If the child is unable to make ethical decisions, they are a risk to themselves and a risk to society.

The future leaders of the world may well be our own global nomads. We need to make sure they have the ability to understand “emotions”.  Many people know the 7 basic emotions: Anger, Contempt, Fear, Disgust, Happiness, Sadness and Surprise. By the time a person is holding political offices or CEO’s have they forgotten what they learned as toddlers?

Teach them early - jsimensproject.com

The toddler years are an important first step in emotional regulation (the process of learning how emotions make you feel inside and healthy ways to show these emotions to others).

When a child learns to regulate or control their emotions, they learn how to:

  • recognize what they are feeling
  • show those feelings in ways that don’t hurt them or others
  • cope with their emotions
  • This process starts when your child is a toddler and takes many years.

Two reasons we must help our expat children:


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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.

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Carpal or Carpool ???

How did you spend last summer?

My Carpool tunnel syndrome has turned into Carpal tunnel syndrome. A tight grip of the steering wheel makes the short trip seem like a major phenomenon. As the sweat runs down the back of my knees I peer in the rear view 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. Yet, I have never had an accident while driving. I also have sat and survived 6 international driving tests.

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 own 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 fake 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 and 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 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 a 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 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” 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!


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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