Have you ever wondered whether you’re doing the right thing by your children, traipsing them across the globe as part of an international assignment and exposing them to the globally mobile life?
You are not alone!
Back in 2016, I joined over 600 other delegates as we immersed ourselves in the Moving With Kids Online Summit. Hosted by the affable and down-to-earth Rachel Yates, it was 14 days of incredible wisdom from experts in the global mobility world to help parents of globally mobile kids navigate the smooth and rough waters of living abroad. Some of us were participating purely as parents. Others, like me, were there with two hats on – the parent hat and the working with globally mobile kids hat. All of us had the same goal – to support globally mobile children through the triumphs and trials of transition to place them in a position to succeed, in the classroom and life. With that in mind, let me share with you my 3 main “take home” points – literally.
The Family Unit is Crucial
Moving overseas means leaving behind our support network and often going it alone as a family. The reality of expatriate life is that the majority of families are relocated because of one family member’s job and it can, therefore, become all too easy for one parent to take the role of the Provider whilst the other takes on the role of Parent. Julia Simens and Dr. Jill Kristal reminded us that for all family members to thrive, both Mum and Dad need to be actively involved in the family. To place our globally mobile children in a position to succeed, they need to know that we, as parents, are close – physically and emotionally. Quality time as a complete family unit is vital. It may be an hour or it may be a week but spending time together, all connected, sets a solid foundation for adolescence. Doing things together and feeling connected will help our teenagers to know that they have a safe place to come back to and share, when things are not going so well. This also helps our globally mobile children to know what it feels like to be in a connected, positive relationship – something that will set them up for successful relationships throughout life.
As the Summer holidays begin in the Northern Hemisphere and the Winter Mid-Year Break looms in the Southern hemisphere, I make a plea to the Assignee here – please take all of your Annual Leave. I have had the unfortunate need to attend far too many funerals since we repatriated last year and the one thing that has not been said at any of them is that the person for whom we gathered had wished they’d spent more time at work. Those able to reflect on their life did say they wished they’d spent more time with their family. You won’t win any medals for not taking all your annual leave but you will significantly and positively impact your children’s social, emotional, cognitive and physical wellbeing by connecting with them and creating lasting wonderful memories together. You and your partner will benefit too!
Honesty in Communication
Have you watched the Pixar Movie ‘Inside Out’ yet? It is a must-see for all globally mobile families – together (even if you have teenagers). For our family it provided an opportunity for honest dialogue about the emotions associated with repatriating and since then we have become more open and honest about the good and the bad feelings – no mean feat given that our children are two teenage boys! Ellen Mahoney reinforced the necessity of honest communication and that as parents, we need to work on our communication skills too. Through honest and respectful communication, we are creating an environment in our homes where our family members feel safe to be authentic people. After all, we want our children to come to us when things are going well and not so well, don’t we? How do I do this, I hear you ask. Read on.
Developing an Emotional Vocabulary
As I mentioned earlier, I am the Mum to two gorgeous but somewhat typical teenage boys. The word ‘verbose’ is not one I would use to describe either of them so developing their emotional vocabulary has had its challenges. In the past I have used a great visual tool created by Kaitlin Robbs to help them (and my students) find the words to describe their feelings but Katie Halloran and Tracey Ellis’ presentations have had me doing some reflective thinking about my own emotional vocabulary and how I role model its use to my not-so-verbose family members. I’m fairly proficient at verbalizing the good emotions (I went through teacher training in the positive reinforcement at-all-costs era) but if I’m honest (see previous take home point!), there’s plenty of room for improvement of the not-so-good emotions. I’ve set myself the goal of also sharing the moments when disappointment comes, when I am sad or when I do make a mistake so that my boys can see me deal with it and know that life is not always perfect. Julia Simens maintains that we don’t need to fix the negative emotions but rather find the connection between the emotion and the situation. Easier said than done I know, but Julia’s book, Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child, provides all the practical tips you will need. By expressing ourselves authentically, we provide an outlet for the stress and anxiety and create room to replace it with connection, joy, love and a sense of belonging, thus placing our children in a position to succeed in the classroom and life.
Now back to my original question: Are you doing the right thing by your children, traipsing them across the globe as part of an international assignment and exposing them to the globally mobile life? By providing a cohesive family unit, creating a home environment where honest and respectful communication is sought and valued and developing & role modeling emotional vocabulary in your communication, you will be well on the way to placing your globally mobile children in a position to succeed and make the most of the incredible opportunities and experiences afforded to them during this season of mobility. And if you are not doing these things, rest assured you haven’t missed the boat. Start today! You too can access the experts from the Moving With Kids Summit here.
Photo Credit: HR Review