Recommended Reading: June 25th, 2018

Welcome to this week’s edition of Recommended Reading! This week includes posts that capture a range of expressions of the inner conflict that comes with living between places, languages, and people.

This Man’s Twitter Thread About Being A Young Immigrant In America Is Incredible
Distractify
The writer of this post, a child of immigrants, reflects on an experience shared by a Korean immigrant. The series of tweets telling the story are explained and expanded in a helpful way. As a newly arrived immigrant child, this person was in a science class that was taking a quiz (which he wasn’t expected to complete). He knew the answers – but not in English. There are so many valuable reflections here on what it means to be new, to feel incompetent and stupid because you can’t be the articulate and smart part of yourself in a new language and culture. Most expats and immigrants have felt this; that experience should compel us to grace and kindness to anyone going through it – no matter where we are. The best part of this story, however, is what happens after that moment of frustration. I won’t spoil it. Go read it for yourself – it’s worth it!

How to Make – and Keep – Expat Friends
Wine and Cheese (Doodles)
A wonderful post on navigating the difficulty that is balancing friendships around the world. How do we keep making new friends, and maintaining them, with all the change going on? Lots of great stuff, but I particularly like what she says about knowing that while you can maintain a friendship long distance, it will be different:
When you’ve moved on or have friends that have, the original bond that held you together, being in the same place at the same time, is broken. You’re not experiencing the same endless shitty winter or worries about math class together. . .Your conversations will flow differently because you’re experiencing different things. . .But that doesn’t mean the friendship can’t or won’t survive. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that expat friendships can’t – or shouldn’t – evolve. They can.

Why international days and celebrations are difficult for true internationals
Expat Since Birth
Ute does a wonderful job explaining the inner conflict that “international days” (as celebrated at many international schools) can stir up. For some TCKs I know, these are the days they are dressed up in clothes that represent their parents’ country of origin. For others, there is the stress of which country to dress up as. For still others, there is the conflict of knowing which country they are expected to represent, but feeling much more connected to somewhere else.

Returning Home
Velvet Ashes
In this post missionary wrestles with the concept of home – what happens when you have added another place to your heart? While not everyone will identify with the author’s Christian worldview, her reflections on the tension of “home” are poignant:
I can’t go home…because I have more than one. Someone else has said, “Home is where the heart is.” Where is my heart? Is it in the states with my family? Yes. Is it here in Germany? Also, yes. . .Returning to the states for good would mean giving up everything here – leaving the home I have built here. I do love my home here. But returning here after a visit home to the states means leaving my family, the people I care about most. Home will always be where my family is. But home is also the life I have built here.

Is cultural knowledge more important than language skills?
BBC
This is a really interesting piece, considering the impact of linguistic fluency and cultural fluency for expats in different parts of the world. There are a lot of vignettes from expats all over the place, but no sweeping conclusions. The general theme seems to be that for short term living, speaking the basics of a language are enough. But to really adapt long term, both cultural understanding and fluency of local language are important.

Saying Goodbye… Advice For Expat Teachers On The Move
Intentional Learning
On the surface this is a short post with good advice about leaving well – like many others. But there is one point in it that stood out to me and made it worth mentioning: “Thank the ‘lead locals’ in your life. As expats we come and go, but how intentional are we in expressing our thanks for the hospitality (and tolerance!) shown to us by those whose country it is in which we live?” I suspect for too many of us this isn’t the top of our list of things to do when leaving, especially those of us deeply engaged in expatriate communities. Definitely worth a second thought…

Third Culture Kids – Stone and Water Work
Life Story
In this piece Dr. Rachel Cason uses the metaphors of stones and water for work that we do in order to process our lives. The image is of a bowl of coloured stones in water. The stones are all the pieces of self to be identified and expressed. The water is the space in which those pieces are heard – equally important, but easily overlooked. This is why I talk a lot about the importance of TCKs having space in their lives – space to work out who they are. Without this space, there is no way to process all the pieces.
Water work is the piece of work that allows the stones to be heard… it is the precursor of active sorting out and shaping, it is active stillness. . .Water work is the part of therapeutic work that is often the most challenging. The stone work feels more pressing, more active, more ‘doing’. But the water work is where we learn about our selves

5 stages of adapting to your new country’s culture when studying abroad
Study International
To finish up, I’m sharing this lighter piece outlining common stages students go through during a study abroad program. Expats in general may well recognise these! And a few silly GIFs never hurt anyone ;)

 

Recommended Reading: June 18th, 2018

Welcome to this week’s edition of Recommended Reading! The posts I’m recommending this week concern parenting. I think it’s worth pointing out that posts about parenting aren’t just for parents. They have lessons to offer others, too. A lot of these posts aren’t specifically for expats, but they have a lot to speak to the expat experience. I’m not a parent myself, but I often find that parenting posts have a lot to offer me, too. They help me understand parents’ perspectives, and as I work with young people a lot that is helpful too, but they also can have helpful messages for me personally in my own situation. Each of these posts are worth reading no matter what your individual situation is.

Two Challenges That Homeschooling Families Face on the Field
A Life Overseas
I love this post by Elizabeth. She starts with a quote and idea from the homeschooling section of Misunderstood, then expands and explains it beautifully. Honestly, if I ever release a revised edition of Misunderstood I’ll probably want to quote this article in a revamped homeschooling section! I thought this quote was particularly telling:
I had sufficient time to home school, I felt equipped to home school, and I wanted to home school. We still needed more support than we had been receiving.”

A Sense of Home: Raising International Children With Irish Hearts
Huffington Post
I had a bittersweet feeling as I read this post. I appreciate so much the work of parents like these to help their children connect to their heritage country. I love that this mother recognises the power of experiences, sights and sounds and tastes, to create a sense of home. I love that she recognises that “home” is multi-faceted for her international children. But I can’t help but hope that she also knows that the oh-so-important experiential connections she is fostering between her children and her homeland will be different to hers. I hope she understands that yes, she is ensuring her children “will always know that they are Irish and that Ireland is their home“, but that this might mean something very different to them. It’s such a tricky balance! TCKs benefit so much from strong experiential connections to their heritage cultures, but at the same time, those connections don’t add up to the same experience as growing up in that one place.

10 Things to Expect When You Take TCKs “Home”
Taking Route
I really appreciate this insightful and sensitive piece by Emily Jackson – and it is an appropriate follow on from the post I just mentioned. Emily writes about what happens inside TCKs when they go “home” to a passport country they haven’t lived in for a long time. Everything on the list is good, but number 3, “Pop-up Processing”, really stood out to me:
“They were probably too young to form it into words when it was happening, or it was so much a part of their everyday life that they never stopped to think if they liked it or not. Once you’re out of the culture a bit, those thoughts and emotions have a chance to bubble up and get processed, and might pop out when you’re least expecting them.”

The transition we travelers rarely talk about
Lola Akinmade
Award winning travel photographer Lola Akinmade discusses the struggle to balance the need to travel with the need to spend time with family. She comes to a lovely conclusion – that travel is about attitude to place, and that this attitude of curiosity and discovery can be applied wherever we are, on short trips and during long stays: “Wherever I find myself for extended periods of time. I don’t just exist in a place. I need to get beneath it, understand how it flows culturally, and learn from it. I don’t just quietly exist in Sweden. I explore it deeply.

Be Fearless! Pass On Your Heritage Language and Culture To Your Children
Multicultural Kid Blogs
As I travel and speak to parents in different countries, I am frequently asked about engaging children in the parents’ language/s. Some worry that this could be a hindrance to their kids. Others are disappointed in their kids’ lack of interest in learning a heritage language. The main piece of advice I give is that it always helps for kids to have access to their heritage languages (looking back they may regret not learning them, or may try to go back to them) but forcing a child to study something against their will always backfires. Therefore, the best thing you can do is find ways to make the language part of family life. This post is a great encouragement to parents who want to engage their kids linguistically, but feel unsure of how to do this. Amanda “Miss Panda” gives lots of simple, practical advice. She also points out that language is not just language – it is about culture, about ways we connect to a cultural community. Helping your child absorb a language is about so much more than the words you speak.

Should I Stop Speaking my Native Language with my Children?
Bilinguistics
And on that subject, this article lays out a lot of research related to bilingualism in children, aimed at giving solid advice to parents who are worried about the impact of language on a child’s development. Lots of references to different research in the area – fantastic resource!

Expat parents in Belgium: how to help your children with homework when you don’t speak the language
Expatica
For many families, the choice to live internationally means children will not be educated in the family’s home language. This can add an extra stress to parents who feel ill-equipped to help with their kids’ school work. This stress can also build up over time, as students begin to do more advanced reading and writing, with linguistic quirks beyond the parents’ grasp. This article is based in Belgium, but the concepts and advice offered are applicable beyond Belgium.

Parents, Know Thyselves In Your Child’s College Admission Process
Forbes
While the article itself is not expat/TCK specific, this is an important topic for a lot of expats. There is a high expectation that TCKs will go to university, often in different countries (where parents are less familiar with the system). Both TCKs and their parents can feel a lot of pressure to apply to (and attend) the “best” schools. This article has some good tips for parents about how to engage with the college application process – and how not to. Advice includes working with (not against) guidance counsellors, and stepping back to allow kids to own the process, and the decision making. I found this quote particularly helpful:
It all comes down to trusting that you’ve done your job as a parent up to this point. Of course, you’ll have doubts and worries, moments of panic and a sense that you’re losing control of your student. And in a genuine sense, you are, but not chaotically, just in the natural process of separation.

When homeschooling feels lonely

Today I have a guest post up on Velvet Ashes, an online community for women serving overseas. In my post I share some of what I learned from homeschooled TCKs while researching for Misunderstood. There are a few stats and quotes from the book, as I discuss how loneliness can negatively affect homeschooled TCKs – and how parents can help.

As I have mentored and interviewed TCKs, I have seen over and over that parents have the power to dramatically impact their child’s experience.

Homeschooling may be academically daunting at times, but a parent’s engaged and supportive presence makes a huge difference.

Homeschooling may be socially isolating at times, but parents can lead the way in providing access to and encouraging engagement with peers.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please head over to Velvet Ashes to read the full article and comment there.

va-homeschool