“Maman, this guy is my buddy!” (E, 3 years old)

Walking into the childcare centre, one of the carer was sitting in the kitchen. My little one pointed him out to me, saying “Maman, this guy is my buddy!” The carer offered his hand to do a high five, “cool, buddy, have a good day E”. Holding himself in a ‘cool manner’, my son reciprocated, smiled, laughed and walked on. Later on in the day, I picked my little one up. It made me smile when I noticed my son and his friends completed wrapped around the same carer, playing, what appeared to be ‘funny and cool games’. The carer was sitting with the children, amongst them, playing games that appeared to me engaging, fun, participative and particularly playful. It really made me think about the role of a male carer can have on such young children.

At the childcare centre and in schools where I work, I noticed there is a much higher concentration of male carers/teachers to what I am used to in the UK. I think it is particularly healthy for children, from a young age, to work with different people and role models. It gives the children a sense of  parity and equality. Isn’t particularly important to give children this experience in educational settings where they grow and develop their identity and experiences of the world?

I certainly feel that, in what I observed at my son’s childcare centre, the children appeared to have so much fun, engaged in fun and playful games, which created interesting interactions and opportunities for play and learning.

My son certainly has words to describe his connection to this male carer…’my buddy’.

Citoyens du Monde: Notre Histoire

Je suis née au Québec. Je suis partie pour un été en 1998 avec un sac à dos pour travailler et voyager en Écosse. J’ai rencontré mon mari là-bas, deux semaines après mon arrivée. Il est Anglais. Nous avons vécu cinq ans en Écosse, deux ans sur l’Ile de Wight dans le sud de l’Angleterre, et ensuite en dans l’est de l’Angleterre, dans le comté d’Essex, pendant dix ans.

Nous avons trois enfants âgés de 13, 10 et 3 ans. Les enfants ont tous la double nationalité canadienne et britannique. Nous avons toujours voyagé avec les enfants. Mon mari a aussi eu l’opportunité de voyager pour le travail. Je l’ai accompagné dans certains de ses voyages, en Grèce, en France et en Afrique du Sud. Nous nous sommes toujours sentis comme des citoyens du monde pouvant créer un « chez-soi » partout au monde.

DES ÉPREUVES QUI CHANGENT LES PERCEPTIONS

En moins de six mois, nous avons perdu, mon mari et moi, chacun un parent. Ce qui a mis beaucoup de pression dans nos vies. Ces évènements ont aussi apporté des moments de réflexions et de réalisation que la vie a besoin d’être vécue. Notre tristesse s’est transformée en un monde de possibilités.

Dans les dernières années, nous avions considéré à plusieurs reprises aller vivre au Canada. L’Outaouais nous attirait particulièrement par cette possibilité d’assurer une continuité de bilinguisme pour la famille. Par contre, mon mari avait un emploi stable. J’ai fait un doctorat avec trois enfants, ce qui a demandé beaucoup d’énergie. Déménager avec peu de stabilité et sécurité d’emploi était un risque, surtout avec une jeune famille. Nous avions opté pour le statu quo.

Après quelques déménagements, nous avions développé notre chez-nous, personnel et professionnel. Nous avions aussi une belle maison que nous avons améliorée au fil des ans. Nous avions construit une petite maison dans le jardin, pour mon bureau. J’avais passé beaucoup de temps à choisir le modèle. Elle était très belle. C’était mon bureau, un havre de paix. Nous avions attendu pour la construire, au cas où nous déciderions de partir. Avec la venue d’un troisième enfant, nous avions décidé de rester. Construire la cabane et finir le grenier.

DÉMÉNAGER DANS UN AUTRE PAYS N’ÉTAIT PAS DANS LES PLANS

Nous avons toujours été à l’affût d’opportunités, particulièrement professionnelles. Mon mari a vu une opportunité sur un site professionnel, une opportunité en Angleterre et en Australie pour la même compagnie. Mon mari m’a écrit un courriel, « Prête pour un changement? » avec la description d’un emploi très intéressant pour lui, particulièrement stimulant et avec de beaux défis. Quand il m’en a parlé, ça faisait longtemps que je l’avais vu si enthousiaste pour le travail. Ma réaction a été : « Oh Mon Dieu, on vient de faire ma “cabane dans le jardin”, un peu sous le choc. Je n’ai JAMAIS pensé à un déménagement en Australie!

Après les courriels initiaux et les premières discussions, comme couple, nous avons discuté et discuté et discuté, des débats existentiels, à l’abri des oreilles des enfants. Nous ne voulions pas créer d’incertitudes pour rien. Mon mari a commencé un processus de discussions avec l’employeur, signalant qu’il souhaitait poser sa candidature pour le poste en Australie, et non celui en Angleterre, malgré les premières perceptions. Il a ensuite soumis son application et a participé à un long processus d’entrevues sur Skype. Nous avons continué les routines quotidiennes, aller travailler, s’occuper des enfants, faire les repas, le lavage, malgré un stress intense et un certain sens d’insécurité et d’inconnu.

PLANIFIER DE L’ÉTRANGER

Pendant plusieurs semaines, nous avons vécu un genre de cirque. Faire des recherches par internet sur les prix des maisons, le style et le coût de la vie, les possibilités d’emploi pour moi. Envoyer des courriels, répondre aux courriels de l’Australie en se levant. Répondre à des appels téléphoniques avant d’aller se coucher, ne sachant pas si tout ça allait fonctionner. C’était un peu surréel. Les recherches initiales ont porté fruit. On y voyait un style de vie agréable basé sur le plein air. Il y avait des possibilités d’emploi pour moi avec des défis professionnels. Le prix des maisons n’était pas aussi alléchant que le marché québécois, mais la promesse d’exploration d’un nouveau continent tout en donnant des expériences inoubliables aux enfants, et une richesse inouïe de découvrir de nouvelles cultures, nous ont attirés particulièrement.

Après un long processus de sélection, la compagnie a offert le poste à mon mari. Nos débats et nombreuses questions écrites sur des listes ont aidé à former les premières discussions à propos d’un transfert d’une famille de cinq. Nous avons été rassurés. Tout a semblé se mettre en place et aller dans la bonne direction. Mon mari a accepté le poste! Un gros changement pour toute la famille. Nous avions un nouveau continent à découvrir, l’Australie!

Relocaliser une famille à l’étranger

Nous avons enclenché un processus incroyable… Ce qui semblait être complètement impossible : démissions de nos emplois et de rôles bénévoles, mise en vente de la maison, annonce de la nouvelle à nos amis, aux amis des enfants, aux écoles, à nos collègues. Des moments très émouvants, car nous étions là depuis 10 ans. La maison était pleine de souvenirs. Les enfants y avaient grandi. Nous avons réduit considérablement toutes nos activités et les activités parascolaires des enfants pour avoir le temps de planifier ce gros changement. Nos objectifs ont changé de façon draconienne.

Invités par la compagnie, nous nous sommes rendus en Australie pour visiter ce coin de pays. Mon mari avait déjà visité cet endroit, sans moi. Ça semblait être un tour de force de laisser les trois enfants en Grande-Bretagne. De très bons amis ont bien voulu aider pour nous faciliter la tâche. La planification d’un voyage à l’étranger, les démissions au travail et la vente de la maison nous ont vite paru impossibles et lourdes, remplies d’inconnus et d’un profond sentiment d’impuissance face à certains évènements. Mais nous avons toujours gardé un esprit positif et un sens du futur, en faisant face à plusieurs obstacles, un à un, et en essayant de trouver des solutions.

La semaine de familiarisation en Australie a été chargée. Mon mari participait à une semaine de développement stratégique avec la compagnie. On avait organisé pour moi des visites de maisons, d’écoles. J’ai aussi pris des rendez-vous sur place. J’ai pris le temps de conduire, visiter et parler à des gens. J’ai pu rapporter des brochures, des photos et des informations pour les enfants.

2 MOIS AVANT : DES ÉPREUVES GRAVES

Mon mari est tombé gravement malade. Il a été hospitalisé. Des moments très difficiles parce qu’il a été dans une condition où il y aurait pu avoir un danger pour sa vie. Ça prit du temps pour connaître le diagnostic. Très épeurant aussi de préparer un déménagement international avec le joueur principal alité pendant plus de 4 semaines. J’avoue que j’ai pensé vivre un cauchemar intense. Les conséquences de la maladie étant inconnues, nous avons quand même continué à planifier notre déménagement en gardant contact avec nos employeurs, expliquant nos délais et difficultés de façon transparente et honnête. Nos amis et collègues ont été formidables; leur soutien émotionnel et logistique, indispensable.

1 MOIS AVANT : NOUS NE POUVIONS PLUS RECULER

Après plus de 6 semaines de convalescence, mon mari a reçu le « OK » de son médecin. Tout en attendant les visas, nous avons commencé à penser sérieusement à notre départ. Aucune date ne pouvait être fixe sans l’obtention de visas. L’attente a été longue. Nous avions réservé les déménageurs pour une date précise, mais toujours pas de visas. La maison n’était toujours pas vendue, mais nous avions décidé de partir quand même. L’employeur voulait que mon mari commence le travail le plus tôt possible. Déménageurs, aurevoirs, ventes et dons de nos possessions ont été particulièrement importants dans le dernier mois et les jours avant notre départ. Mon mari ne pouvait pas vraiment lever des boîtes ou des choses plus lourdes, il ne pouvait pas soutenir son énergie pendant très longtemps non plus.

DES AUREVOIRS ÉPROUVANTS ET BEAUCOUP À FAIRE

Il s’est écoulé une semaine entre le moment où nous avons reçu les visas et le moment où les déménageurs sont arrivés dans la maison. Les déménageurs ont pris quatre jours à paqueter la maison. Pendant qu’eux faisaient des boîtes, je lavais les bicyclettes, les bâtons de golf, les souliers, bref tout ce qui avait été dehors devait être bien nettoyé pour l’immigration. Il y avait beaucoup de choses à faire et finaliser. Les gens venaient nous voir pour dire au revoir. Il y avait une activité incroyable. Des jours mémorables à dire au revoir à plusieurs et aussi à continuer de vendre des objets qui ne pouvaient pas être mis dans le conteneur. Je me suis levée le jour du départ… « Wow, j’ai un aller simple pour l’Australie! »

Une activité incroyable jusqu’à la dernière minute où les voisins nous ont envoyé la main. Personne n’avait les yeux secs, plusieurs larmes se sont versées. Nous avons manqué de temps, il y avait beaucoup à faire. Les déménageurs étaient encore là quand nous avons quitté la maison et ils sont aussi revenus le lendemain.

UN VOYAGE MOUVEMENTÉ

Nous avons quitté la maison avec un certain délai et il y a eu du trafic sur la route. Nous sommes arrivés à l’aéroport un peu en panique avec quelques minutes à faire avant la fermeture du vol et beaucoup de bagages à enregistrer. Dix valises et cinq sacs pour l’avion, c’est tout ce que nous avions pour les DIX prochaines semaines! Nous avons couru à travers l’aéroport, un peu comme la course dans le film Maman j’ai raté l’avion, excités et euphoriques. Mais aussi très stressés de nos aventures qui ne semblaient toujours pas s’estomper.

C’est effectivement un long voyage : Londres-Abu Dhabi-Melbourne. Les enfants se sont quand même bien adaptés à un si long voyage. Deux vols de 8 et 14 heures, c’est long. Ma fille est toujours malade en avion. À l’arrivée sur notre deuxième vol, je donne un sac à l’hôtesse de l’air. Panique! Elle commence à me poser des questions. Elle sort un formulaire, avec d’autres questions. Le pilote arrive avec d’autres employés et me pose des questions. « Depuis quand est-elle malade? Quels sont ses symptômes

Le pilote m’annonce que ma fille doit quitter l’avion. La politique de la compagnie est de ne jamais voler avec des passagers malades à cause des risques d’avoir à changer la trajectoire de l’avion et d’atterrir d’urgence. Mon état était pitoyable, mon visage très long. Le choc. Je n’en croyais pas mes oreilles. Après des mois d’angoisse avec un mari hospitalisé, un déménagement sous un stress intense pour arriver à temps. Je me faisais dire que nous devions quitter l’avion. J’ai utilisé tous les arguments possibles. Sincèrement, j’étais sous le choc, mais aussi en bataille ultime pour continuer notre route. Le pilote a fini par nous écouter. Il était Canadien. Nous avons parlé du Canada!

Un long voyage mouvementé…

À DESTINATION COMME DANS LES CONTES DE FÉES

Une journée ensoleillée des plus merveilleuses. Un souvenir inoubliable que d’arriver à la maison que nous avions louée sans l’avoir vue! Seulement en photos et sur internet. Dix valises, cinq sacs, des matelas de camping et sacs de couchage pour dormir. Rien d’autre. Pas de télévision. Que des tablettes et pas de Wi-Fi… une vraie aventure commençait!

C’est certain qu’il y a eu beaucoup de choses à faire dans les premières semaines, plusieurs décisions ont suivi. La fin de l’été australien nous a vraiment aidés à nous adapter et apprécier notre environnement : la plage, le bois, une piscine, le début d’une vie paisible et simple comme nous l’avions imaginée

Registration as a Psychologist when Moving Abroad

Lifelong Challenges

It often feels like a lifelong battle…I arrived in the UK where my degree in psychology from Quebec was not recognised as a Honours degree, but contained enough psychology as required by the British Psychological Society. I had completed a full year of internship placement through a beginning of a Masters in Quebec, but this was not recognised as sufficient to be classified under the Honours degree system. The problem is that universities offering a Honours degree program are rare in Quebec and programs limited.

In the UK, to be able to access a professional course to train as a psychologist, I had to do a conversion or a Masters course from an accredited course provider. At the time, the system was changing from being able to train as an Educational Psychologist (EP) from a teacher qualified to other opened routes. Although I had been a teacher in independent schools, there seemed to be no need in completing my teaching qualification to follow an EP qualification route. I decided to go through the Masters route to top up my first degree. I completed my Masters and then entered a very competitive Doctorate route, whilst working and with young children. Yes, my choice, yes hard work.

Now, we have made a move to Australia. Being registered as psychologist, brings a full whole set of challenges. Although we recognised this move as full of opportunities, it is also full of challenges, mainly because it feels like I have had lifelong challenges in trying to have my qualifications recognised. It is not just from the UK to Australia, but it seemed like I have been doing that forever. Yes, my choice, yes hard work.

The thing is that I really like working with children, young people and families. I really feel in my element. I also feel I have lots to offer, some global migration experiences, international literature perspective, macro-systemic views of different policy making and development, knowledge of different health and education and support systems for children and families experiencing disadvantages, special and additional needs, fluency in more than one language. The thing is no-one asks you about your strengths when you fill in a recognition qualification form because you enter a world where you are asked to conform with a set of rules and regulations. For example, I was completing a form last week. I am being asked to tick a box that represents the most, my English language skills, amongst a series of choices:

  • primary, secondary and tertiary studies in English
  • secondary for 2 years and tertiary studies in English
  • 6 years continuous tertiary studies in English
  • examination results

The thing is that I no longer fit into a set of boxes. As a global migrant, I experienced different educational routes and job opportunities. Boxes do not seem to represent well my journey. I lived 18 years in the UK, worked, was part of the community, studied at tertiary levels, but this is not represented in any of the boxes. Does this mean that I should be required to do more studies? Yes, there may be subtleties I miss in my expression of language, and yes there is a need for me to continue editing my work. Will an exam change that?

Registration in Australia: A number of UK psychologists asked for advice

The process of registering as a psychologist in Australia has not been easy so far. I started the process back in December, we are now in August, following a lot of work in understanding the system, completing forms, talking to people, the process is still not complete and I am still waiting. I posted some questions and queries on a large psychologist mailing group. A number of psychologists have asked me for advice as they would also like to come to Australia too. It seems appealing as EPs are on the skilled workforce and can apply for a work visa based on their qualifications and experiences. Working in a beautiful country, in varied working environments, also seems appealing. I did not personally need a skilled workforce assessment as I came here on a 457 visa sponsored by my husband’s employer. However, I am finding the registration process very confusing, demanding a huge amount of research and determination. I understand there is a consultation currently taking place which aims to support changes in the system, mainly presenting more thorough information to applicants and employers.

As many asked for my help, I said that I would respond in a post, intending to support fellow colleagues. I write here some important points about the process. This post intends to be supportive, highlighting key points that are confusing and difficult to understand. This is based on my knowledge and research as per August 2016. The system may change and my knowledge expand (I sincerely hope so!). It is my perception of the process, it may be different for others.

What do Psychologists from the UK need to know?

Mainly, the APS is like the BPS, AHPRA like the HCPC. The Australian Psychology Board is a branch of AHPRA comprised of 14 National Boards supported by AHPRA in the framework of a Health Profession Agreement. (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice Board of Australia, Chinese Medicine Board of Australia, Chiropractic Board of Australia, Dental Board of Australia, Medical Board of Australia, Medical Radiation Practice Board of Australia, Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia, Occupational Therapy Board of Australia, Optometry Board of Australia, Osteopathy Board of Australia, Pharmacy Board of Australia, Physiotherapy Board of Australia, Podiatry Board of Australia, Psychology Board of Australia).

Psychologists are trained to work in a range of settings, such as hospitals, schools, clinics, forensic, adults, elderly. Psychologists develop their skills across the lifespan within the training and must demonstrate these skills. AHPRA mentions that general registration as a psychologist enables an individual to work in any area of psychology that is within their scope of competence and use the title ‘Psychologist’ and that all psychologists with general registration meet a minimum standard of education and training and have been assessed as a suitable person to hold general registration in the profession.

Registration as a psychologist can be obtained from different training routes: 4+2, 5+1, 6 years. For example, 4 years of psychology studies and a 2 years of internships/placements. AHPRA explains that to become eligible for general registration, an applicant is generally required to have completed a four year undergraduate sequence of study in psychology (such as a bachelor degree with honours) followed by at least two years of practical experience as a registered provisional psychologist. AHPRA also mentions that the necessary practical experience is usually obtained by undertaking an approved postgraduate degree accredited at fifth and sixth year level (such as a two year Masters) or higher (such as a three or four year Doctorate). Alternatively, practical experience can be obtained by completing a 4+2 or 5+1 internship program. Within the doctoral route, internships are included so this refers to the 6 years + of studies. This means that UK EPs trained prior to 2006 within a Masters route may have more difficulties in having their qualifications recognised as a 6 years + and may be required to complete a longer internship or to enter a tertiary educational program in psychology.

The Commonwealth political system means that a federal system applies which is also similar to the Canadian political system. It means that each state has delegated powers in deciding their own state affairs. The role of the Commonwealth being different from the states one. This means that the Commonwealth and the states have different roles and mixed roles in managing budgets, decisions and jurisdiction. Delegated powers are related to specific areas of jurisdiction such as education which means that each state may have different ways to determine the role of the psychologist. This is reflected in the literature written on the subject by Mike Faulkner in The Handbook of International School Psychology. Edited by Shane R. Jimerson, Thomas Oakland, and Peter Farrell. SAGE Publications: Thousand Oaks, California, USA – London, UK. This is a big difference to the educational system in England and Wales where education is a centralised jurisdiction, the local authorities have the powers to implement national policies, programs and laws. However, delegated powers are given to Scotland to manage their educational decisions. Local authorities/local councils in Australia do not have powers like local authorities. Powers are delegated to the states. There is a free education system funded by the states, with some parallel private systems funded by non-profit organisation, fees and Commonwealth funding such as Catholic education, independent schools, etc.

Similarly, health is a jurisdiction delegated to the state for hospitals, but the Commonwealth also has special federal programs such as Medicare. The Medicare system is similar to the NHS, but does not cover all services. In Australia, psychologists are included in the workforce of professionals who deliver services under the Medicare system. In discussion with a GP, under a health and care plan, a client could be given a ten week counselling plan for example. This includes ALL psychologists, not just the ones working in health related systems. Psychologists therefore deliver services to the population in private practice as well as the state sector. In private practice, a client pays a fee to receive a service and then claims back some of the fees to Medicare. Alternatively, bulk billing is where a professional accepts the 85% of the Medicare reimbursed fees and claim it directly to Medicare. To be entitled to deliver services, psychologists must have a Medicare provider number, only fully registered psychologists (and other professionals under AHPRA, see boards above) can deliver this service. This also means that there are number of psychologists working in private practice as there seems to be a variation in salary between different service delivery methods. My research shows that in the state sector, i.e. education department work, an annual salary would be around $60 000 000+, compared to other providers such as private practice, up to $100 000. There is also a significant different between Clinical and registered psychologists. Clinical Psychologists tend to earn a substantially higher salary and can also claim more hourly to the Medicare system.

Registration process

As per the 1st June 2016, the registration process changed. I aim to explain the registration process here to the best of my ability.

  1. Application to the Australian Psychological Society

In the first instance, an application to the APS needs to be completed for assessment of qualifications and visa purposes. As per the 1st June 2016, the APS completes assessment of qualifications for visa purposes only, but if an applicant comes to Australia with no need to apply for a visa, the applicant must go directly to AHPRA.

Allow at least 12 weeks for this process. All certificates, transcripts and identity papers need to be certified by a psychologist or an approved profession member.

The APS will make an assessment of how many years of study qualifications are equivalent to in the Australian context. Years of study have a big impact as it determines the process for AHPRA (although I have been told that AHPRA also review years of study during the process). If your qualifications are recognised as 6 years + studies, the process is slightly shorter for registration, see flowchart below.

Flow diagram (AHPRA)

Psychologytrainingpathwaysdiagram684px20160427Following the APS assessment process, a certificate of years of study is issued. This process does not include registration as a Psychologist. A six years + of studies gives entitlement to becoming a member of the APS, MAPS (reduction of fees apply following assessment). Some employers request the membership. APS is responsible for CPD and professional development and have support networks in local areas.

The APS will then signpost the applicant to the next phase of the process, AHPRA registration.

  1. Application to AHPRA/Psychology Board to register as a Psychologist.

Find below the ‘recommended pathway’ to registration which consists of an application to AHPRA through different forms (detailed below), a transitional program of supervised practice and the National Psychology Exam.

Recommended pathway to registration in Australia for overseas qualified psychologists (AHPRA)

Assess your ability to meet the registration requirements

Fill in application form APOS-76 and provide all required documents to AHPRA

The Board will assess whether you meet the registration requirements

Receive advice that you need to complete a specified period of supervised practice and the National Psychology Exam

Use relevant form to submit a plan for your specified period of supervised practice to the Board for approval

Receive approval of your supervised practice plan and granted provisional registration

Complete specified period of supervised practice in accordance with your approved plan

Pass the National Psychology Exam

Apply for general registration

Granted general registration

To be able to practise as a psychologist in Australia, an AHPRA registration is essential. For a provisional psychologist registration, allow 10 weeks + for the assessment process. The ‘general’ registration process takes a minimum of 3 months leading to the exam. Exams take place four times a year, check available dates on the website to avoid being out of sync and experience significant delays in obtaining general registration.

For the initial provisional psychologist registration process, there is quite a lot of work to do:

  • complete the APOS-76 form
  • an international police check
  • proof of English language skill standard
  • proof of identity (certified documents)
  • contact ALL universities, where a qualification was completed, to send a transcript directly to AHPRA
  • CV signed respecting the AHPRA format
  • Submission of papers related to internships/placement such as reports, record of supervision, course handbook
  • AATP-76 form completed

The transitional program

The transitional program as it stands requires an applicant to complete 210 hours of practice, minimum 17.5 hours/week for 3 months, with supervision 1 hour fortnightly, going through policies and documents related to the Australian context of practice in preparation for the National Psychology Exam. The supervisor must complete the ACTP-76 form at the end of the program. This form outlines skills and knowledge needed for general registration. The transitional program aims for the candidate to demonstrate, through supervision sessions and observations of practice, competencies in the following areas:

  • Ethical, legal and professional matters as relevant to the Australia context;
  • Working with people from diverse groups as relevant to the Australian context.

In the ACTP-76 form, there is requirement to be observed completing specific psychological tasks such as a psychological assessments.

For the transitional program to be agreed with AHPRA, the applicant must NOT work independently. following a number of clarifications with AHPRA, this seems to mean: NOT work as a sole trader or open a private practice. An applicant can work or volunteer in a private practice though. An applicant can have more than one concurrent volunteering or salaried opportunities. AHPRA refers to ‘the applicant must not work independently’. I think that is particularly confusing as this could be interpreted as ‘must be accompanied’, ‘must not see clients alone’. What does independently mean in this context? I was advised to refer to the 4+2 internship information, but it becomes very complicated to look at information that is meant to be relevant, but that most of it isn’t.

When completing the APOS-76/AATP-76 forms, transitional program information and arrangements are required such as the names of a board approved supervisor and employer. This is a tricky part and it needs a lot of work and determination. I explain experienced difficulties below in the respective sections.

The flowchart published on the AHPRA website (see above) says that a transitional plan must be submitted after the application process, but when submitting the APOS-76 form, requesting provisional psychologist registration, it is required to submit the AATP-76 form with supervisors and employer information.  I queried this on a number of occasions. Following many communications and phone calls with a number of employers and supervisors, I submitted my application to register as a provisional psychologist aiming to agree a transitional program at a later date. My understanding is that when someone applies from overseas, provisional psychologist registration can be granted until arrangements with a supervisor and employer are finalised in Australia. Although I had arrived in the country, I followed that route because I could not find employment. Whilst my application was being processed, it gave me time to continue making arrangements for  a supervisor and employment.

Although there are no set criteria for an exemption, the Board is working on this and on a consultation to improve their communication around the transitional program. Exemptions mainly apply for qualified psychologists who have worked in Australia before. I have been told that exemptions for UK psychologists are not granted. All applicants must do the National Exam anyway so the transitional program will support learning and skills development. The National Exam is a requirement for all Australian psychologists and will become a requirement for doctoral trained Australian psychologists in 2017.

Finding a supervisor

In the form AATP-76, the name of a board approved supervisor who has agreed to be a supervisor is required. Supervisors can be contacted directly through the AHPRA website via email. To find a supervisor, it requires preparation such as emails, meeting people and explaining the process. I collated all documents from the AHPRA website to share with supervisors and discuss supervision arrangements. I realised that not all supervisors are aware of the transitional program process, have experience of having supervising a transitional program applicant and not all can accept a request of supervision for many reasons. A number of reasons were given to me: lack of confidence in the requirements of the program, too many supervisees, no workplace to offer.  Only a few supervisors replied to my request. Supervision costs around $150-170 an hour, although according to AHPRA, there is no set guidance for fees and arrangements. If a supervisor is requested to travel to a place of work, expenses may also need to be paid by the supervisee. Some supervisors will have reduced fees if an applicant accepts a voluntarily position or may lift their fees completely if the applicant works voluntarily in their practice. A supervisor can be external to the workplace or internship, however, not all employers will accept an external supervisor. Employers are not necessarily inclined to pay for supervision, unless the supervisor is within the organisation. Employers explained that organisations cannot keep up with the costs of supervision training in terms of time, capacity, preparation, follow-up and training per se. This means that many organisations do not have board approved supervisors. Supervision needs to be in place until the general registration is granted.

Finding an employer

As part of this process, finding an employer is also required. However, in my contact with many employers, most employers are particularly reluctant to employ provisional psychologists until receipt of a general registration. This is because of the Medicare system explained above.

The problem with a provisional psychologist registration is that jobs are rare, unless you demonstrate your skills are outstanding, etc. I found the education department (equivalent to local authority work) very difficult to understand in terms of recruitment policies and I am still finding my way around that system. For example, I have had a number of refusal email, no invitation to interview, and the name of the person who was offered the post sent by email. I was told that the education department must advertise their posts externally so there is not always a guarantee that advertised posts are vacant as internal candidates may already have the post.

Other employers explained that they do not have the capacity to offer supervision within their service and would not necessarily accept supervision from an external supervisor. Employers are also looking for psychologists who are able to gain a Medicare provider number so provisional psychologists are out of the equation. Provisional psychologist posts are rarely advertised, and are often voluntary. I have been told to apply to posts that are not entitled ‘psychologist’, but counsellor, student well-being, student welfare, etc. These posts are equivalent in terms of the initial salary band, but are not restricted to a specific profession. However, I applied for a number of these posts and was not successful. With a doctoral qualification, I did not even get one interview! The transitional program also requires an applicant to be observed carrying out specific tasks such as psychological assessments, duties strictly protected for the psychologist. By working as a counsellor, an applicant would not be able to complete the transitional program and may have to arrange other opportunities too.

In Australia, any registered psychologists could work in schools so the specific work of the EP, as per in the UK, is not as well known. For some specific organisations, the school work is very important and EP skills sought after. When applying for posts, I found that I had more success in getting to an interview after writing a covering letter explaining my role in the UK against selection criteria for the job with a very detailed CV. Although in a UK context, one would know what an EP does, in Australia, not all employers may be aware of the specific duties and roles undertaken as an EP in the UK, so some detailed explanations are necessary.

In terms of seeking employment, another important point to remember is that a visa will determine longevity restrictions of employment. For example, an employer cannot give a permanent post to an applicant who has a 4 year visa. Some employers may be ready to employ a successful applicant, but will need to think about employment laws, which may be a deterrent to an application from someone with a visa. I have yet to find out whether a selection process favour Australian citizens. This is the case in Canada where government employment is reserved to Canadian citizens. It is also important to remember that the time left on the visa will also determine employment opportunities. For example, an employer could not offer a year contract to someone who must leave in 6 months.

Overall, psychologists seeking registration/employment in Australia should aim to be very creative with their job searches, send CVs to lots of different settings, and be prepared to accept some voluntarily experience until full registration. Internships and placements are often voluntarily for Australians so there is perhaps an assumption that the transitional program should be voluntarily. I was initially disheartened with this suggestion, but I have come around to the idea and have accepted a very creative transitional program, a mix of salaried and voluntarily positions.

I have been in touch with other doctorate trained psychologists from the UK and they told me that the process of registration for them was quite straightforward when they arrived in Australia. However, it looks like the system has changed and now a transitional program and exam are required for registration.

After gaining general registration, an endorsement in educational and developmental psychology can be requested which allows the psychologist to charge higher fees for consultation and be a recognised specialist in the field. Many employers talked about this fee discrepancy being an important factor in recruitment. Again there is a process of supervision with the endorsement process…it appears to be a good thing to become an approved board supervisor which also requires supervision and further studies!

Current and hidden costs

During this process, I came across many hurdles. I was getting through one bit of the process, felt I was getting there, and then another form cropped up or another payment needed to take place. I recorded the costs associated with the process so that there is transparency and knowledge about the costings. AHPRA publishes a list of prices for their specific assessments, but I found a number of hidden costs as the process evolved. When I applied for the APS assessment, I certainly did not realise that I had to go through the AHPRA process as well.

$1000 APS assessment of qualifications

$436 AHPRA provisional registration

$900-1020: $150-170 supervision x 6

transport to workplace for supervisor x 4 for observations unless videoed

$450 National exam

$300 international police check

$436 AHPRA general registration

$150-170/supervision following three months of practice whilst waiting for general registration

$70 fees related to transcript requests

$105 working with children card, Victoria

$650 APS membership (reduction of fees apply in the first year following assessment of qualifications)

$255 Professional indemnity insurance for one year

$45 National Police Check

N.B.The APS charged $1000 for assessment of qualifications and AHPRA charges $700.

Further thoughts!

With AHPRA, a main learning point has been that it is very complicated! The system has changed and some officers have said that they are still learning about the process themselves. AHPRA has one main phone line which will be answered by ‘customer officers’/’admin people’. I phoned the number on many occasions. I was given different advice and my queries were not always answered. Within the system, there are also ‘registration officers’ who are able to answer queries either by email or phone. I found that asking to speak to a registration officer was helpful as ‘admin people’ on the phone could not answer my questions, but again I had some confusing advice and not all my emails were responded to, unless I chased an answer. There are also ‘professional officers’ who are trained psychologists and answer queries/assess the application. I found conversations with this person/role to be the most helpful as answers were professionally based and not process based as with the other two roles. I was also advised by the APS to ask to speak to professional officers. Overall, I had varied experiences when talking to different people. Some more helpful and competent than others. Competent and accurate answers are very important as these could influence the application and employment processes and prolonging the registration process, particularly if mistakes are made or regulations not respected. I also found that phoning regularly, to ask where the application is at, is a must. My numerous questions and queries clearly highlight the need for better communication about the transitional program and I intend to contribute to the consultation process. I have already voiced the issues presented in this text to officers who have supported me through the process.

Many employers find it difficult to believe that UK trained psychologists have to go through all of this, so it is worth asking questions, etc. It says ‘recommended’ pathway and this is where I got completely puzzled and I am still finding it hard to understand. In some places there are also mention of exemption, but no set guidance as to who is entitled to an exemption. One could assume that it leaves some flexibility in determining outcomes?!

We arrived in Australia in February and I am still working on this registration, mid-August. One should plan to either be unemployed for a period of time, complete the registration work prior leaving the UK (but communication with AHPRA may be difficult due to time difference, and seeking supervisor and employment opportunities too) or accept non-psychology related jobs/jobs not requiring registration initially. One should allow time to complete forms, research and gather paperwork and ensure ALL certificates, transcripts and pieces of identity are not in boxes or in a container. This is also the case for important documents in placement files such as supervision reports, course handbook, etc. Saving files electronically could also help this process, although both organisations requested important documents to be original and/or certified.

And if I went back to my country of origin to practise as a psychologist, I would have to go through a similar process, paperwork, processes, proof of identity, evidence of practice and qualifications, exam, supervised professional practice…and it makes me think that perhaps there could be an agreement between similar education systems and schools of psychology as per other professions…maybe I will choose to only move again after retirement, but I am a long way from that!

Any tips?

Resilience, patience, humility and a huge amount of perseverance and determination…

Links

AHPRA https://www.ahpra.gov.au

APS http://www.psychology.org.au

Mike Faulkner in The Handbook of International School Psychology. Edited by Shane R. Jimerson, Thomas Oakland, and Peter Farrell. SAGE Publications: Thousand Oaks, California, USA – London, UK

Container is coming: Any Tips?

We have been living with hardly anything for 10 weeks. We have just received a phone call: the container is coming on Thursday. Mixed feelings and a very quick turn around!

We received our container a little while back now but I was reflecting on the day the container turned up and felt that it was a particularly important landmark in the ‘moving abroad’ experience. At the time, I did not think about writing about this, perhaps a bit too busy, trying to manage the storm of the container.

The container topic is full of mixed feelings. We enjoyed living with ‘nothing’. We got settled into some routines with our limited furniture. It felt like a ‘proper’ adventure, borrowing, purchasing needed items. Children loved going shopping and getting a few bits.

All the personal effects and furniture that got packed now had a different purpose in a different country, some were needed and some others not. We were very conscious that the house we are renting was much smaller than our previous house. We had sold, given away a huge amount in the UK, but we were aware that we may need to do the same after the arrival of the container.

We were looking forward to live more comfortably, feeling like at home again. The container coming felt like a landmark as it made the move permanent. It really hammered  down roots…the container is no longer in a different country or at sea…it is here waiting to be dispatched…it makes the experience of moving abroad ‘real’ as the camping and somehow the adventure of arriving in a country with nothing is over.

As well as dealing with all these emotions and mixed feelings, there is a lot to do and sort out…a bit overwhelming…

Thinking back about that day and the weeks that followed. I write here some top tips, giving a taster of what it feels like to receive a container and some ideas I found useful.

  1. What to bear in mind

The movers will be different people to those who packed the container. They will move boxes and put them in the house where they see fit with the help of the labelling on the boxes. This is where it is important that boxes have been well labelled in the previous country, indicating the rooms where they came from. An international move is slightly different to ‘a within country’ move, all boxes need to be numbered and labelled as well as given a brief description on a checklist for custom clearance purposes. That list can then give a sense of what is the boxes and help the movers (and you) in thinking about where these boxes should go. However, movers want to get the job done quickly so they may be particularly attentive to all these descriptions. They are attentive to what is broken though as this may have repercussions on the company for insurance claims, etc.

Initially, the day appeared to go slowly and the movers had asked me to cross reference numbers of all the boxes coming in the house. As time went on, it became clear that I could not do that all day. I was needed in other places. I had my youngest with me as well so he needed my attention too. My husband had gone to work for the morning. I was on my own sorting everything out. As the morning unfolded, I became a little overwhelmed, movers started to work much quickly and the boxes started to pile up everywhere.

As we only knew work colleagues and the container came on a Thursday, we did not feel we could ask for help. We had to be self-reliant. That’s the nature of moving abroad, you may not have family members and friends nearby to help you on such a big day. My husband took a couple of days off and it was a bank holiday weekend so we ha 5 days overall to put the house in a better state.

2. Guided tour of the house and labelling rooms

Remember that all boxes were labelled in the previous house with either names of rooms, names of children, and/or a brief description. I think that is an important feature of moving as when you arrive in the new house, boxes may not go in the same place. You may have made changes to what you want in each room, etc. For the movers picking up briefly labelled boxes this can be confusing so they need a little bit of help.

I gave a guided tour of the house. I described what type of house we had before so they knew what to expect on the labelling. Features of previous house were not existing in our rented house so I had to provide some explanations. For example, I explained that boxes from the basement were going in the garage.

I had labelled all the rooms so that they knew where to put boxes, trying to match it closely to our house in the UK. It got a bit confusing because our old dining room contained a playroom and there was not any room for a playroom in our new house. I suppose it is important that boxes are labelled properly right from the start. I should have checked what movers in the UK labelled the playroom as ‘playroom’ and not ‘dining room’. At the end of the day, it is not hugely crucial, but boxes ended up not being in the right place and a huge amount of boxes had to be shifted after the movers had gone…some work that could have been avoided.

3. Post-it on walls to indicate where furniture is going

Container is coming…’what should I do?’ This was my first reaction. I was not sure what to do. I started thinking about what was coming on the container trying to anticipate the day. It helped to put post-it on walls to indicate where furniture was going to go. It helped me think about how to set the house up and also the movers in being more independent in placing furniture in the right place. The children also helped in thinking where furniture would go and asked for different pieces of furniture in their bedrooms, items they did not have in their rooms before. It helped shape our thinking about setting up our new house.

4. Clear all current furniture and unpack the kitchen first

We had purchased a master bed and borrowed single beds. We needed these to sleep in the night before. Movers arrived at 8am, wanting to start moving things in. We were trying our best to dismantle the beds to give them room. It is difficult to know what movers will unpack first as the container is loaded in a such a way. For example, it has different doors and boxes are put in wooden crates. For us, what was packed last, came in first. Customs will also look at boxes they want to look at. We had a different car coming with the boxes cleared by customs because they could not fit all the boxes back in the container. These boxes got unpacked in a very random way so we did not have any control about what was coming first. We also had asked for a partly unpack service so movers helped building wardrobes back up, build beds, etc. and removing packaging from furniture. I suppose clearing all current furniture and making sure movers have the space to work is important as the day evolves boxes get piled everywhere and space can become a bit of a problem.

Throughout the day, the kitchen remained a hub for drinks, food, etc. for the movers as well as for us. Children came back home from school and wanted to have snacks. I suppose as long as there is food and drinks, people feel their needs are met. It is a long day and when the movers have gone, you want to be able to make sure you can dinner and feed the children. Unpacking the kitchen first and making sure there is a place to have dinner in the house is definitely a must!

5. Keep calm and watch the weather forecast: You cannot unpack everything in one day

As the day evolved, I became a little overwhelmed, not knowing where to start. There is no way that you can unpack at the pace of the movers. I saw my role more about ensuring they had the space to work, unpacking boxes to give them space, managing direction of boxes and making sure people were fed. We unpacked most of the kitchen on the first day, but we intensely unpacked for a few weeks after that.

It takes time to unpack all boxes, in fact, we still have a number of boxes in the garage. The weather has turned colder and it is not as tempting to unpack boxes outside. We also wanted to do a garage sale but we did not have the time to fully organise that before the Winter. In fact, that is an incredibly important point to bear in mind. When moving abroad, get information about the weather and season patterns, you definitely don’t want to be moving at -30 to Canada in the Winter!

I suppose it is important to remember that moving abroad is a process, not everything can be perfect in one day. Being calm and positive will help accepting this process and deal with the different hurdles to jump.

“Maman, Maman, are we going on this plane” (E., 3): Top Tips when travelling on long haul flights with children

I am sitting on our flight Melbourne to Los Angeles and thought I would jot down a few points…my persistent mistakes and some helpful ideas!

It is the first time we leave Australia. We are travelling from Melbourne to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to New York, New York to Montreal…a long journey…We have done much shorter journeys over the last 13 years such as London to Montreal, but recently our migration has meant that we are much further away. We did London, Abu Dhabi, Melbourne last time, this time it is a little longer with an extra stop. We are also flying going east which means that we will live the same day twice!

Children got packing yesterday, although they were particularly excited and somehow difficult to manage, I was pretty impressed with their packing skills. I thought to myself that perhaps, over the years, I have given them some good tips and they are now able to pack without thinking about it…it has just become natural…First flights with an infant or a young child are pretty daunting, as children grow older, they learn what to expect, prepare and live on the plane, again it becomes routine…Here are some top tips, tips we have experienced over the years and feel are working well…

  1. Involving the children in packing their bags

I have always packed the children’s cabin luggage and suitcase with them, up to the age of 8-9. Now, we are at a stage where the older two pack all their luggage alone and I check it afterwards to add any items they forgot. In the packing stage, I give them some small and measurable tasks such as “pack 7 pair of pants”. It was beautiful yesterday to see my daughter helping our 3 years old pack his cabin luggage. She knew exactly what to bring, what to think about and what he would need. Involving them means that they know what they have in their luggage for when they get on the plane and during the holiday or at their destination. This really helps them being independent.

  1. Basic essentials in hand luggage

We have experienced a number of situations over the years, lost luggage, delayed flights, delayed or cancelled connection, children being sick on us, spilling food or drinks on us. When experiencing cancellations or delays, we had to stay in a hotel for the night until the next flight. I always pack a t-shirt, some underwear and some basic essentials in my bag and the children’s bag such as a toothbrush and under 100ml basic products so that we are prepared for different situations. I am still luggage less after four days at our destination, my extra t-shirt has been particularly welcomed!

  1. Preparing for a carousel of activities:

Preparing for diverse activities helps when planning the cabin bags and informs my few next points. The journey can be long so the idea of having different and diverse activities helps the children feel stimulated as well as feeling they are passing time having fun. The carousel idea is that you present one activity, this activity lasts around 10-20 minutes, complete the activity when the child is still interested, but when you can see interest is going down slightly, put it away, bring another activity out. Alternate activities, re-introduce earlier activities, also include eating, toilet and self-care, sleeping.

  1. Electronic devices such as DS, Ipad and tablets:

We always bring these. The evolution of this technology has changed our lives. We upload some television programmes and games before travelling. This helps when waiting or for long journeys. It provides an alternative activity/station to the ones available on the flight such as movies, games on the screen, eating, sleeping.

  1. The cabin bag: Books, a bag of little people, colouring pencils, a colouring book, a sticker book

These ‘toys’ are particularly helpful for children 2-7 years old. Many children I know absolutely love ‘sticker books’. A bag of little people also helps bringing diversity to the carousel of activities available to a more imaginative play, a very welcomed change.

  1. Talking about the journey ahead

Reading a book about airports and planes with a young child can help them develop the language related to airports and the journey. I never tell the children (2-7 years old) too long in advance our itinerary and plan to travel so that they do not create weeks of anticipation and expectations. When they become a bit older, I tend to have it on the calendar so that they know when it comes, can prepare, ask questions. I suppose there is a transition here to be made between the younger children becoming able to talk about it and anticipate the event without too much excitement. Telling the children too much in advance make and create lots of feelings and then behaviours that are tricky to manage in the run up of the event. Really everyone wants their sleep and continue the routines as much as possible until the event. Less disruptions will help cope with the journey.

  1. Living on a plane: Snacks, Eating, Sleeping

As my oldest two are older now, I have not thought about bringing snacks for a while. Really I should because it can take a while to be served the first meal on the plane. Really we have needed it. Some flight companies are better than others at providing child friendly foods so having a little reserve of little snacks can help complement the meals. Some sweeties and chewing gums can help children when taking off and landing. It helps stimulate the swallowing reflexes and clear their ears. Similarly, for infants, I have found it very helpful to feed (bottle or breast) them during take off and landing for the same reasons.

For late flights such as leaving Montreal at 7 to 10pm arriving in London at 7am, over the years, we decided to feed the children before we get on the plane and just completely ignore service, buckle our seatbelt over our blankets, so that we all get a night sleep straight as we get on the plane.

Our routines have changed now that we do very long haul flights. For flights to and from Australia to the Northern Hemisphere, we have found that we just need to sleep, eat and relax as much as possible. There is plenty of time to settle in the flight, watch films and sleep. It is important that the children feel relaxed as much as possible so that the journey feels pleasant enough. When they are relaxed and at ease on the flight, it helps them stay on their seat and enjoy their ‘seat environment’ instead of feeling they need to explore the plane.

  1. Establish routines and encourage positive behaviours and manners

Children need to learn the routines of a long flight and the need to relax, take it easy. For the first few journeys, this may take a little more help by talking to them about the routines, model the routines, encourage them to observe others. Soon enough, children realise what to do. I also insist on implementing positive behaviours such as respecting other people’s seat (not kicking the seat in front of them). I also encourage them to be independent. There is not much that can happen on a place so I encourage them to go to the toilet on their own, ask for help independently if they need to.

When travelling as a family, it becomes easier to establish ‘a seat environment’ where children feel they can move, play together, invade each other’s places if needed. I remember travelling with one child on my own and being particularly conscious of disturbing others around me, with cries, or space. Now that we travel 5 of us, we tend to set up a space where the children feel comfortable. We allow them to sleep close to each other, lifting arm rests, and lying down on seats, etc. Basically, they now use the space in their own way, respecting others around, and this helps them feel settle during the flight.

As parents, we relay each other in supporting the younger children, allowing one parent to sleep. We also find it helpful to settle everyone and then sleep when the children sleep.

  1. Encouraging observations

In airports, flights and during the journey, we encourage children to look at their surrounding, talk about what they see and observe, identify similarities and differences with previous flights and airports. We also encourage them to observe others, think about others’ behaviours so that they feel more confident about being a competent traveller. For example, in the last few flights we experienced, my daughter insisted on going to the toilet when everyone is waiting in line to exit the plane, but this created chaos as she tried to move around the aisles. We discussed best times for going to the toilet, i.e. as they announce preparation for landing, usually half an hour before landing.

  1. The aftermath…

There is no doubt that after a long journey, there is a recovery period. Over the years, we have found that the easiest way to recover is to get into the routines of the final destination as soon as possible, such as respecting activities and time of sleeping and eating patterns of the time zone. Having social activities organised in the country of destination also help get back into the routine. We have also enjoyed journeys ending in the evening which means that when arriving at the final destination, it is night time, and after some wind down time, everyone goes to bed for a good night sleep.

There is also a need to expect some disruptions to bodily routines, feeling hungry and feeling sleepy at odd times of the day. Children may feel the jet lag and experience disrupted or shorter sleep patterns. Although difficult, we have found that establishing some ‘after flights’ routines also help. For example, when children get up very early, we tend to insist that this time is a quiet time with low key television and a light breakfast. I insist in helping children understand that ‘it is not fun time’ because it is too early for that. As parents, we relay each other in getting up early when needed, or going for a light nap in the afternoon.

Over time, families adjust to travelling and develop strategies to cope with these adventures. It is important to keep an open mind, try different strategies and be positive about all these global adventures…it is a particularly enriching gift to give to the children.

It’s Winter…in my heart…

4 months living in Australia…and it’s Winter…colder, wet, but still light enough compared to the UK in the Winter, sunny and crispy on many days, temperatures at around 12 degrees and much cooler at night…Ironically, we had a snow fight celebrating Quebec Day on the 23rd/24th June…

It’s Winter, but mainly in my heart.

It became inevitable, it had to lead me to write about this on here, a blog about global migration…I never thought it would affect me so much…A Brexit ‘Leave’ vote…In the last few days, I have felt so sad. I was not entitled to vote because I am not residing in the UK at present, but did until very recently for 18 years. After the vote, I tried to reach out, listen to the news, read articles, keep in touch with many, tried to understand and initiate thinking with others from the Leave and Remain camps about the future of the country. I felt some resistance and I was also very upset. I then thought to myself: ‘Why am I so sad?’, ‘maybe I am not well’, ‘maybe Winter is getting to me’, ‘I was fairly happy a few days ago, what happened?’ I then started thinking, ‘no, I am deeply affected, but why?’: ‘I am not even British’, ‘I don’t even live there at the moment’, ‘I should take it lightly’. I then realised it is profound, much more profound than I thought. Then it made me think that perhaps people do not necessarily understand why I feel so sad, perhaps I need to take the opportunity to write about it, it may help me, it may help others.

For the last few months, I have been writing this blog on global migration, talking about opportunities and challenges as global citizens. For me, it consisted of a particularly brave and innovative way to talk about our adventures in more formal way, support other families who may experience similar experiences. Brave, because I need to consistently work hard to perfect my writing. Innovative, because I had never done something like this before. I am not considering myself as necessarily talented in information and technology design. I had never used writing as a form of expression, I am much better verbally, but I am far away now, I cannot use this mode of communication.

I never anticipated I would use a written form to express some deep feelings, the ones I am feeling at the moment. There is a sense in me where I feel I need to explain why I feel so sad and it is important to do so…for the future.

Why am I so sad?

A Land of Hope, Dreams and Opportunities

I arrived in the UK in 1998 with a packsack, on my own, with a visa allowing me to work for 4 months initially and 2 years overall. Having chosen Scotland as an interesting place to discover, I settled there for a short-term employment opportunity. I was meant to stay for the Summer but life happened. I met my future husband and gained a post as a French teacher in a special needs school, an opportunity I always dreamt of. Scotland/UK became for me a land of hope, discovery, permanent employment, security, a place where I was able to expand my skills, my career, improve my oral and written language skills, a place where I felt accepted, appreciated for who I was. We spent 5 years in Scotland, life took us in a different direction, to the South of England. Opportunities continued to grow and develop. Children grew up in a society where I continued to pass on my cultural heritage as well as ensuring a full integration in the community we lived in, with our diversity and our thirst to continue to learn about new cultures. A country who welcomed me and believed in me…

Significant opportunities across the Channel

Yes Britain offered many opportunities but did not fully fulfilled the desire to live and learn different languages. We found ways to expose the children to new adventures. We found a French school funded by the French Government in Britain and the children attended this school every Saturday mornings. Their skills improved dramatically and their ability to communicate with their family in Quebec increased.

We also travelled all over Europe, camping and for other trips. It was so easy, pack the car full of camping gear, drive to the Channel crossing, wait half an hour, and drive to our destinations across the Channel. We met a number of people from many countries in campsites as well as friends from the UK we arranged to meet on our travels. Children were amazed at having to use a Deutsh/English phrasebook to communicate with campers. They were able to meet many children with their French language skills and their openness to other cultures. We felt the opportunity of free movement for cultural exchanges, opportunities to discover and explore, expand one’s horizons were absolutely amazing and enriching. A unique continent where one can embrace all this diversity on one territory…

Being an Immigrant

Britain is a land who accepted me as a young adult. Initially I did not speak very well in English. People supported me, encouraged me, insisted I wrote ‘Bonne Fête’ in birthday cards. Over the years, I built my own identity through the opportunities and challenges I faced. My identity was always going to be different as I arrived with an already lived journey, but Britain gave so much in return and I gave so much in return too, leading to tertiary qualifications and a career helping others. This land who ‘adopted’ me, gave me great opportunities. My identity developed to the point that I now feel there is much more to my identity than ‘just being a girl from Quebec’…perhaps Britain shaped my experiences more than I thought, perhaps I belong in Britain more than I thought.

It has not always been easy. There were a number of moments where I felt I needed to make significant effort to integrate the communities I lived in. I felt that I had to explain my story, talk about differences and similarities. I made the effort to develop a sense of belonging, integrate and perhaps ‘assimilate’ to a certain extent, perhaps more for my survival more than anything else.

People may think ‘Pascale, you are not an immigrant’…but fundamentally I am…different culture, different language, a newcomer to the country, the country ‘adopted’ me. An adoptive country who took me under its wings, built and developed a relationship with me over time, hard times and happy times…a country where I felt nurtured, as a parent who adopts a child. Yes I felt Britain did this over time.  However, in recent years, it started to become more difficult to accept comments from specific party members talking about the migration discourses, including hate discourses directed at immigrants. Although I blended in the community, there was a national front against immigration.

The thing is that I always worked, had a strong work ethics, working with commitment and passion. I have always been employed due to my experience and qualifications. I gave back to communities I lived in much more than I claimed back in terms of benefits. I never claimed benefits. I claimed job-seeker allowance twice and had three maternity leaves, ‘benefits’ I was entitled to as I had paid National Insurance contributions for a significant amount of time. I paid for my studies both at masters and doctoral levels.

Many migrants are in the same situation as me, contributing to the society in a positive and meaningful way. I have never stolen a job from anybody. I always gained employment on merit because I could give back.

Now, I have to go through the same process in Australia. It’s not easy having qualifications recognised and finding people who will offer opportunities. We do not have the same rights as citizens, such as being to claim for benefits, rebates and tax credits. Migrants work hard and have a huge desire to be accepted for what they can offer, what they are worth, migrants are determined, resilient and have positive outlook on life…to a certain extent…it’s survival!

Values and discourses

Despite me believing in my adopted land and working hard at making it work, I feel a sense that living in an accepting, respectful, inclusive, united country may become harder and harder. Someone may say, but ‘you are not British, why do you worry about this?’ I worry for my children, my husband, my family. This land who adopted me and nurtured me seems to be changing. I try to promote positive values of inclusion, acceptance, unity and togetherness in my work, with my children, in my relationships but these seem to be more and more different to what I once knew. I also feel it is important for the children to grow up hearing messages of openness, inclusion, resilience, communication. To me, being in Europe represents a sense of being opened to other cultures and discourses, being able to communicate in many languages, feeling a sense of diversity. It also represents a sense of resilience, working hard in trying to understand others’ points of views. It also represents a sense of unity and togetherness, despite differences and cultural diversity.

I have felt completely overwhelmed with emotions, sadness, anger when Jo Cox was violently murdered, because she tried to promote democratic values and convey messages of compassion, respect for one and another, and many others. Watching the news from a distant land, this message of anger was reinforced, for me, not only by a violent murder, but also by some aggressive behaviours from supporters at the Euro football games. I am not comparing both incidents here at all, but feeling sadness and frustrations, complete despair, at those trying to convey a message without respect, listening skills, communication and mediation. I felt the same last Summer when some actions were taken to send dogs, more military support and erection of fences during the immigration crisis, without engaging in some mediation, compassion, communication. There may be global fears about terrorism which impact on people’s perceptions of immigrants. How can the immigration debate be improved? How can we engage in healthy debates about controlling immigration without being rejectionist? How can we ensure that immigrants feel safe and secure wherever they live?

I fear that Britain may become even more isolated in its relationship with Europe and the world. There was already a sense of hardship and difficulties. For example, in all the semi-rural areas I lived, children in schools often felt there was no need to learn another language, or lacked awareness about other countries and cultures. I also fear division, division between those experiencing cultural diversity or not, division between different parts of the country. How do we teach openness to other cultures? How do we increase mutual respect for other cultures? How will children learn the need to appropriately communicate with someone from another culture? How do we teach the importance of multiculturalism and inclusion? How do we ensure that migrants are fully included, communicate, have a sense of belonging to their adoptive country? How can people live united and happily?

There is a view that migration will stop, if not in the EU. The thing is that migration from EU countries is minimal compared to the migration from other countries. Opting out of the EU is one way to prevent migration numbers. The other thing is that as soon as immigration is mentioned, many start inflating it to rejection, sending people back, not protecting the most vulnerable, not welcoming asylum seekers. The other problem is that immigration policies have to take into account historical relationships, not only an EU, but also Commonwealth populations and political refugees. Could there a point system like Canada and Australia? It would have to be contextualised to a UK context. There are a number of visas and ways that immigrants can move globally and in and out of the UK, not just on visas based on a point system. Yes it is a small territory for a dense population, but it is also a country who has always wanted to be economically strong and a leader of the world. These aspirations cannot be achieved alone, Britain has always had many partners. At the same time, Britain has always been very strong in wanting to maintain its traditions. Can both be maintained equally?

Leaders’ discourses regarding a diverse society has always referred to the importance of promoting ‘tolerance’. I always found the term ‘tolerance’ as an interesting choice. Yes tolerance may represent the ability to tolerate others’ opinions, but it also represents a form of negative connotation that refers to enduring adverse circumstances and reactions. ‘Tolerate’ refers to ‘putting up with’; ‘enduring’, refers to a situation being ‘hard’, ‘difficult’, ‘having problems’, ‘fighting against’. This discourse does not necessarily refer to ‘embracing others’ opinions’, ‘listening’, ‘respecting’, ‘communicating’. Although I have lived in Australia for only a few months, and still lots to learn about culture and politics, I have enjoyed hearing politicians talk about the need to promote ‘mutual respect’ as a discourse reinforcing the importance of a diverse society.

What do I say to my children?

Initially, I was like ‘why should I be so sad, I am not even British’. I never applied for the citizenship. I always felt that travelling on my Canadian passport was absolutely fine. I had permanent residency which allowed me to work and vote. One of the major factor which may have made me apply for a British passport would have been to be able to have opportunities in Europe, perhaps live and work in France or Belgium. With a Canadian passport, although there are some partnerships, these are not as strong as the ones the EU provided, it is not easy to move from one country to another without a free movement policy. It is a gift of life to be able to give children cultural and global opportunities, just as it was an amazing gift to be able to experience free movements between European countries. By leaving the EU, will these opportunities be the same? What will our children say in 20 years time when they say I would have liked to go to Paris to study, or would have liked to travel around Europe but becomes more complicated and costly?

During our travels, the children loved meeting new people, loved seeing new cities, exploring new cultures, routines, rituals. We visited many sites. Inspired by some sites and cities, our oldest expressed that he wanted to go to University in Copenhagen. University fees are likely to be at an international student rate, very very high. Fees in the UK are already very high. How can we ensure that our children continue to be able to experience diverse experiences? How can we protect our children’s future and opportunities?

We have a number of friends from different countries, European friends living in the UK. We embrace, as a family, different cultures. How can these cultural exchanges be welcomed in the future? To what extent will the UK embrace diversity? How can we ensure that our children feel their own diversity is understood and respected?

UK achieving independence, wanting to take control?

UK was always independent. It is a country in its own right. Did people vote to express years of dissatisfaction with austerity? People have recognised a need for change, have they opted for the immigration and EU as ways to initiate this change? Yes there is probably a need to restructure politics to ensure that politicians really represent their constituents’ views, but are immigration and EU the real issues?

The other major point to bear in mind is that European elections and decisions about MEP representatives have always been totally and utterly unnoticeable in the UK, except for immigration issues which have been talked about more predominantly by one party, a party who had a number of MEPs in Brussels. Interestingly, Australia has a system where voting is compulsory. What was the quality of representation at the EU Parliament, a representation able to fully embrace all issues, able to engage in healthy debates, there and back in the UK?

There seems to be a surge of involvement in politics since the debate. Why were people so disaffected in recent years, but are engaged now? My husband stood up as a local councillor. He lost the last election to an extreme right party candidate who never attended a meeting and then resigned based on saying he did not feel he had the power to change the system. Why parties found it difficult to recruit new councillors, new candidates for elections? How can the public engage in debates close to them on a regular basis, all the time? How can they be engaged in meaningful political debates, debates that are healthy and respectful? How can we teach respectful debating in schools and political involvement and engagement as essentials to being a responsible citizen?

It’s a Democracy

Democracy comes from Greek, demo (people) and cracy (power, rule) and refers to a system of government in which all people of a state are involved in making decisions by voting, generally for electing representatives. Democracy also refers to the active participation of the people as opposed to aristocracy which refers to the rule of elite. One main characteristic refers to the majority rule with the importance of having protection for minority groups to ensure their views are represented through different processes such as petitions and other processes (Definition based on basic Google searches).

My questions here would be: Who led the referendum debates? Elite or the people? Were the people able to fully understand points made by the leaders of the debates? Many have now explained how they regret their vote.

Living in a democracy also refers to listening and protecting minority views. European citizens residing (for many years) in the UK were not allowed to vote. Isn’t democracy to be part of a debate, listen to others, present respectful and healthy debates on both sides and give the right to vote to all involved.

I have spoken to people in Australia and have been in touch with friends from Canada who were not aware of this debate. Did the debates involve international partners who may be affected by a decision to leave? Britain with its history has a huge impact at an international level, issues were also related to global matters. Were these fully debated and discussed with all involved?

So what’s next, what about the future?

‘Get over it and move on’

I find that particularly difficult to accept. By engaging in a debate and voting, people also accepted to continue the debate, continue to discuss ways to shape and plan for the future. A vote Leave now brings division as both Northern Ireland and Scotland voted decisively to remain in the EU, where does that leave them?

People say they are fed up with political posts, news, etc. Uncertainty and difficult times need communication and togetherness despite adversity, not a withdrawal from the discussions and debates.

In the meantime, I will have to tell my children that opportunities for them within an EU system are slightly slim; University in Copenhagen is a distant dream; A society, with a very small majority, has decided that cultural experiences and future opportunities may be more difficult and costly; They may grow up as British citizens, but their diversity may not be fully understood and accepted; They may have to fight to regain some privileges they enjoyed. Will Europe ever be a future opportunity, is Australia the right choice at present and for the future?

Am I being pessimistic? No. I am trying to identify future steps, where work needs to be done to rally people in debates of the society, think about the future, think about where we go from here, where changes need to take place, ensure people understand the difficult times ahead and the need to engage in debates, ensure that we are involved all together in healthy discussions, but with direction encompassing future solutions. I am trying to explain how I feel so people understand my devastation and are then able to be empathic in initiating debates and are aware of these deep rooted feelings that may explain behaviours. We live in a democracy so this is where people can define positive discourses and show that debates and discussions can take place with sensitivity, mutual respect and a sense of future. Not all may have the words, the courage or even the reflective insight into fully exposing their feelings, articulating some arguments and ideas for the future.

Socialisation vs Isolation: Survival Tips

I have lived in different places and countries over the years. As you move around, socialisation becomes a very important part to settling and promoting a positive adaptation. It is a sign that you know people, can relate to one and other and feel that you belong to the community. I remember feeling very anonymous in a number of places I lived. I never disliked it because I just got on with what I had to do. After a few months, you start bumping into people and it is then you realise how it is great to meet and connect with people, bumping into someone somewhat feels a joyful and happy experience, like if it was a party! Socialisation becomes crucial when your husband/partner is the one that goes out to work, and potentially abroad too, as you are the one initiating contact with a number of agencies, systems, and you can also spend days without having a ‘proper’ adult conversation. Socialisation becomes an important part of your own well-being.

Having children also brings another dimension to socialisation. It becomes easier to meet someone or initiate a conversation over a dropped toy in a shop, for example. They are great at initiating conversations with strangers or asking for someone to come back home to play. When children start school, you then become part of a system which may have some ways to promote socialisation between parents such as special events, social and fundraising activities. During the years I lived in Scotland with no children, I felt so much lonelier than after having children. Now that my two oldest are a bit older, they are also great company, we can chat about different experiences, they initiate conversation everywhere too and build relationships with lots of different children in various clubs and at school.

Why is socialisation important to adults and children?

Schaffer (1996) explains that socialisation refers to processes which include standards that are passed from generation to generation and that it is during childhood that these standards are acquired and eventually adopted by children as their own. He goes on to explain that children cannot necessarily master the abstract concept of morality which is part of socialisation and therefore learn through different milestones social standards and norms such as eating with a fork, sharing toys, being kind to a younger child. Schaffer (1996) mentions that socialisation is a process which mainly takes place in families through the agency of parents. He also explains that the aim of this process is for children to learn acceptable behaviour patterns specific to a society and cultural norms through family life.

In addition, customs, values, ideologies, habits of a society are learnt through this process and needed for participating in their own society. To be a functioning member of society, these norms and skills need to be acquired. This process is also considered to be a lifelong process as, for different reasons, this learning process may well continue into adulthood. One particular reason springs to mind, a society evolves and changes over time as different influences and historic markers bring changes. One significant example in our world today, compared to 20 years, has to be technology. Cultural norms and habits in this respect have completely changed, our children often knowing as much as we do.

As global migrants, the process of socialisation becomes particularly important as it enables the family to discover new rituals, customs and norms within the new society. Parents are then no longer sole agents of this process in trying to transmit norms and behaviour patterns, as parents themselves may not know or understand the cultural norms of the new society. Learning about these then become a family experience, a way to share and learn together about the host country. Other social agents will then become particularly important in supporting the family in adapting to these new cultural norms and behaviour patterns. Some difficulties may present itself when the family becomes isolated and restricted from learning about new cultural norms, values, behaviours.

Survival Tips

Over the years, as you live abroad, you develop strategies to cope with absent family members. I write some tips as to how to meet people, ways I found helpful:

  1. Speak to people locally, shop keepers, estate agents, etc.: they often have a good knowledge of the community. Ask simple and trivial questions about the area, places to visit, places of interest. Visit the local library, churches, tourist information, they often advertise community activities.
  2. Evaluate your interests, talents and passions and find out about local groups where you can meet people who can share these: sewing, painting, antique, golf, cycling, running, etc. Discuss these with people you meet as they may know someone who can connect you with someone else.
  3. Create an opportunity to meet someone: speak to a parent in the park, at the local pool, at the school gate. It is often not easy to break the ice, but it can create some great connections and friendships later. When trying to break the ice, describing the situation often helps to initiate a conversation.
  4. Join a local group/become a member of a club/join sporting activities: the best thing I ever done in terms of socialising was to join a local choir (for the singing too!). It was a great way to socialise and make great friends as you all have a common goal. We have met so many people through different sporting clubs and activities, scouts, playgroups, volunteering activities.
  5. Get involved in a fundraising activity or a community activity: again great was to meet people as everyone is there sharing a common goal.
  6. Offer to help: be attentive to opportunities to help either in a group or just in a one-off activity. As you are helping, it becomes perhaps easier to communicate with people and break the ice, again there is a common goal.
  7. Accept an invite: accept invitations, even if it is just for something very trivial. You never know when you will be in a situation where you then a person who becomes your best friend, or has connections to your field of work, or knows someone who knows someone, etc.
  8. Children: children are great at making friends. They often come back home with a number of a friend they have met at school, asking if they could go and play at the weekend or after school. If your child is younger, you can always ask your child, who did you play with today and ask the teacher to put your number in their bag, and then invite the parent/child after school for tea/coffee/cakes, or to meet at the park/beach at the weekend. We have made great friends with people who have put their name and number in our child’s bag.
  9. Invite people over: we have often had evenings/BBQs with lots of people, mixing friends, neighbours and colleagues. It is a great way to build a sense of community around you and feeling you belong. We have never had family around us so friends, neighbours and colleagues have always been very important to us. Create an event for a special celebration, ‘6 month being in the country’ party, a national day (Burns night, Quebec day, etc.), colleagues’ evening, games evening, swimming pool party, BBQ at the beach, Christmas Eve, a dinner, birthday or a thank you party. Ask everyone to bring a plate of food to share. Ask everyone to bring along a friend. Sharing food and drinks is always a great way to meet people. Parties for birthdays are great to socialise with people you may not know, invite parents for a drink when they pick up their child from the party, or invite the parents to the party too (for support and social!). It creates a great sense of belonging and community.
  10. Use technology and join local groups on social media sites. It becomes a great way to ask questions, get to know what’s on, special events, people’s interests, etc.

I really like socialising and meeting new people and maintain relationships with friends. As my husband worked abroad a lot, there were issues, particularly when the children were younger, with me having some special activities that are regular where I could commit. It becomes then important to build a social and support network around you so that you are able to socialise, either people coming to you because it is tricky to go out in the evenings when children are in bed and you are at home alone, or to have a babysitter so you can go out for some activities that are important to you. All the top tips above will help in creating this very important social network.

Although I really like meeting people, I also feel that I need my solitude, time to think, space to be. I have learnt to be alone, enjoy my own company, pursuing my own interests. It then becomes important to balance the social and solitary times. I sometimes could go on for days without meeting someone, just reading, writing, thinking, doing chores, meeting the needs of my family. I suppose when days like these take place for more than 2 or 3 days, I then push myself to go out, arrange to meet someone, go places. It is better to prevent the feeling of isolation than getting to the point where you feel isolated and finding it hard to find socialisation activities. Preventing isolation becomes particularly important as feelings of homesickness, missing great friends and the family can have a huge impact on your experiences of the new country. Keeping busy and socialising certainly help to overcome these feelings.

If you do all of the above, you will have a pretty busy diary, and you may need to choose between some activities and feel you can’t do it all!

Schaffer (1996). Social Development. Blackwell Publishing: Malden, MA; Oxford, UK; Carlton, AU.

In any doubt, don’t give up, be resilient, learn to ride the storms!

There are some challenges that are more significant than others when you move abroad. Technicalities and logistics tend to sort itself out with some creativity, problem-solving skills, communication and, often, just with pure physical hard work (like shifting boxes!). There are some challenges that are not easily solved and take more time and determination to come to a solution. Don’t give up, be resilient!

What does being resilient mean?

There are many definitions of resilience, but one more common is that ‘competence and success despite severe and prolonged adversity and disadvantage’ (Luthar, et al. 2000). Fonagy, Steele, Steele, Higgit and Target (1994) define resilience as normal development under difficult conditions. Resilience comes from the medical model of pathology and illness. Researchers started to be particularly interested in individuals who were doing well, developing all milestones, despite living difficult adverse circumstances. It led researchers to think of studying more particularly the positive skills and assets of these individuals rather than studying the negative aspects such as symptoms and illnesses. Resilience is therefore an area of positive psychology focusing on studying strengths, skills, assets of individuals demonstrating competence and success despite setbacks, disadvantages and difficulties.

Luther et al. (2000) explain that resilience is a dynamic developmental process where the exposure to substantial adversity is presupposed. Should we presuppose the presence of adversity, what is meant by adversity?

Wright and Masten (2006) define adversity as ‘environmental conditions that interfere with or threaten the accomplishment of age-appropriate developmental tasks such as poverty, child maltreatment and community violence’ and risk as ‘an elevated probability of an undesirable outcome such as the odds of developing schizophrenia being higher in groups of people who have a biological parent with this disorder’ (p.19). Research has identified a number of different factors within children’s lives that place them ‘at-risk’ from, or vulnerable to, restricted life outcomes such as problem behaviours, mental health difficulties, and educational failure or disadvantage (Armstrong, et al., 2005; Wright & Masten, 2006).

Should we consider moving abroad as adversity?

There is no doubt that migrating presents with a number of challenges and setbacks. Adams & Kirova (2007) write a well detailed book on global migration and challenges associated to education. They explain how migration can be different for many people depending on political, economic and personal circumstances. Different authors present a number of factors that shape children’s and families’ lives when experiencing migration as such a significant transition. Although not a full list, I summarise here a number of these factors:

  • displacement
  • needing to learn in a different language, different culture and system
  • different expectations
  • assimilation
  • adaptation
  • integration to a dominant culture
  • maintaining identity and culture vs belonging in a new culture
  • socialisation
  • segregation
  • discontinuity in education
  • fluency in language of host country impacting on opportunities
  • failing to find opportunities matching education levels
  • maintaining basic necessities when arriving in a new country
  • finding employment
  • process of settlement and establishing a new life pattern
  • prejudice, rejection and racism
  • changes in family dynamics
  • mental health and well-being

Setbacks

As well as experiencing the issues exposed above, global families may face some more day-to-day challenges. You may feel you are making headway, but then there are a number of setbacks. Don’t expect everything to be amazing straight away…you may need to bounce back!

  • You may knock at lots of different doors for help, and many may close…There is so much to sort out all the time: logistics, practical and technical You may have to speak to lots of different people. It can be frustrating and demoralising to be told ‘no, sorry, we can’t help’. It is not easy, it often feels personal, although it may not be, but you can feel that as if it is ‘you’ people can’t help.
  • There is a huge emotional side to moving abroad, living abroad. There may be days where you feel you want to be in your own country and see your friends and family. Children can feel like that too. It can be more intense on special days, special occasions, birthdays, etc. It can be isolating.
  • People may talk to you about different places, concepts, terms that you don’t know anything about so this will also ask a lot of your energy. Expect to feel tired as there is a lot to think in all at once. Talking to lots of different people can be stimulating but also tiring has they may a different accents and ways to express themselves that are unfamiliar. Again, this can take lots of energy to deal with this. Expect the children to be excited and also tired, great combination!
  • Moving to a country where a different language is spoken may also bring some other issues, particularly tiredness is an important factor. I remember when I arrived in Scotland. I needed a nap at 4.00 every day as it was just so exhausting to take all the language in. I found the children on many occasions feeling the same when we visit family In Quebec. It takes them some adaptation initially, they are slightly more silent than usual, excited and tired too. After a few days, they often comment on their first dream in French and they carry on as if they had always been there…
  • I found driving around particularly in the UK initially as I had to drive on the other side of the road, roundabouts and other road signs were all very different from home too so it took a lot of my energy in adapting to driving. Initial drives to the north of Scotland were scary and I felt very anxious. Don’t underestimate these feelings as these can take a lot of energy to recover from. Similarly, in Australia, I found driving around fairly easy as I did not have to adapt to driving on the other side of the road, I had already done that, but I got lost so many times, driving around, trying to find my way. It is also gets very dark when the sun goes down, perhaps not so much street lighting, not sure, and I found driving in the dark tricky, again getting lost, missing a turn. Having children in the car also helps or hinders…They insist on telling me how to drive and where to go which can create some interesting discussions and making me particularly anxious. On the other hand, my oldest has been good at using his or my phone to give us directions. Don’t underestimate how tired driving may make you feel…give yourself some time to find your way before and after…
  • Children may also have some setbacks. It is important to be able to deal with our own challenges as parents as well as supported the children in thinking about them.

When faced with all of these challenges and setbacks, how should we think, what should we do?

The Language of Resilience

The language of resilience focuses on strengths and protection against adversity, setbacks difficulties. It aims to observe a better outcome, a positive change, an amelioration of an individual’s current state. It moves away from looking at deficits, symptoms, illness and maximise talking about possibilities, changes, modifications to foster one’s well-being and positive adaptation. Research suggests that the value of strengths is particularly important as it will encourage insight and perspectives in your life, provide a sense of direction, bring a sense of fulfilment, help achieve one’s goals (Clifton & Anderson, 2001-2002). Studies have shown that schools promoting…

  • caring relationships between pupils and teachers
  • high expectations for pupils to do well through practices that are strength, interest and intrinsic motivation for learning based
  • pupils’ meaningful involvement and responsibility with opportunities to express opinions, make choices and work with one and other

…act as buffers against disadvantage and adversity (Cefai, 2008).

When talking to your children, or to people around you, have a little think…

‘What language do I use when describing an event?’ Do I dwell in talking about difficulties and setbacks or do I talk about strengths, possibilities, changes?’

Yes, perhaps, it is helps to describe the problem to fully understand the situation, but after that initial description of the problem, where does the conversation lead to?

I drew a mind map to illustrate the language of resilience.

IMG_0430

 

What helps?

  • Allow some time to adapt to take in the language and challenges.
  • When overwhelmed with the language, have a nap if you need to, if you can.
  • Ensure you are using language based on resilience, strengths and possibilities. See the mind map above as a tool for reflection.
  • Keep positive and focused on your goals. Be realistic and transparent in setting specific goals. The task of moving and adapting often feels unsurmontable. Make sure that you set some small steps and landmark points and celebrate these. Ensure this vision is shared and that all involved know what you are trying to achieve.
  • Allow your emotions to surface, keep them in check. You can do that by self-monitoring your emotions (Carr, 2004) using a mood diary to monitor causes in your mood: activity helping your mood change, beliefs associated with the mood change and the consequent mood change on a scale of 1 to 10. This may allow to understand better causes for specific emotions, such as homesickness, and activities that can help.
  • When things are tough, recharge the batteries: take a break, allow a special day out, a special treat, explore something new, do something you like doing. Evaluate effective and less effective emotional release. For example, a walk in the woods, physical activities, motivational self-talk (‘come on you can do it’), social interactions, relaxation and music and pleasant distractions (hobbies, shopping) tend to be more effective than direct stress reduction such as alcohol and drugs, avoiding a person or event, passive mood release (TV, coffee, food, sleep) and being alone (Salovey, Mayer & Caruso, 2002). I have to admit that I find this point very important. I have been amazed as to how a regular walk in the woods has made me feel in the last few months. I went shopping in a fruit and vegetable shop last week and bought lots of fresh products. It was a beautiful experience, lots of colours, smells, a very enjoyable and uplifting experience, after a hard week full of difficult news. Finding effective emotional release is definitely a must when moving abroad.
  • Make sure you revisit why you are there in the first place. When we initially discussed moving abroad, we drew some mind maps, pros and cons for the move. We kept these and we refer to them when in doubt. Take the time to reflect on why it is tough, brainstorm around some possible solutions, all solutions being a possibility. You can do this by doing a mind map or talking to your partner and other people. Positive emotions such as enjoyment, happy, playfulness, love affection, warm friendship can enhance resilience and our ability to cope and can enable us to be focused on problem-solving and reflections on negative events, and facilitate our capabilities to bounce back (Frederickson, 2001).
  • Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Ask for feedback. Open the communication, send reminders by emails when needed. Give another ring, follow up queries. If a door opens, follow that door as it may lead to a possibility and solution. Always say ‘thank you for your help’.
  • Keep the communication with people in a transparent and honest way. Explain your challenges and dilemmas. People will remember your challenges and may think of you if they find an idea or solution.
  • Keep open communication with the children. We have dinner every evening together where we talk about our day. We often have a ‘family meeting’ to discuss plans, next steps. We try to involve the children in our adventures as much as possible, explain to them where we aim to be in the next couple of weeks, what needs to be done, how we will do it, how they will contribute to this, etc. A constant challenge, but worth the result as they feel it is their adventure too.
  • Ensure that in your communications you include the language of resilience so that others (including the children) understand your challenges, but also see how positive you are and how prepared you are in finding a solution.

Adams, L.D. & Kirov (2006). Global Migration and Education. London: Lawrence Elrbaum Associates, Publishers.

Armstrong, M.I., Birnie-Lefcovitch, S. & Ungar, M.T. (2005). Pathways Between Family Support, Family Well-Being, Quality parenting, and Child Resilience: What we Know. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 14 (2), pp. 269-281.

Boniwell, I (2006). Positive Psychology in a Nutshell. Personal Well-Being Centre (PWBC): London.

Carr (2004). Positive Psychology. Hove and New York: Brunner-Routledge.

Cefai, C. (2008). Promoting Resilience in the Classroom. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Clifton & Anderson (2001-2002). StrenthsQuest. The Gallup Organization: Washington.

Dyer, J. G. & McGuinness, T.M. (1996). Resilience: Analysis of the Concept. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, 10 (5), pp. 276-282.

Fonagy, P., Steele, M. Steele, H., Higgit, A. and Target, M. (1994). The theory and proactive of resilience. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 35(2), pp. 231-257.

Fredericton (2011). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, 56, 218-226.

Luthar, S.S., Cicchetti, D. & Becker, B. (2000). The Construct of Resilience: A critical Evaluation and Guidelines for Future Work. Child Development, 71 (3), pp.543-562.

MacAuley, C. & Rose, W. (2010). Child Well-Being: Understanding Children’s Lives. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Salovey, Mayer & Caruso (2002). The positive psychology of emotional intelligence. In Snyder & Lopez (ads), Handbook of Positive Psychology Practice (pp. 159-171). New York: Oxford University Press

Wright, M. & Masten, A.S. (2006). Resilience Processes in Development. In Goldstein, S. & Brooks, R. (Eds.). Handbook of Resilience in Children. New York: Springer Science and Business Media, Inc.

Educational Settings Supporting Global Families: How to help?

In the last few months, we have had lots of adventures adapting to three different educational settings. We have been welcomed everywhere and found our way around these systems. I am writing some key points here to raise awareness about global families entering completely new educational settings.

What to bear in mind?

  • Culture, language, previous experiences can be completely different to those adopted in the educational setting.
  • Families may have limited furniture, may be sleeping on camping mats.
  • Families may have limited toys and outdoor equipment, such as bikes.
  • Families may not have access to phones, computers, television. There may be a delay until phones are purchased.
  • Families may have difficulties sorting out some things in the house. For example, we have been asked to print so many documents, but we were waiting for our printer in the container, but we have now found out that the ink cannot be replaced here. Families may not have in the house all of the commodities one would consider as essential or ‘normal’.
  • Families may miss their previous life or not. Families may have to deal with some emotional goodbyes, difficult or positive experiences in the home country.
  • Children may want to be there. Children may be reluctant to be in a new country.
  • Families may have to communicate with their friends and families abroad late in the evening or early in the morning.
  • Families may not know what to do for special events, may not know if it is open to parents, grandparents, toddlers.
  • Families may not be aware of the school calendar typical activities such as reporting systems. Parents may have experienced completely different educational systems themselves so they may not know the natural occurrences of term dates, reporting systems, meet the parent evenings, seasonal activities, holidays, etc.
  • Families may need to learn about seasonal activities being different from the country of origin.
  • Families may be cautious, anxious or scared of being in the country or visiting the educational setting. Families may be excited, keen, eager for children to start school.
  • Families may not know informal and unwritten rules present in the school system.
  • Families may not have all necessary paperwork with them. It may be in a container, lost or in the previous country.
  • Families are sorting out a huge amount of paperwork all at the same time. They may not have all of the information required for standard forms.
  • Families will most often enter a new cultural and educational system at a different time from all other families.
  • Families may not speak the majority language at home or may have difficulties in communicating verbally.

It is evident from all of these points that families are experiencing a significant transition…

Transitions as a rite of passage and mutual accomodation

It may be particularly important to remember that entering a new system can be quite daunting, full of the unknown with potential challenges and opportunities. Many authors explore the definition of transitions. I chose the following two for their meanings in relation to our experiences.

Transition is defined as a ‘rite of passage’ which is a celebration of the passage which occurs when an individual leaves one group to enter another. It involves a significant change of status in society. From the French language, it also refers to all the attitudes, rituals, routines, that the newcomer to the new group has to adopt to become part of the group. It implies that the newcomer will become part of the group when he becomes ‘competent’ with knowing rules, routines, attitudes in the group. There a number of ceremonies celebrated in many cultures and groups to welcome a newcomer who has passed its ‘probation’, to name a few, a scouting promise, certificate in assembly as a welcoming gesture, a graduation, a probation. More and more, it has been acknowledged that it is not just the newcomer, in this case, a child starting a new school, but all the family that enters this new system. All the family has to learn about new rituals, routines, timetables as all of these have an impact on the family life.

Indeed, a child alone cannot be the full responsible for a positive adaptation to an educational setting. Bronfenbrenner (1979) writes ‘an ecological transition occurs whenever a person’s position in the ecological environment is altered as the result of a change in a role, setting, or both’ (p.26). He later explains that transitions represent great examples of the process of mutual accomodation between the person and the environment. In other words, Bronfenbrenner refers to the child at the centre of the new educational setting as in full interaction with the new environment, as well as its own family, siblings, home culture, and considers a transition as an accomodation process where a child and the environment will interact and get to know each other, as well as taking into consideration all of the family and siblings supporting the child in another environment, the family.

I think these two definitions give lots of food for thoughts to educational settings when welcoming global families. Practical ideas to support this significant transition are outlined below. There may be a number of ways to support global families. I write key points below based on our experiences.

What can educational settings do to help?

  • Allocate a member of staff who will welcome the family, listen to their story and welcome them in the setting. Be curious, learn about their journey/story, accept the differences, embrace this cultural diversity. It may be completely different to your own. Take the time to learn about a new family entering the system.
  • Ensure that the family is handed a handbook explaining routines, rituals, and rules in the system. Be curious, routines may be different at home, routines may have been completely different in the previous educational setting. Be clear about routines, visits, entry points.
  • Ensure that you explain policies, financial matters and compulsory key points very clearly with written support, such as payment policies, bus fares, attendance and holidays policies, etc. Allow the families to pay for fees over a period of time as they may experience an influx of bills all at once.
  • Allow the family on their first or second visit to complete all enrolment documents, printed by the educational setting. It can take a long time to complete all documents. Provide a comfortable space, offer a drink.
  • Ensure that rules with uniform and stationary are clear so that families purchase the right clothes/equipment. A written list is a must to avoid any difficulties with language barriers. Allow the families to purchase the necessary uniform items quickly and buying remaining items at a later date to avoid huge costs all at once.
  • Ensure that educational and social calendars are shared with the family. If special activities are planned such as a camp, a day out, etc., ensure families are given plenty of notice as they may not have all of the equipment needed and may need to borrow or purchase.
  • Keep the communication open by different means of contact, preferred ones to the family.
  • Ensure that all unwritten and informal rules are openly discussed and shared. Unwritten and informal rules can be obvious to people who experience the system every day, but very confusing for new families, especially when they have experienced completely different educational systems.
  • Encourage a culture which promotes socialisation and support for the children and the parents such as a buddy system, classroom parent representative. A named person the family can ask questions to when in doubt can also be a good way to feel that ‘no questions are stupid’.
  • Ensure that the family is given details of any social media sites or websites that the school has and share information there.
  • Ensure that social events are well advertised so that families feel included and can participate. When advertising special activities, ensure that clear guidelines are given to families: use this entrance, so and so welcome, etc. If there is a special event organised where extended family members are invited, treat this sensitively with children of global families as family members will not be close by. Children of global families could be invited to contribute in a different way: bringing a picture, an object representing the family member, bring a quick video.
  • Ensure that the system embraces cultural diversity, not just by having some ‘welcome’ signs in different languages in the entrance, but by people being able to share this cultural diversity, staff being curious about different cultural stories and aware of cultural diversity. An international day/special events where parents are invited to bring a dish from their country or talk to children about their culture/country can encourage this exchange. Promote discussions about cultural diversity with the children. Other ways to promote cultural diversity could be by having different maps on walls, clocks indicating the time in different countries, flags of countries represented by children, parents and staff.
  • It may be helpful to write a transition policy for global families so that all of the above is rigorously followed, particularly as global families may start at the educational setting at a different point in the academic year.
  • Be kind, helpful, empathic and considerate; assume the families don’t know anything about the system.

Families are having to sort out a lot all at the same time, give the families time to adapt to new system by being supportive, amicable and positive! It will make such a difference!

 

Bronfenbrenner (1979). The Ecology of Human Development. Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA & London, UK.

Van Gennep, Arnold (1909). Les rites de passage (in French). Paris: Émile Nourry.