A Year On: 10 Learning Points!

When the opportunity came up to move to Australia, I have to admit I was lacking knowledge about the geography, the climate, the culture, political and social issues. I did some research to gain some initial knowledge but it is, of course, living the daily routines in a new country that helps the most. Some things surprised me, others confirmed some thoughts and initial perceptions. I write about 10 main learning points, the ones that surprised me the most…

  1. The sun heat is particularly intense. It feels very direct and hot on the skin. It is not cool to be tanned and not funny either. In fact, people worry about you if you have a sun burnt. People are very cautious about sunshine and heat and particularly sun burns. At the peak of summer, you still tan with 50 factor cream. Hats are a necessity. In fact, in all schools, there is a hat policy imposed from October to April. I don’t live in the most heat affected area, but I can imagine how difficult it may be at 35-45 degrees on most days. I am not sure I could live in these areas. In the Melbourne area, we have noticed some very hot days followed by 1 or 2 cool days, which has been a relief. These days are welcomed. It is impossible to do lots of jobs during the high sun hours. Initially, we were like ‘we must empty boxes, cut trees, etc.’ but it became unbearable to work like that in the sunshine. BBQs have a clearly purpose. On these hot days, it is too hot to cook inside. We need to remind ourselves to drink water…
  2. Similar to Canada, Australia is vast, one hour drive does not get you very far. The states appear very distinct (although we have not travelled interstate yet) with different state governments and particular unique and specific issues. Although we live in a fairly populated area there is space around us, farm land is on our doorstep and we are an hour away to the city.
  3. It is incredible to discover so many new animals and the wildlife. We have been truly amazed! The kookaburras singing make me smile every time as they sound like monkeys. Possums although cute are very invasive and will take every single little opportunity to get in small holes to get through the roof, the garage, etc. Once established it is very hard to move them on, they are at finding new holes, new ways to get in. I learnt a lot about keeping possums out! Seeing wild kangaroos has been great. It is always incredible to see parrots, blue ones, green, ones, pink ones, all coloured, just beautiful!
  4. The nature also truly amazes us all. Palm trees, bushland, native trees, flowers. I love the smell of the forest, particularly the eucalyptus trees. I am looking forward to grow birds of paradise at the front of the house. The sceneries are unique, yellow burnt grass fields and lines of native tress, the farmland and countryside are beautiful. A very picturesque scenery and very unique to Australia too…We love just being outdoors…walking and exercise has to be planned according not only the weather but mainly the heat…
  5. The proximity of Pacific islands, Indonesia, China, Japan brings a different dimension to the news, politics and culture. These countries are well represented in the culture and the news always present key news about these countries. Links with these countries also appear developed in terms of politics. These holiday destinations are also well developed. Foods from these countries are available everywhere. We have had some great Thai and Japanese food. There are also some markets and stores selling these foods in lots of places. You can find nail bars, massage places, everywhere.
  6.  America appears to have a big influence on Australia, more than I anticipated. One 12 hour flight will take you to LA. There are number of American programmes on TV, even more than the UK!
  7. Buying cars is interesting! Cars are advertised as ‘Drive Away’, but you can’t drive them away! A big mistake: buying a car with no air conditioning!
  8. The history of Australia fascinates me, particularly the aboriginal culture, which I would like to learn so much more of and visit areas more in the North. Again a number of incredible similarities with Canada and aboriginal culture, colonisation, subsequent oppressions, dominant discourses.
  9. Pub culture is not so important. People tend to have BBQs or dinners at people’s houses. Parties at people’s houses appear to be popular. Food and coffee are great everywhere in restaurants. There is a big coffee culture…
  10. People are incredibly friendly and kind. People pop in to see each other and spontaneously create a dinner party. We all love the easy going lifestyle and this great sense of community.
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“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.

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.

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.

Settling a Toddler: What can help?

Settling a younger child in a new country can be quite a challenge. Everything is new, nothing the same, the environment, outdoor, the house, furniture, etc.. Parents may experience some stress and anxieties, the child will feel too. On the other hand, some things may be the same such as having dinner together, sibling relationships, games, clothes, toys.

It was very difficult initially to settle our youngest (https://pascaleparadis.org/2016/05/02/i-want-another-family-my-bedroom-light-is-not-working-i-dont-have-many-toys-and-mamans-bed-is-now-pink-i-want-a-blue-house-emile-3-years-old/). I can now say that we have turned a huge corner, no more tears, potty trained day and night, great success! Some strategies have been particularly helpful so I write these here in the view that it may be helpful to other families experiencing similar situations.

  • Find a special activity you like to do together, take pictures, bring these to nursery, show these to staff
  • Bringing a teddy or comforter to nursery
  • Talking to staff about his interests
  • Encouraging your child to talk about what he likes at nursery
  • Talking to staff about an activity you did at home
  • Communicative and positive transition times: morning and home times; talk about routines, eating, sleeping, potty training, mood
  • Transition times with family members i.e. brother and sister coming in to the nursery and talking about what he does there. For example, looking at animals together, or a book. It is a great opportunity for the younger child to show to his siblings his environment.
  • Bringing a toy from home to show his friends and staff (often a new toy we purchased as we had little)
  • Looking at pictures of him doing an activity in the nursery portfolio
  • Mum and dad coming to play for a little bit at nursery
  • Surprises at the end of the day such as choosing at the supermarket what he wants to eat for dinner. Rewards such as time on the iPad.
  • Finding a common interest between home and nursery, and share pictures, photographs, drawings, at nursery. For example, our little one loves animals so we talked about that at the nursery and we talked about our adventures seeing animals. We have visited the chicken enclosure at nursery as well as the rabbit area. Our little one was able to talk about the animals to us, how he feeds, how he holds them
  • Keep the routine going, similar routines to the ones before.
  • Repeating scripts has worked well when he did not want to go to nursery. For example, ‘let’s go to nursery’ (not giving a choice such as ‘do you want to go to nursery’), ‘Maman is going to work, lots of work to do, boring work, you know I love you and will come back at the end of the day to pick you up’ (reassurance that you will be back as everything is new, the child may be anxious about you not coming back), ‘I am working today, a boring day (not letting the child think your are having amazing adventures when not with you)’, ‘you will have lots of fun here’, ‘you like the slide’ (emphasis on likes and interests), ‘you like it at nursery’, ‘you have such amazing days’… keep it positive and motivating.
  • Try to stay calm and keep positive. Children can pick up our emotions very quickly so by keeping calm and positive they will feel that way too…
  • A keyperson approach or a person who appears to have built a positive relationship with your child may help settle him in transition times. Having a relationship with that keyperson may help understand what the child is going through or discuss more in-depth their interests and difficulties.
  • Ensure that you continue to respect my rules and values of the family. Continue to be firm with ground rules. It can be difficult to continue adopting these rules when everything is new and different. It will help to respect these rules, be persistent.
  • Keep communicating with staff about difficulties and challenges. We initially had three days of childcare, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I felt it did not encourage adaptation as it was too ‘bitty’. Staff felt it would give my child too long at home if I joined the three days together, like Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, leaving a full four days at home. Although I understand that concept, I felt that my child would benefit from the three day routine, similar to his older siblings as they go to school. We kept the communication opened and carried on discussing the issues. I then decided to move his days to three consecutive days. It worked much better for him.
  • Ensure that you understand different routines and whether these work for you and your child. We are still having difficulties with sleep patterns. At nursery, they sleep for an hour during the day, which is a completely different routine to the UK. My child was chocked initially about this routine and did not want to sleep, but now goes on the mat and has an hour. For us, it is tricky because it means he does not go to sleep until 10pm. We are still finding our way with this change…

 

Don’t know how and where I will die, in the meantime I enjoy where I am…

Listening to Pierre Lapointe tonight, a more morose and philosophical me arose…

‘Where and how will I die’ has become a theme that has hit me in recent years. I was in my early twenties when I ‘moved’ abroad, I never thought about living in a different country and having to die there. I was young, free, full of aspirations and dreams, not thinking about family members dying or dying…

Recently, I faced loss of significant people in my life. I started to ask myself where and how will I die…not necessarily imminent, but a pertinent question as you never know, pertinent for specific arrangements for a will and children…I always imagined dying in a place I love, in a chalet, in the woods around a Canadian lake, with people around I love, somewhere I have lived for a long time where my children and family can connect and relate to.

When you live abroad, this ‘type of dream’ and the technicalities of it all become somewhat overwhelming and full of challenges: ‘how do you learn about someone’s passing when you live abroad’, ‘ who tells you, how do you find out, do you get to know’, ‘how can I support family and friends of ‘a home country’ person who dies, ‘how can I be part of a community I grew up in when someone dies’, ‘when and how should I be close and travel’, ‘what about my children if I die or my husband dies, both of us die’, ‘who will take care of them’, ‘who will be able to give them the full cultural diversity and heritage’, ‘where will they be’, ‘where should I rest’, ‘who will be close enough to be present on the day, for my children, for my husband’, ‘what about furniture, souvenirs, memories, how are these kept miles away’, ‘where should I be buried so that my children have a place to grieve and have some closure, which country should that be in’…and many other questions. Significant questions as there are so many technicalities and logistics to ‘dying’…when you lose someone close, you realise these technicalities even more…

Having lived abroad for a long time, all of these questions made me realise that you only live once; you can plan it all, have it all laid in a will, but it will not work out the way you planned. People will travel if they can, people will give their best wishes wherever they are…yes it would be good to be present. I have been sincerely touched by friends and family who were there on such days. A gesture, a thought, a card, are also meaningful…you never know how you can touch someone by a written message, a bunch of flowers, an email, etc. Does it really have to be on the day? Grief and loss is not a one day experience, it is there with you to stay…there are many ways to express grief and loss over time…

As to where and when will I die…don’t know…does it really matter? I am here to live…and try to enjoy life to the max…in the meantime, I enjoy where I am…I am sure the children will find a place to remember me when it comes…and who knows how it will come…and where I will be…I have started to like the idea of having my ashes thrown at sea, whatever sea, close to a lighthouse. A lighthouse is a meaningful symbol as it represents a guide and lightened path through adversity, a path that I know my husband is working hard at developing. Even the children refer to Papa has having his permanent office in a lighthouse! Will it be what I want to happen in the end, don’t know, this is where we are at the moment…but I can be reassured that if something was going to happen I would have a meaningful plan laid out…not for me as I will be dead, but for everyone else around, who may need comfort and closure…after questioning and experience of loss, being abroad can also bring an interesting sense of calm to it all…

 

 

Children’s views as global citizens!

For a presentation about being global citizens to colleagues last Summer, I asked my children what they thought about living with dual nationalities and experiencing travelling around the world. I always find it fascinating to hear children’s views and perceptions of their experiences. I thought I would share these as these give an interesting sense of what children think about their story, cultural heritage, identity and view of the world. I have also asked the children to talk about their recent experience of being in Australia.

‘Papa grew up in Yorkshire, his family is Scottish, Maman is from Canada, but more Quebec, no one speaks English in Quebec…I was born in Scotland, I speak French and English, I wear the kilt at special events, I lived 10 years Essex, I now live in Australia…’

‘Don’t like the fact that so many migrants are getting blocked off. They should be able to travel where they want…it is not right, it’s their own human rights…to go where you want to…’(L., 12 yrs)

‘Having different friends from different countries…it is enjoyable, it gives other aspects of countries you have visited, different views of a country’ (L., 12 yrs)

‘You get to meet some new people, new additions, new baby, adding people in the world, meeting them, babysit them, look after them, being friendly, gentle, not boisterous, not violent, always forgiving when you have an argument.’ (E., 9 yrs)

‘The kilt can be embarrassing, it is a tradition not to wear pants underneath.’ (lots of laughs) (L., 12 yrs)

‘Living in different cultures, it is joyful, enjoyable, puzzling, because of everything going on, sometimes you don’t know what to do.’ (E., 9 yrs)

‘It’s sometimes upsetting, we have to leave a country…’ (E., 9 yrs)

It’s upsetting the wars, bombs, people dying, people invading our space.’ (E., 9 yrs)

‘Everything is around me, I know where everything is, if I need to go to Canada/Scotland, I know where it is…many places as well…you get to share what you have done somewhere else, catch up with people when you visit, stay there, come back, you have not caught up enough with them, you need to keep up with them.’ (E., 9yrs)

‘To live with two languages is brilliant, some people only live with one, I am lucky I have two different languages. I am allowed to be English, Canadian and Scottish as well (E. imitates a Scottish accent). Whitby is on the outskirt of Scotland…different languages, it is great, enjoyable.’ (E., 9 yrs)

‘UK is very small… so you can spread love much more, if you have Canada and Scotland as well, you can spread lots more love around. It’s fun. ’ (E., 9 yrs)

‘All three countries I have lived in have very different climates. I am very grateful to be living in a hotter country now. The wildlife is different too. I am enjoying getting to know different animals and birds. I am enjoying seeing my little brother growing up with his reactions to the new wildlife. I have seen a lot more different things such as trees, unique sceneries, greener, much more woodlands. The land feels a lot more vast, it feels it takes longer to walk to places than it would in the UK’. (L., 13)

‘All three countries are unique in their own special ways. I enjoy all three countries, but Australia ‘wowed me’ with all of its forest, woods, houses, schools, wildlife, outdoors. I can climb trees in my garden. The garden is the biggest garden I have ever had and I like the space we have. I like all the different lifestyles. UK is quite small. I miss my friends a lot and I have made new friends in Australia. I am playing lots of different activities and have different experiences. Food is quite different here. I need to learn about new food in Australia. We can find lots of Japanese food everywhere such as sushi which I love’. (E., 10)

‘like the sand, the beach…give food to the kangaroos, I see his big neck…I have teddies (Scooby Doo), need to get more teddies…like picnic in the woods, see some animals…take photos with Maman.’ (E., 3)

Series: Amazing Anchor Points 2

A few weeks ago I wrote a text about anchor points. Some people I spoke to mentioned that it was one of their favourite texts so far Series: Anchor Points Favouring Adaptation. I am particularly fond of the theory too as I wrote about anchor points during my masters thesis, a point in my life where I had never believed I would continue further academic studies, but some special people believed in me…

More recently, this theory made even more sense when related to global migration. And now I have been completely overwhelmed by how significant anchor points can promote adaptation.

A special friend from the UK put me in touch with some of his friends here in Australia. We got in touch via social media sites, intending to meet up. I was invited to a special evening. Due to distance, transport and childcare, it was tricky for my husband to come with me so I went on the train alone and was invited to stay overnight, a particularly hospitable gesture.

Within minutes of being there, there were so many connections that made me feel such like at home, amicable and friendly atmosphere, books in the house everywhere (many in psychology!), floorboards, weatherboard house, a swimming against courant pool that my husband and I had talked about buying for years, Birkenstocks, patio door we would put in the house we are renting if we renovated it, older furniture, colourful family kitchen, a vibrant and cosy house, great conversations related to my field of work. For those who know me well, you will understand how anchored that made me feel!

Within minutes of guests arriving, I met people who had studied in my field of work in Montreal. We then talked about maple syrup, the woods, beaver tails, snowy weather and winter sports, the outdoors. We talked about work, global migration and related issues. We sat down listening to a singer and guitarist, talking about migration, whilst sitting outside next to a roaring fire…the smell reminding me of ‘home’, the guitar and singing reminding me of Chez Son Père and all the music culture of Quebec.

I later met some more people who happened to live just over the creek from where we live now. We were able to talk about the town, schools, possible future meetings, and work as they worked in my field of work.

I then met someone from Scotland, where I lived for 5 years, a particularly important place for me as I arrived there with a packsack and could not understand the accent. We exchanged about the Scottish culture, places I had been, places where I had worked, my husband’s work in lighthouses, music and fiddlers of Nova Scotia and Quebec, musicians in Dunkeld, etc. I did understand the accent very well! But I think I may have surprised some people with mine…

All evening, I was completely overwhelmed by all the anchor points, past experiences leading to future possibilities…it seemed too good to be true…I had never experienced something like that…it felt like I was meant to be there, naturally flowing in conversations and feeling like at home…A huge thank you to all for thinking of me and making me feel so welcomed.

If you are welcoming a family from abroad in your community, you can also make a difference by inviting them along to a special evening. If you know someone in a country where a family is immigrating, it is an amazing special gift to connect people together!

Learning about Time and Pennies

It is interesting how some very trivial things in life, things you take for granted, become completely overwhelming and difficult to manage. We never thought time and pennies would cause us some headaches. You become so accustomed to your own ways of living and carry on…and then comes a move and it all changes…

Time

We had always been familiar with communicating with family abroad, 5 hours difference with Montreal and London, it seemed reasonable to know when to phone with plenty of opportunities during the day to phone. We had also been familiar with this concept too as my husband travelled abroad. Children were used to speak to him on Skype or over the phone. He would always make an effort of phoning every evening either at dinner time when we are all at the dinner table or later in the evening before bedtime.

We have found that, communicating with Australia when preparing the move and then when we arrived, is a little more tricky. Keeping in touch with Montreal time as well as London time became impossible. Children were also very confused, thinking that it was just the same. Then my husband travelled to London and Paris via Dubai and then the children became even more confused. When he was abroad, he was able to phone but the routine of phoning at dinner time was completely thrown out of the window. We had to adapt to that and find new ways of communicating.

We purchased some clocks and we set them at the different zones. It is in a very prominent place in the house where children can see them easily. With these clocks, we have managed to have visual support to talk about time more effectively. It also gives a visual reminder of how ahead we are compared to the other two countries, when people get up, go to bed, then judge whether it is a good time to phone or not! A great way to learn about the world! Definitely a must!

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Pennies

When we started unpacking, we found lots of pennies in boxes, handbags, etc. We realised that these pennies were not just in pounds but lots of different currencies. Our travels have brought us in lots of different places, we had accumulated, unbeknown to us, quite a collection of pennies. As unpacking evolved, it became impossible to manage all these pennies so we purchased some jars, all the same, to put our pennies in. We have needed a pound sterling jar, a Canadian dollar jar, an Australian dollar jar, an Euro jar and a miscellenous jar. Children have had a great time looking at all these pennies. All very confusing too as the Queen is on many of them! Children have reflected on the fact that AUD jar seems to be always low on funds because they have admitted taking pennies for their lunch money! A very simple and practical idea helping children to learn about the world. Another must!

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