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Preparing Kids for a Move

Moving is not easy on anyone — adults or kids. John is a 14-year-old boy who recently moved from the US to the Netherlands. According to his parents, he is moody and angry, and he is having a hard time making friends and engaging in schoolwork at his new school. His parents are not sure if he is depressed or just being a teenager.

Research shows that young people who have moved house may experience unresolved grief from the loss of their home, school and friends, and this may manifest itself as denial, anger, depression, withdrawal or rebellion. Like John, kids who have recently moved may exhibit difficulties with their identity formation because previously stable factors at home and school are missing during an important time in their life.

Parents and caregivers have an essential role in supporting kids during a move. They can help children and teens create a sense of identity, belonging and rootedness. The following are some strategies to help improve self-confidence and minimize cultural homelessness: 

  1. Realize that every child is unique when it comes to change

One of my kids had a much harder time with a recent move than the other. He missed his friends, his old school and his routine, and he grieved this loss. Know your child and take time to explore how they may be addressing change. Remember that moving during the teen years is significantly harder because this is a formative period. Having said that, many young people are extremely resilient and handle change well. 

  1. Create belonging in the local community

Kids that feel connected to the local community will feel more self-confident. Ensure yours have a good understanding of the culture by encouraging them to be involved with community service, be part of a local sports team, or engage in other activities. For my son, who was struggling with our recent move, activities like walking the neighbor’s dog every day, joining a local soccer club, and speaking with his grandparents regularly were very helpful. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help and support, whether it is from a family member, counselor, coach or teacher. 

  1. Use social communities to build language

Multilingualism can be hard to maintain, especially if there are more than two or three languages at play. As Mariam Ottimofiore, who is the author of This Messy Mobile Life and who has lived in nine countries with her husband and two children, suggests, “Get support from others to encourage using the local language, to make it fun and exciting for kids. Think about joining clubs or camps where the additional language will be used or enrolling in a study-abroad experience for immersion. At the same time, realize that it is OK if your child is unable to maintain all the languages they have been exposed to. You and your teen will need to prioritize which languages are important and how to continue learning them.”

  1. Use virtual tools to maintain contact

For some kids, having connections with their old community and friends is a meaningful way to handle loss. As we have learned from Covid-19, using virtual tools such as Skype or Zoom are good ways for kids to stay in touch with family or community far away.

  1. Demonstrate healthy ways to grieve, and get help if needed

Encourage healthy ways to address loss, such as journaling, connecting via a phone or video call, exercising, meditating, and listening to music (even crying can be cathartic). If needed, look for a counselor or mentor to help your teen identify and deal with loss directly.

  1. Be aware that adults can struggle, too

Adults who have moved may not have a clear sense of identity in their new location or may struggle to belong, which can add to their child’s or teen's challenges. On the other hand, cross-cultural adults may also impart skills and values honed from their own experiences. As an adult expatriate, I realized that each time I moved, it took me two to three years to settle into my new environment. I now know that finding a community and creating a sense of identity and belonging have been crucial to my happiness and sense of well-being in each country that we have lived in. Having friends who have gone through similar experiences, visiting online forums, and being involved with cross-cultural organizations such as Families in Global Transition (FIGT) have also helped me immensely. Being aware of these issues may be important for families as they navigate change and uncertainty  — both now and in the future.

Dr. Anisha Abraham is a pediatrician and a teen health expert who is on the faculty of the University of Amsterdam and Georgetown University Hospital. Anisha works with cross-cultural teens on issues such as stress, substance use, body image, and self-esteem. This piece was adapted from her recently released book, Raising Global Teens. For more information or to order the book, see dranishaabraham.com.

Have any questions or comments, or want to share more ideas? In the American Women’s Club member-only Facebook group, you can join the lively conversation! Not yet a member? We’d love to have you!

Eight Tips for Helping our Kids Cope with Coronavirus

by Dr. Anisha Abraham

How are you adjusting to social distancing, school closures, home offices, lockdowns and toilet paper shortages? If the onslaught of memes and cartoons are any indication, the last few weeks have been difficult for many families holed up at home! Here are a few tips to help kids to cope with the unfolding uncertainties and challenges of COVID-19.

  1. Maintain routines. Maintaining routines and schedules can provide children and teens a sense of stability. There are good online tools for creating a schedule for school-age kids. In our house, we made schedules with our tweens, which include online school hours, mealtimes, exercise, piano practice, small chores and free time. Of course, we had our share of drama and eye-rolling, but it does provide a rough guide for the day. For teens, consider their need for independence and creating their own path for learning, but also encourage them to take time away from media use, get physical activity and break large assignments into smaller ones. Finally, a reminder to parents-manage your expectations. Your child or teen may not be working at the same pace or intensity as a regular school day. Acknowledge this, as hard as it may be to do. 
  2. Empower kids to be responsible. Remind children and teens that they can protect themselves and others by practicing proper hand washing, sneezing into your elbow and maintaining social distancing. What we have seen is that children and teens may not get as sick as adults but can still transmit the virus to the elderly (over 60 years) or those who have chronic illnesses. By ensuring our kids use social distancing, we help decrease the total number of infections. What is social distancing? In our house, it means that there are no friends over and we don’t visit friends. If they do meet a friend outdoors to bike or kick a ball, they need to keep about 6 feet away. They are allowed to use the phone, skype or Whatsapp to connect with others. This all may seem tough to enforce, especially with teens. Still, it is ultimately our obligation as parents to teach social behavior and to keep our kids and our community healthy.
  3. Discuss information based on age. Realize that many kids are curious about what’s happening, and issues are changing by the hour. My kids, for example, are very interested in the daily statistics for COVID-19 rates by country and often check this John Hopkins site. Discuss what’s happening in an age-appropriate way. ​This may mean avoiding having adult-level conversations around small kids while talking about public health strategies and recent research studies with older ones. Also, knowing that constant social media updates can increase stress levels so encouraging kids to back off on news streams if they are feeling irritable, anxious or depressed.
  4. Build on strengths and allow boredom. Every child has strengths and interests, whether it is music, arts, science, writing and so on. Building on their strengths helps kids develop resilience and handle challenges. One of my son’s friends is an excellent illustrator and is spending some time each day drawing elaborate cartoon strips. For a teen that loves coding or math, try Khan Academy. For kids that enjoy being with animals- try zoos around the world such as the Smithsonian that have live cams. For those who enjoy the arts and want to create their own masterpiece, try a virtual tour of a museum to get inspired. Finally, how many of you have heard the phrase, “I’m bored” at home recently? Remember allowing a little boredom is a great way to promote creativity and self-sufficiency.
  5. Embrace uncertainty and start dreaming big. Research shows that kids don’t need to have a linear path to succeed. In fact, those with a slightly squiggly journey end up doing better in life. This is a great time to move beyond what has been planned and do some creative brainstorming on how to redirect and move on. Did the family trip get cancelled? If so, what is on your bucket list for your next adventure? Did the final term of high school or university just get cut short? How can you navigate the next steps? Do you have a cool idea for a short story, or a community service project? How can you start it now?
  6. Emphasize kindness and caring. Unfortunately, some communities have been the target of unkind remarks and even outright racism as a result of coronavirus. Encourage kids to continue to be kind to all people, regardless of where they are from or what they look like. Also, think of ways to give back to your community and provide outreach: for example, helping a neighbor that is elderly, donating items, to a food bank or buying gift certificates to support a local business.
  7. Model positive behaviors. Kids learn from adults as to how to react in new situations. We need to model positive ways to stay healthy and handle uncertainty, including exercising regularly, eating healthy foods to boost immunity and staying connected with loved ones. In our house, we pulled out the board games (Pandemic, anyone?), scheduled a virtual dinner with friends, created a Netflix list and are having regular calls with family around the globe. If possible, get outdoors and bike, run, hike or walk as a family. If that doesn’t work, try striking a few yoga poses or doing a mindfulness app at home. Finally, adults need to limit their media use around coronavirus and ensure devices stay out of bedrooms at night.
  8. Look out for warning signs. Changes in eating or sleep habits, increased irritability or sadness, the inability to get off devices, or the need for constant reassurance can be signs that kids may be struggling and need support. Try talking things out or getting another adult or mentor to be involved. If these don’t help, it may be time to reach out to your health provider or a counselor for additional help. Keeping with the times, many are providing telephone and electronic consults.

What is happening around us with COVID-19 can be scary and difficult for kids and adults. Hopefully, with creating routines, encouraging social distancing, having developmentally-based discussions and building on their natural strengths, we can support our kids at home. In addition, don’t forget the importance of embracing uncertainty, modeling kindness and positive self-care skills as parents while looking out for signs of depression and anxiety. Stay safe and calm!    

For more tips:

Parenting during coronavirus: What to know about play dates, education and more

Talking to Teens and Tweens About Coronavirus

7 Ways to Help Kids Cope with Coronavirus (COVID-19) Anxiety

A List of Indoor Activities That Will Keep Kids Entertained at Home During the Coronavirus Outbreak

Bio:

Dr. Anisha Abraham is a pediatrician and teen health specialist based in Amsterdam, NL, and on faculty at both the University of Amsterdam and Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, DC.  She works with teens, parents, and educators globally, using her 25 years of experience as a practicing clinician, researcher, and health educator. Her book Raising Global Teens: Parenting in the 21st Century will be released this autumn in local bookstores and on Amazon. For more information, see https://dranishaabraham.com/.

 

 

How to Entertain, Educate, and Earn While Stuck At Home

or, How to Stay Sane During a Pandemic

by Kate Spaulding

Friends, neighbors, countrypeople, this is an unprecedented time in our world. We know some of what we have to do: wash our hands, physically distance ourselves from each other, wash our hands, limit grocery runs, be kind to ourselves and our community, wash our hands, and work together. But we're also learning to navigate working from home (sometimes for the first time), cooking more, battling cabin fever, and managing kids who aren't in school. It's times like these that demonstrate the strength of our communities and adaptability of the human race. You're not in this alone.

To that end, we're rounding up resources to help you reach the light at the end of the tunnel. Do you have more great ideas? Please, add them to the conversation in the AWCA Facebook Group!

Working from Home

  • 8 Tips To Make Working From Home Work For You
  • How to Work From Home the Right Way
  • The most important thing is to have a routine - it can be the same for 5 days a week and then slightly different for 2 days a week - like that you can try to keep a similar rhythm to normal (whatever that is). Don't be afraid to do things that use to seem stupid - move furniture away from walls so you can walk around rooms completely. Create different spaces in your home so that it is clear what happens where to support routines - this is the play corner - or we play when we put this out etc. This is the eating time. This is quit time. Create virtual community groups - there are other people out there that you know with small children that can organise whatsapp singing a longs or reading stories etc. But ROUTINE and virtual communities will save you! --from Aine Markham via Facebook
  • The Remote Work Mega Guide
  • How to Work from Home Like a Boss

Activities

Especially for Parents