4 Things Necessary To Raise Great TCK’s

Expat parents share one thing the globe around –as parents, our deep desire is to raise children who become responsible, self-disciplined, kind, contributing and healthy adults. Research gives us the answer for raising great kids: we know what works and what doesn’t, because it has followed families for decades. 4 ingredients for raising great third culture kids: 

1. Set an exFamily wearing a xmas hatsample for your kids.

Kids live what they’re modeled. If we’re respectful to our children and to the cultures around us, they become respectful adults. If they’re rude, they learnt it somewhere and when they bring it into the house, we politely remind them that we don’t relate that way. If we yell at them, they’ll learn to yell back. 

 When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you hang up my first painting on the refrigerator,

and I wanted to paint another one.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you feed a stray cat,

and I thought it was good to be kind to animals.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you make my favorite cake for me,

and I knew that little things are special things.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I heard you say a prayer,

and I believed there is a God I could always talk to.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I felt you kiss me goodnight, and I felt loved.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw tears come from your eyes,

and I learned that sometimes things hurt, but it’s alright to cry.

Because when you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw that you cared,

and I wanted to be everything that I could be.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I looked…and wanted to say thanks for all the things I saw when you thought I wasn’t looking. Mary Rita Schilke Korzan 

What poem would your children write about you?

As a parent, walk your talk because though kids may or may not listen to your words, they always pay attention to your actions. 

2. Develop a close emotional attachment with your children.

A report published by The Committee on Integrating the Science of Early Childhood Development identified how crucial the emotional attachment bond is to a child’s mental, physical, intellectual, emotional, and social development. It ensures they feel secure, understood, and be calm enough to allow their developing brain to mature well. This provides the best foundation for life: a feeling of safety that results in eagerness to learn, healthy self-awareness, trust, and empathy. It also motivates them to cooperate and accept your recommendations and rules. You can imagine how important this piece is with added relocations, changing schools often, and finding new friends with each move (or every time a friend moves away). You are a constant in their life. 

Research found this attachment is based on the quality of nonverbal communication that takes place. Children need to engage in nonverbal and verbal emotional exchanges with their parents to communicate their needs and make them feel understood, secure, and balanced. This is easiest done when your child is an infant, yet you can begin at any age because their brains continue to mature until their mid 20’s. Non-verbal tips that create emotional attachment are: 

Eye contact –As parents, when we’re anxious, depressed or distracted, we usually don’t make eye contact with our kids. It allows you to focus on what’s happening in the moment with yomother and daughter talkingur child and shows him that he has your full attention. 

Facial expression – Your face can wear a hundred emotions without ever saying a word. What are you communicating through yours? 

Tone of voice – Whether your child can understand the words you say or not, she can understand the difference between a tone that is harsh, indifferent, or preoccupied and a tone that conveys interest, concern, and understanding. 

Body language – The way you sit and move communicates a wealth of information to your child. Arms crossed and head back shows defensiveness. Sit relaxed, leaning a little towards your child and she will feel she matters. 

“What is best for the child is not always what is most convenient for the parent.” ~ Bonnie Bedford 

3. Learn to soothe your children, so they learn self soothing manage their emotions and behavior. Parental soothing helps little ones develop the neural pathways to soothe themselves and makes them less anxious. As children get older, they encounter situations that upset, anger or disappoint them. Our natural impulse is to rush in and ‘fix’ the problem, but this doesn’t teach them how to cope. Elizabeth Crary, author of “Dealing with Disappointment – Helping Kids Cope When Things Don’t Go Their Way” states that it’s important to teach them how to deal with upsetting situations and how to calm themselves. For TCK’s who deal with many big emotions because of the stressors in their lives, this is an important component for health and well being. And what about during transition, when they find themselves alone and without friends? Being able to ‘be’ with themselves and find comfort during relocation and other transition is important. 

Every child is different as to what calms. Take into consideration your child’s temperament. Are they active? Creative? Here are some healthy tools to get you started: 

Physical tools – Physical activity, particularly using large muscles, help bring calm. Running, kicking a ball, dancing, bike riding, sliding or swinging, climbing, jumping on a trampoline, tumbling floor exercises all help reduce kids restless energy and emotion. Short, quick movements, like hitting a pillow/ punching bag don’t have the same calming effect. 

Verbal/Auditory tools – Most young children use crying or screaming to communicate distress. As children develop language, they can communicate what they need. With some, talking about the upsetting situation is enough. For others, listening to music helps – soothing or rousing.

Visual tools – Watching fish swim in an aquarium, looking out the window or watching the wind move branches, or a bird flitter in the bush may calm. Visual people often calm themselves by detaching from their surroundings and looking outward or inward.young boy liying down with his dog

Self-comforting tools – Many infants are comforted by tools that allow sucking. As children grow, this oral activity can change to chewing pencils or gum. Other self-comforting tools are: bubble bath; lounging outside; laying with or petting an animal; eating a bowl of noodle soup (comfort food). Food can be appropriate for self-calming if you vary the types of tools you use and don’t use food exclusively. Crary states that problems often arise when kids are hungry.

Creative tools – Children can draw, paint, write poetry, model with play dough, play in salt/sand/dirt, play in a sink of water, build with lego, play an instrument, rub a smooth rock/metal object/textured cloth – all actions that involve repetitive hand movements and focus’ the child’s energy in a constructive way can be soothing.

Humour tools – Laughter makes us feel better all around. Some children are born with a talent for seeing the humorous side of things. Tap into that. America’s Funniest Home Videos, Just for Laughs, Gag reels, funny videos or reading funny books may work.

Elizabeth Crary suggests that children learn at least one tool for each year of age; a two-year-old needs two tools; a five-year-old needs five tools – so they develop a variety of tools. 

4. Set limits with empathy.

Limits teach our children how to function in the global world. If we don’t set limits early in life, life will set limits in a big way, often resulting in suffering that could have been avoided. They develop self discipline and support conscience. When limits are set with empathy, kids won’t like it, but they won’t get stuck in resistance either because they’ll feel understood, supported and connected. And it’s that connection that has them willing to live with the limit. Being consistent in setting limits allows your child to internalize your strength and begin to form a sense of safety in the world by developing the ability to control her own impulses and behaviour in productive ways. Children will learn that they can’t always get their way, yet they get something better: a parent who loves and accepts the full range of who they are. 

Here’s a 4 step process in setting limits with empathy (specifically for parenting teens):

1. Love: “I am on your side” Everyone wants to be seen and heard. What is yours or your teens distress? Speak into it. Offer empathy. Your teen will feel you understand their perspective and show you care, before setcouple discussingting limits.

2. Truth: “There are limits” Rules and requirements are a fact of life. When parents give love without limits, teens hold too much control in the family and they aren’t well equipped for life.

“Parents who are afraid to put their foot down usually have children who step on their toes” Chinese proverb

Teens are more likely to obey limits that they help to create, so work with them to figure out what you can both live with. Be open minded about his goals and needs – and crystal clear about yours. Be specific. Use few words. 

3. Freedom: “You can choose to respect or reject the rules” It is impossible with teens to have complete control. In fact, there is little that you can actually “force” your teen to do. This scares us, yet it’s a truth to accept and to acknowledge with your teen. It could sound like this: “You understand the expectations and I realize that you have a choice to make. You can choose to respect or reject these rules. I can’t make you choose the right thing yet I know you can.” Teens respect parents who speak truth and don’t try to control them. Your teen may fight and fuss, but will have difficulty arguing with you if you’re consistently clear, fair and honest.

4. Reality: “Here’s what will happen.” There is a price for stepping over the line, otherwise why would your teen pay attention to the limits? Let him help you define the consequences. Challenge him to imagine the outcomes of his actions, with you offering insight. Having him repeat the limits and consequences or writing them down may be helpful. Remember your teenager’s brain is still developing judgment, impulse control, and dealing with right and wrong and rationality. All teens make mistakes and it will be a work in progress. There will be anger and frustration on both your parts. Model keeping your emotions in check, yet tell him about your disappointment when he fails. Your feelings can be a powerful motivator. And when things are going well — which will be most of the time — be sure to tell him you noticed. 

Lean into the growing edge of your children. Expect the best from them, shower them with love and affection, create an emotionally safe environment for them, and walk your talk. Watch them thrive and mature into great adults. My hope is that you give yourself the gift of resources and credit along the way! 

Empowering you with strength to live globally as a family,

Signature of Becky Matchullis - Expat Family Resilience Coach

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