Heart Burst, Burst Heart – High School Grad and Afterwards for Expatriate Parents

For expat moms and dads, high school grad is a bitter sweet anticipation. There’s celebration for our teen who’s reached a life milestone, not to mention our surviving their teens years without killing ourselves or them! There’s dread, too, of seeing them leave the nest: no matter how many times we’ve moved it, the family unit has stuck together. Now, all that changes.

HEART BURST, BURST HEART

My heart is about to burst
fireworks of brilliant colour exploding,
watching you walk across the stage
Pride in your accomplishment
yet much more –
who you are and who you’re becoming

Heart 1

Under the pride and joy are emotions
like volcanic lava
bubbling to the surface of my awareness
Unexpected, frequent, uncontrollable
Renting way too much space in my mind
Pain and ache as they tear at my heart

Sadness
It’s the end of the life you’ve known
The life you’ve loved
The life our family has lived
In this playground called ‘global’
With these kids who get you, these kids called “TCK’s”

Fear
I see your fear as you say “goodbyes”
The hugs, pats on the shoulder, laughter to lighten the mood
Goodbyes to high school, family, friends, home itself
Your fear triggers mine
It fires non-stop as I live in these days

Panic
You’re going home, yet not your home at all.
Will you be ok?
Who will care for your vulnerable heart? Your physical needs?
Everything new – a job, college, routine, roles, people
Are you prepared?

Tears flow freely in the quiet, alone moments
Soon we will say ‘goodbye’ at the airport
How many good byes have there been over the years?
This is the hardest.

Broken Heart

My heart feels like it will burst again
Not with fireworks, but in fragments.
My heart is filled with fireworks and fragments,
Fragments and fireworks.
© Becky Matchullis

This brings back vivid memories for some. Others have had a teen graduate in the last weeks and are walking through this journey now. Or there’s anticipation for the future.

As a coach and mother I often journey this season with moms. Here’s my encouragement to help YOU be resilient as you walk through grad, goodbyes and learning long distance parenting with your teen:

5 “L’s” For Parenting Through High School Grad and Afterwards:

1. Let go…

Of control – Acknowledging the fact that you have no control in your teen’s life is important (not that you ever had). Why is it we think we have control in our kids’ lives when they’re with us? Not true. The truth is we have INFLUENCE. When you notice yourself trying to grasp control, breathe into the fact that Highest Love is in control. What phrase helps you release that drive to control? Repeat it often.

Of expectations – As expat parents, we often hold high expectations of our kids, to succeed and do it NOW! Don’t get me wrong – expectations are important. Yet they can put demands on our children that they may find hard to achieve, especially during relocation. Transition from host to passport country, without family present, is tough. There will be deep challenge. What about the expectations you have for yourself? Are they realistic? Let the process of this next year unfold as it will, knowing that you and your teen will find love, grace and inner strength to face whatever comes. Lessons will be learnt and new skills developed.

Relax, Breathe, Let Go

2. Look after yourself – body, soul and spirit. Include your:

a. Emotions – Be present to whatever emotion emerges. It takes time to integrate losses into your life experience and acceptance. How do you grieve best? Make space to incorporate these practises into your life these next months. Seek professional help to learn ‘good grief’ if needed. This is so important for the expat.

b. Physical well-being – What’s key these weeks and months to help you sleep, eat nutritionally and get the exercise you need? Our physical being is so inter-connected to our emotional state and vice versa. Often in transition we let go of this area. Is routine needed? A plan? Don’t be too hard on yourself when you ‘loose it’!

c. Relational – You’re not alone. Who else do you know going through this? Connect and share. Who do you know who’s gone before? Seek advice and love. In the loss and grief of this transition, we can so easily isolate. Please don’t! We need each other.

d. Mental – “As a man/woman thinks, so is he/she” wrote the wisest man that ever lived. What are your thoughts? Acknowledge, accept and feel the grief they hold. Know you don’t have to ruminate, though. Replace them with thoughts of gratitude and goodness. Find a perspective that empowers rather than diminishes.

3. Live in the present – Our brains have an automatic bias towards danger to help us survive. We constantly scan our world for past mistakes or future threats that we want to avoid. This is our brain operating in ‘doing mode’ where we try hard to solve problems, make plans, anticipate obstacles and choose between alternatives. It’s helpful, but not when it comes to emotions. They can’t be reasoned ‘away’ or ‘solved’. The past can bring threat and the future can fill us with fear. Rather, live in the present where you are living reality, accepting what is and aligning yourself to enjoying the moments as they happen. Don’t live in the ‘what if’s” but rather the “what is”.

Past, Present, Future

4. Lean into God. Nurture your spirit. How do you connect and sense intimacy with your Higher Power? Walk through cathedrals? Journal? Enjoy nature? A solitude retreat? Listen to uplifting music? Do your part and you can be assured He’ll more than do His. Trust. Believe His promises. Listen to truth. Talk to God and take all that’s in your soul to Him. He cares.

5. Learn to let your teen lead. There will be a redefining of your relationship. It’s normal. If you haven’t Video Chatalready, learn to let your teen lead. Continue to coach, allowing them to make their own decisions. Give your opinions and suggestions only as they request it. Encourage. Acknowledge. Let them build courage and confidence as they both succeed and fail. When you allow them to lead the relationship, you’ll find the shift into adult-to-adult friendship within the parent/child relationship. It takes time. And can be tumultuous, feeling messy and unclear. That’s ok. As you intentionally let them lead and support them along the way, you’ll see it will be so worth it.

Let,

look,

live,

lean,

learn.

My heart and prayers are with you as you do. Next blog I’ll share my best suggestions for launching your grad back to their passport country, or wherever they have chosen to continue life…

Becky Signature 2 (Matchullis-PC's conflicted copy 2014-11-13)

 

 

PS – A mom sent me this fun video and gave me permission to share it with you: Let Them Go – A Parody of “Let it Go” from FROZEN by Grace International School Senior Moms . More true than you’ll ever understand right now!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4bujMTDJO0&feature=youtu.be 

Repatriate With Resolve

FamilyRepatriation. Not a neutral word. It illicits a response. Eyebrows raised in curiosity. Bristled hairs on the back of the neck in panic. Hands over ears in avoidance.

Quotes from expatriates who have been there and done that:
“Coming home was more difficult than going abroad because you expect that you know what it’s like. I felt like an alien in my own country. I had changed. Friends weren’t interested in our experiences. Emotionally I was fragile. I felt like I had Alzheimer’s because I couldn’t remember things. I kept thinking ‘this can’t be me’.” Accompanying spouse from 3 year assignment in Malaysia to USA

“I felt a sense of loss when we returned to the UK. I miss the mixing with different nationalities. I was no longer a part of a small community where everyone looks out for each other. The kids went through a messy time and I wondered if I’d ever get my life back!” Expatriate wife and mom

“I stayed with the same company, but lost benefits. They gave me less responsibility at a lower management level and didn’t recognize or seem to appreciate the tremendous experience I had as a senior manager or the skills and expertise I had gained. I felt demoralized.” Employed partner transferring back to Canada from China

When we returned from Cambodia to Canada, I’d stare blankly at the aisles of choice in the grocery store and go home empty handed and overwhelmed. Decision making was hard. Worry consumed me – Would the kids be safe? Would they do well in school and make friends? Would I find a job? We longed to share our experiences with others, but found within minutes their eyes would glaze over. As a family we called it ‘lizard eyes’ and at the dinner table would ask, ‘how many lizard eye looks did you get today?’! Deeper than that was the tendency to judge, the emotional rollercoaster ride, and the sense of ‘misfit’ that seemed would never end. [Read more…]

Renewal – A Different Way to Look at Transition

Change happens so frequently in our lives that one isn’t complete before another bombards us. This puts us into “transition”- coming to grips emotionally and spiritually with the change itself.

We experience continual mini-transitions daily – coping with interruptions and adjustments to our schedule and to relationships. If it isn’t too major, life gets back to equilibrium quickly. There may be a sense of stress, impatience or overwhelm, but we recalibrate and move on.

If it’s a positive change, we still feel a transition, but because there’s positive emotions, we get on with the adjustment easily and without too much challenge.

However, if it’s a major change, or several changes happening at once, it can become a full blown life transition, and we feel it greatly – grief from losses, ambiguity from chaos and an emotional rollercoaster ride (check here)[Read more…]

Family – Connected In Crisis

I gaze outward, around the table
Six of us leaning in
Faces furrowed in concern
The most precious people in the world to me,
Minus one.

We’ve dropped all, ceased living ‘our’ lives
Come together
Shoulders sagged, hearts bleeding
In crisis with one missing from the circle
Knowing the sum of us will be stronger than any one of us.

Family In PrayerPanic presses in, dark
Fear’s tentacles attempt to squeeze hope dry
Eye contact made – volumes said… understood
For we have lived life deep together
Then words – prayers and plans

I look upward, light surrounds us
Protecting and providing
Hope anticipated, peace settled
Perfect Love mingled with family connection
Bonded and fast, sure as the air we breathe

A precious hour, in the depths of this crisis
Strength from above
Ignites and fuels strength from within
Embracing, we stand shoulder to shoulder
Choosing Grace to see this battle won!

The past 10 days has been crisis for my family. We took it an hour at a time (sometimes minutes), and were reminded that life as abundant means living the good and bad days, crisis and victory, sorrow and joy, failure and triumph. Victory isn’t known without crisis; or joy known without sorrow; triumph without failure. As a family, we limped and leaned on each other for what was needed.

Expat families, whether in transition or tragedy, possess great strength to forge forward and push past survival mode.

[Read more…]

Living Gratitude: An Ingredient of Resilience for every Expatriate Family (Part 2)

Last week we looked at the “why’s” of gratitude (READ HERE). It’s a recognizable ingredient for resilience at a personal level, in a partnership, and family. It aids in well-being spiritually, emotionally, physically, relationally and mentally. It lessens stress, opening us to joy, and freedom. Gratitude gives us an empowering perspective no matter what we’re facing and reminds us of what’s most important in life. It’s a perfect partner to grief and recalibrates our happiness set point.

Gratitude Can Transform

Today we look at the practice of gratitude on a personal level: [Read more…]

Living Gratitude: An Ingredient of Resilience for Every Expatriate Family (Part 1)

 PART ONE: WHY GRATITUDE?

Having seen the devastation and chaos from typhoon Haiyan in Central Philippines this past week, my heart aches for the people. Many dead and injured. Others lost. Families torn apart and in shock as they try to survive, get help for the necessities of life, and keep going. My prayers go out for them. And may we never take life for granted- but choose to live each day to the fullest, loving deeply and giving our best. Would you respond to help our Filipino brothers and sisters, so that one day they can look back, be grateful and say “People around the world were generous and kind”?

hands linkedTragedy connects us. It brings out a depth of love and understanding that compels us. Maybe because none are immune to life’s crisis’. We’ve been through hardship ourselves. Maybe not to this magnitude, yet we’ve all felt the pang of loss, security stripped and a sense of hopelessness. I’m all about resilience – facing hardship with a strength of spirit and rebounding stronger and more resourceful. You can’t have resilience without pain.

And that brings us to the topic of gratitude. It’s November… about that time in expat life when things are:

Girl SmilingRootless still, if you’ve just moved abroad and settled your family into a routine. There’s still a sense of aloneness, a disconnect between who you are and where and what you’re living.
Routine, after returning from home leave some 3 months ago, adjusting the kids back to school and now you find yourself pretty much at “same-old, same old.” Or,
Restless if you‘ve lived here for a while and sense you want a change. Likely not a move (!), but a sense of deeper contribution, fulfillment and aliveness in your expat life.

Gratitude can be your solution. It opens the heart and activates positive emotional centers in the brain. It soothes stress and broadens creative thinking to develop a more expansive view of our lives. It shifts our focus from what’s lacking to the abundance that’s present. It’s the awareness that whatever we have is exactly what we need – be it people, circumstances or challenge. It doesn’t mean everything in our lives is great, but rather that we CHOOSE to count blessings. Giving thanks makes us happier, more resilient and strengthens relationships. It opens us to freedom and generosity. How? [Read more…]

Intentional Questions To Ask Yourself…

During Relocation and/or Challenging Times

  1. Who do I want to BECOME through this experience? What am I becoming?
  2. What are my STRENGTHS and how can I build on them during this time and beyond?
  3. What/who are my SUPPORT systems? How can I utilize them in the best possible way?
  4. What are my NEEDS right now? Where do I take responsibility for them?
  5. What do I need to LET GO of? EMBACE?… in order to manage and sustain myself [Read more…]