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 

Adoption and the Expat Family – 3 Challenges and Questions

Finale of a 3 Part Series “Adoption and the Expatriate Family”

Today we conclude our series on expatriate adoption, looking at added challenges that expatriate families face because of their choice to live abroad, as well as 3 questions that will lead to more effective adoptive parenting. In part one of this blog series, we looked at reasons families adopt and why it’s important to understand and process the heart motivation for adopting.

Last week, 6 challenges faced by all adoptive families were explained – both going through the process as well as integrating the adopted child into the family.

What Challenges Can Be Unique For Expatriate Families? [Read more…]

4 Strategies for Resilient Parenting in Transition

It is one thing to personally navigate the chaos in transition when living abroad, but adding parenting to the mix takes resilience to a whole different level! Sometimes downhill and backwards I’ve found! That’s where resilience resides –the DOWNHILL and BACKWARDS reverses to UPHILL and FORWARDS. There’s never resilience without first hardship and pain.

Here are some journal excerpts from a few of my dark days as a parent in cross cultural relocation transition:

“I’m in survival mode.
Living in family, yet very alone.
Can’t seem to do much right these days.
Trying to hold the pieces of me together.
But they keep falling apart.
Like the parenting piece.
I’m impatient. Angry.
Controlling or uninvolved and distant.
I want my pain to disappear. Their pain to vanish.
Instead I add pain through guilt and shame.
How am I not loving and kind, patient and understanding when we all need it the most?
How have I gotten to the place where I see my children as
a ‘problem to solve’ rather than a precious person that’s struggling, too?
God help me.”

You may feel overwhelmed with what’s happening with your kids or how you’re reacting to them in their distresses right now. Maybe they’re ok, but you’re not. You’re finding it hard to be the parent you want to be. Consider these strategies: [Read more…]

Spring Awakening ~ Highlights From the FIGT 2014 Conference

My anticipation grew as the plane took off from Denver, headed to Washington Dulles airport. An early morning flight had brought me from Calgary, one on which I dozed off, trying desperately to keep my head from falling onto the unknown shoulder next to me.

Families in Global Transition Conference 2014 was about to begin. My 5th time attending and 4th time having the honour of presenting – excitement brewed within. Memories of FIGT’s past flashed across the billboard of my mind: unknown feelings at the 1st conference, quickly replaced with a sense of “at home” – an unusual feeling for an ATCK (Adult Third Culture Kid). As a professional, I have gained new learning and tools to add to my tool kit. Networking is always a favourite part of FIGT. Their move from Houston to Washington – an “I-fit-here” sense with each conferences I attended. A place where understanding, respect and open-mindedness were mutually shared through presentations and amongst relationships. A bond created from both the excitement as well as the pain of international living.

What would make FIGT 2014 unique? It didn’t take long to find out. I hadn’t stepped both feet into the lobby, when I heard my name, and there was a friend. Someone I had met at a previous FIGT. Others that were on-line acquaintances. Many this year were new to the FIGT community, which added vibrancy. It felt like a family reunion – the kind where you’re enveloped in hugs, accepted for who you are, and challenged through questions and thought provoking conversations. [Read more…]

The Parenting Praise Paradox: What Every Parent Needs to Know About Praise

Beaming at ‘La Di Da Girl’ (aka, our 3rd child, second daughter), I yell “Aren’t you the best soccer player!” In her second soccer season, at age 6, she has figured out how to finally disengage from twirling her hair around her finger and looking for lady bugs in the grass, to focusing on the soccer ball coming toward her! I am one proud mama! 

That was almost 20 years ago! Where does the time go? La Di Da Girl is now helping refugees adjust to life in Canada and has the goal of one day living in Africa and empowering women there. Now I encourage differently. Something like “La Di Da Girl, you are a vocal advocate for those who don’t have a voice. You’re determined and hard-working“ and “I love spending time with you.” Let me tell you why.  [Read more…]