You stock your First Aid Kit in advance so that everything’s ready and automatic if an emergency strikes. It’s the same reason we have fire drills, and evacuation procedures. Once your adrenaline’s pumping, it’s too late. You can’t properly evaluate a situation under distress because your brain isn’t functioning at capacity. But you CAN plan ahead.
For part two of our Expert Series, we’re making prevention a priority.
It’s my pleasure to welcome Kim Adams – or as I like to call her, the “Queen of Preparedness.” The founder of Resilient Expats, Kim gets globally-mobile families ready for the expected and unexpected challenges of life abroad.
This week’s a “need-to-know” as Kim shares her simple, indispensable tips for emergency prevention, and offers-up solutions to common snafus unique to parenting Third Culture Kids.
Learn how to be your own hero. Your future self says, “Thank you.”
What You’ll Learn in this Episode:
- Master & cross-train the mundane things
- The 2 medical advisors you need on standby
- Clear meeting points & business cards for your kids
- International schools – complaint or concern?
- When to ignore your parental instinct
Listen to the Full Episode:
Featured on the Show:
This Expert Series is just another example of how we’re stronger when we stack our mighty skills together. If you’re a professional who’s passionate about serving the globally-mobile community, then we want you with us for round two. Sign up right here for Expat Coach Coalition 2.0 happening soon.
- Thinking of joining the Expat Coach Coalition? Don’t hesitate to hop on the interest list here
- Ready for a Year of Transformation? Get onto the waiting list here
- Kim Adams Facebook Page
- Kim Adams Website
- Kim Adams Best Blog Posts – Preparedness
- Kim Adams Best Blog Posts – Processing Stress
- Facebook Business Page – Sundae Schneider-Bean LLC
- Facebook Group – Expats on Purpose
We’re delighted by our nomination to the global Top 25 Expat Podcasts!
Full Episode Transcript:
Hello, it is 5 am in New York, 12 noon in Johannesburg and 5 pm in Bangkok. Welcome to the Expat Happy Hour. This is Sundae Schneider-Bean from www.sundaebean.com. I’m a solution oriented coach and intercultural strategist for individuals and organizations and I am on a mission to help you adapt and succeed when living abroad and get you through any life transition.
Stop right now. You have an emergency. Do you know your partner’s phone number? Who could you call right now in your city for help without your cell phone? If you are like me, you got nothing. It is so simple that we should have a few core emergency numbers memorized, but we don’t. Why don’t we?
Because we just put it to the side like there’s not going to be an emergency. We don’t really need it. But truth be told we only realize this, what we should have done, when emergency strikes. And it doesn’t even have to be an emergency. It could just be a huge pain in the you-know-what. Because when you’re not prepared then you pay for it.
And that is why I am so excited to welcome this week’s guest to Expat Happy Hour. Kim Adams is what I call the “Queen of Preparedness.” She is the face, brains, and heart behind Resilient Expats.
Sundae: So welcome Kim to Expat Happy Hour.
Kim: Thank you so much. I’m so glad to be here too.
Sundae: Kim you might need to help me to prepare for a flood because it is raining so hard here in South Africa and it’s been raining for almost two weeks.
Kim: Oh man.
Sundae: Should I start building my boat or what?
Kim: Yeah, get your go bag ready.
Sundae: I should. So, let me tell you a little bit more about Kim for those of you who aren’t familiar with Resilient Expats. Kim is the brains behind this website and private Facebook group. She is a 10-year expat who is absolutely passionate about, what I really love, raising a healthier generation of Third Culture Kids. And she goes even further and she says “And the parents who raise them.” So that’s something where I think Kim and I really align on is, if you’ve got parents who are taking care of themselves you automatically nurture kids who are doing the same.
So what I’ve learned about Kim throughout the years is that she has built her experience over multiple continents. She’s had her three children each born in a different country spanning from preschool age through secondary school. I mean that’s already a huge huge feat in itself. But she definitely lives it.
So Kim tell us a little bit more about you. How did you get to create resilient expats?
Kim: Well a little over 10 years ago we landed in Chiang Mai Thailand, and there was a great support network there. There were webinars and seminars and panel discussions and there were maps and booklets and just all kinds of things, and counseling and what have you and over the years. I took advantage of a number of those pieces of support and I thought it was fantastic. But I did not realize while we were there how special that was and how unusual it was to have that kind of support until we moved to Oman, a small town. And there’s not a support network like that.
Now the community here is fantastic. It was easier to settle in a lot of ways than it was the first time around because the community is really helpful and close-knit, but there’s not a structured support system. And I found that people here don’t really have that background knowledge and vocabulary. And just kind of the baseline knowledge about raising third culture kids and the issues that they’re going to come up against and ways that they can help their kids and strategies to help themselves as well.
Sundae: You know what I find it so interesting that you say that about not having the background knowledge. For people like you and I who are super nerdy and love reading the research, it seems like everybody knows it. You feel like everybody understands it. But I met one woman who’s a wonderful amazing mother and her husband is a leader in Southern Africa for a major corporation. And she came over to my house, and as she was leaving I said something about the webinar I was giving with Third Culture Kids, and she said “What’s a Third Culture Kid?” And I was like, oh my gosh, she’s raising raising third culture kids and she doesn’t have that shared language. That always surprises me.
So anybody who is listening. Let me just say it real quick before. A Third Culture Kid as defined by the practitioners is, when you are raising your children outside of their passport cultures during their developmental years. And of course there is some contention about whether we should still be using the word Third Culture Kid or cross culture kid or all those other things. But for shared reference, we’re going to be talking about that today.
Right. So you got there, you realize there are people who don’t have shared background and knowledge. And then what did you do?
Kim: Well, I contacted some of the people back in Chiang Mai and said “Hey, can I use some of your materials and present these workshops in our new place?” And she said “Yes, please take it and share it, go with it.” And so my husband and I prepared a workshop for some of our new colleagues who had come in. And you can just kind of see it was their first expat experience and they were finding their feet and they loved it. And so I’ve offered it a few times since then. And yeah, just from there it has grown. It’s my way of paying it forward, standing on the shoulders of giants and then taking some of my own creative ideas and sharing with people the things that I wish I had a few years ago
Sundae: And what I know about your work is that you’re primarily focused on supporting, the family is a whole, working on building their emotional competencies and skills, really tapping in to more of the right brain activities so you can get deeper into their own processes. And you’ve got some really practical tools.
Kim: Yes. Exactly.
Sundae: Oh fun. So I’ve been following your Facebook group and I love some of the things that you’re sharing there that are really practical that help people integrate into their globally mobile life wherever they are. So I’m curious. What are you most interested in sharing with people? We talked about this idea of being prepared and how I am working on memorizing my husband’s phone number by the way. That being prepared is so important as an expat. And you’ve got a ton of resources on that. What is it that you wish people would get about this idea about being prepared and how important that is to be a resilient expat?
Kim: Well for me preparedness just comes naturally. I always dig in and research and read a lot and try to know what to expect beforehand. So that’s my natural bent. And I know a lot of expats they push back against that and they say “Well that ruins the fun of discovering a new place if you tell me everything about it and I want to discover it for myself.” So yes, I get that and that is certainly a valid approach too. But when it comes to being prepared for emergency situations, which I include everyday emergencies, minor emergencies and urgent things that come up that you weren’t expecting.
Sundae: So tell us, when you think about what you wish expats knew in terms of being prepared and eventually becoming a resilient expat. What do you wish that expats realised?
Kim: I wish they realized what a huge impact their own emotional health has on their kids and the long-term health of their kids. I have to confess that when I read David Pollock and Ruth van Reken’s book “Third Culture Kids Growing Up Among Worlds.” I thought to myself, you know time has passed since this book was written and the information is out there. People know better, people are doing better. So it’s really more of the older generation of third culture kids who are struggling with these issues and the new generation is doing a lot better.
Well, then I started following some third culture kid forums and the struggle is real and it’s really bad. Our kids are struggling. I have a child who will be in University in five years. So this is very real for me and I see what other people are posting and they’re still struggling with, you know, they’re suffering when their parents bulldozed over the grief and said, “We’re getting a fresh start, we’re turning over a new leaf, here we go.”
Or when the kids tried to bring up their struggles and parents got defensive. Or they just felt so alone for years and years until they stumbled across some third culture kids literature and this whole new world opened up to them.
Sundae: Isn’t it amazing how important our own well-being is to support our kids? I mean, it’s just frightening how we focus so much on our kids and we put ourselves last and then actually it should be the other way around. When we really take care of ourselves taking care of our kids is like a given.
Kim: Yeah, and a lot of it is so well-intentioned. I totally get the desire to steer our kids towards a positive outlook when they are expressing something negative. We just want to help them. “Let’s just turn that around into a positive.” And in general I think that is a pretty good approach. But when we’re dealing with grief, which is something that comes up a lot in all the broken relationships we end up with as an expat. Skipping over processing that grief is not the right way to go.
Sundae: So I wonder, if you were to grab any relatively new expat or even someone who has been around for a few years.
I love, I hear your dog in the background that’s barking. He’s like “Mom pay attention to me.”
Kim: Oh, yes. It’s a little bit windy today. So that makes her crazy.
Sundae: That’s so cute. So what advice would you give those people who are listening? This is the thing. We have good intentions. If they are listeners of Expat Happy Hour, they’re probably people who are hungry to do better or to know better. But I know that there’s a person in my audience, which says “Thank you for your Insight. I am struggling to do the things I want to do because I’m overwhelmed with my busy life.” Or “I know I should be doing it. But for some reason I’m not.” What advice would you give for people who want to make being prepared a priority?
Kim: Well, I have my top two tips that I will share. And I don’t want this to be another thing to do because I know expat life can be overwhelming, especially in the beginning. But even as you say, people who’ve been around a while and kind of feel like they know what they’re doing. And so I organise my materials trying to help it be helpful, not another thing to add to your to do list.
But one of my top tips is to think in advance of who you know that you could call when you need help in a medical situation. When you go to a doctor, I mean if it’s a routine appointment okay, that’s one thing. But if it’s a surprise and you weren’t expecting it your brain is not functioning at capacity, it’s hard to take in information and process information, it’s hard to make decisions and evaluate what’s happening. So it can be a lifeline to have someone that you can call. “Hey, this is what’s happening.” And they can help you walk through and give you a perspective about, “This is how we would handle the situation in our country.” In a system that you understand and makes sense to you. You know how it works and I can say “Okay we would test for this, we would check this result, that would steer us in this direction.” And it gives you something to compare to so that you can get the care you need in your local context.
Sundae: So do you mean the people you reach out to that’s on your list, do you mean people who are local to where you’re living or do you mean an expat as well?
Kim: I think it’s good to have both. I think it’s good to have someone in your city and you probably know more than five. You probably know quite a few people who have a medical background. Maybe they have a background in nursing or dentistry or something else. Or maybe you’ve got an uncle who’s a pediatrician and a family friend who’s a surgeon. So I think you should have someone local that you can call during the day and someone who understands what you’re up against and they kind of get your local references. And I think it’s good to have someone who’s back home. They might be in a different time zone. And so you can call him in the middle of the night and you’re not waking them up. And you can access a different network and experts too.
Sundae: And that’s an interesting point that you make because if you’re in an emergency situation and it’s night, you’re only thinking about “Crap, everybody’s sleeping.” You’re not thinking “Wait. I could actually get some insight from someone that’s awake.” So it’s interesting.
So medical is the first thing that people can do to be prepared. What do you suggest that people who are relatively new? I feel, like you know, it’s my third year in South Africa. I’ve got good enough friends where I could call a host of people. But what if you’re relatively new to a country? Who do you call then?
Kim: Well, in the first few days you’re relying on maybe someone with your employer and you do rely on them quite heavily. But I think you just have to keep your ears open. And as you’re meeting people and you’re finding out, “Oh, what did you use to do?” or what not. You start to gather information, especially if you’re primed to be thinking about it. Then you make a mental note and maybe you make a note in your phone. Maybe you make a tag that says emergency or something. Or if there’s someone who says to you “Call me if you need anything.” Take them up on it. Maybe that person isn’t the medical expert but they probably know somebody.
Sundae: I have to say, having been through a few kind of emergency situations. It is really so wonderful to have people at your side that you can call. And I like that, so take actually take their number if someone says “Call me if I can do anything.” Actually take their number. I love that idea.
I know the first day I was in South Africa. I sat down with my phone and put in all the emergency numbers. Because I was brand-new and because there’s a different security context here than other places that we’ve been. I wanted to really make sure that I took that seriously so I had that on my phone from day one.
But I had to force myself to do that. That was something I knew was important. And if I didn’t do it from day one, I would be frustrated if I didn’t. So that’s one thing. What is another thing that you think people should do to be prepared?
Kim: My second top tip has to do with making a plan with your kids. And I’m talking about the everyday problems that happened with your kids. You’re out shopping and you get separated and you can’t find each other. So make a meeting point and review it with the kids so that everyone understands, “If we get separated, this is where we’re going to meet.” I have a story about that.
Sundae: Yeah. Let me hear why is this important? Tell me.
Kim: This is when we were still in Thailand and we went to this major tourist site. It was a magical experience. We walked up this enormous staircase to the top of the mountain. And it was sunset. And so everything was gold and literally golden because everything was plated with gold and the light shining off of it and the bells were chiming and the monks were chanting. So we’re taking my in-laws around. And really enjoying the experience and my daughter tells me that she’s ready to go. And she’s kind of standing over by the stairs and teasing me. And I was like, I know she’s not going anywhere.
So I just turned back to the group and normally that works with her. So not too long later. We turn around and she’s gone. And her favorite game is hiding and seek. And so we start looking at all the corners and behind the trees and behind the people and then we circle the entire grounds and looking and calling her name. And I was really getting into a panic. All the subversive things that happen are starting to creep into my mind.
I knew she didn’t go down the staircase but I stood at the top of the stairs and I looked and I looked and I looked. And she had on this bright yellow sweater, so I knew I would see her. There were a lot of people and I looked for a long time. I was convinced she was not there.
So finally grandma and grandpa decide they’re going to go down and just check. And a little bit later they come back and they say yes, she was at the bottom of the stairs sitting on a bench petting a puppy.
Sundae: Is this something you’d do in every place, when you get to a major area you say “If we get split up where should we meet?”
Kim: Well it’s more in my mind now. So if we get some place that is busy, there’s a lot of people or really new and the kids don’t know their way around and it’s big. But you know, Grandpa was so gracious to us. And he said “I’m sure you know this and I know you probably already do it, but just just in case, you know, it’s always a good idea to have a contingency plan with your kids and know where you’re going to meet.” And we were like, “Oh, yes, of course, we should be.”
Sundae: That’s exactly the whole thing about being prepared. Right like you now, you’ve had that terrifying thing happen. Now, you’re aware of it. I’d say that’s where preparedness is so important because it saves you heartache and headache if you do it as a matter, of course. And this is a great idea.
So you’re saying, as soon as you can, have a couple numbers in your phone in the medical emergency, hopefully someone who’s local. Could be someone with medical insight abroad.
Second is have a point when it’s an unfamiliar place or a busy place to talk to your kids about where you will meet in case you get separated.
That’s wonderful. So those are very practical.
Kim: You do have to review that with your kids more than once and reiterate. And with younger kids you have to be careful what kind of landmarks you choose. We went into a mall one time and my daughter said “Okay I’m going to come to the store that has a green sign.” And I was like, “Oh that’s going to be on every single corner, we will never find you.” So have to kind of choose the landmarks carefully.
Sundae: So we talked about something medical, something also around personal safety for your kids. What are some other things you talked about emergencies, every day emergencies. What are some other things that you think are worth, being prepared for that will save a lot of headache or heartache down the road.
Kim: Well, there are a lot of kind of simple mundane things, like just knowing how to do the top up credit on your mobile phone, knowing how to put gas in your car. I know that sounds really silly. But I was visiting a friend of mine in Switzerland last summer and we’re driving and she said “Oh no, I really need gas.” And I thought “Okay, no big deal.” She’s like, “But my husband always does it for me, I don’t know how to do it.” And I laugh, “Of course, I can help you, I know how to put gas in a car.” So we did, we went to the gas station and the two of us stood there like idiots, we could figure it out. There was such a line building up behind us it took forever. So that was quite funny.
Sundae: It is a really important point. I’m just going to pull it out there. This idea of what’s a given. In South Africa we have to prepay for our electricity and yesterday I I asked my husband, I said “Listen, let me just check, we can prepay through our phone app.?” We have a banking app, because if he’s on a business trip, and I can’t get ahold of him or he’s in the airplane, I have no electricity in my house. And it’s so simple.
And this is I think an important thing of thinking about who usually does what mundane things and have you cross-trained in your family. And this is the same thing for the one who’s, let’s say the one who is working. And then all of a sudden there is stuff with the kids, if that person is gone, whether the mother of the father. Are you aware?
Like I had one client recently tell me she had to bring her partner to the French school to say “Honey, this is where your kid goes to school.” Because she was the one you always did pick up and drop off. But if you are not the one doing it, why would you know?
Kim: Yep. Well, we’re busy and to delegate responsibilities that way and split tasks up, but there are a few little things that it’s worth knowing. like the water shut off on the house. I know generally where it is, but I actually still don’t know specifically where it is. Because the time we needed to do it my husband is the one who went outside and did it. No. I know. I know approximately where it is.
Sundae: I had, I think in Burkina Faso, I think I’ve shared this with you before. I had a situation in Burkina Faso. My husband was traveling. I was home with the kids and I heard something like pop. I didn’t really know what it was. I thought maybe one of the Sprite bottles in the garage popped open and I went to bed. It was 11 or 11:30. I go to sleep and then all of a sudden I heard something wake me up. It must have been one thirty in the morning. And I come downstairs to investigate and I open my office door and my office is filled with like two centimeters of water on the floor.
And some pipe in my office had burst and that’s what I heard not the Sprite bottle. And so there’s electronics, there’s laptops, there’s all of that. And I go running outside and we have a guard, there’s a night guard that would be there. And he was of course sleeping so I had to wake him up and go “What am I gonna do?” You there’s all this is really bad French coming out at three in the morning. We are trying to ask him. “Where do I turn off the water?” And he ended up turning off the water. And I thought “If he wasn’t around I wouldn’t even know where to begin to turn the water off.”
Such simple stuff, right? So what should we do? There’s so many simple things. What should we do to get prepared? Because now I’m thinking “Okay, there’s electricity, there’s water, there’s all of that.” Like help us with the overwhelm. I guess that’s probably what your guide is for, isn’t it? Will you tell people about your guide?
Kim: Yeah, so I took all that kind of stuff. I just brainstormed. What are the things that we have run into that we’ve seen our friends run into over the years? How could we stave off some of that stress by just kind of ticking the boxes that, “Yep I know how to do this, yep I know how to do that, I’ve thought about this, I’ve had this conversation with my kids, we’re all on the same page.” And so I put that all into one document so it’s got prompts for you. Think about and check spot, check boxes. You’re like “Yes, I’m making progress and I know this and this.” And it’s got some pages that you can print off if you want to post phone numbers on your fridge or somewhere.
Sundae: I still recommend this. When I saw it I was like, wow, this is a super comprehensive guide. It’s a very reasonable price and it will just give you peace of mind. You don’t have to create this yourself. It’s already created for you. So peace of mind. “Yes, we’ve done this, good. Oh, these are our gaps, let’s fill these gaps in the next few weeks.” So that takes the headache out of it.
So we’ve talked about some very pragmatic things. So to avoid nuances becoming minor emergencies or to prevent emergencies from becoming disasters. That is a core part about being a prepared expat and that helps build resilience because our energy then is saved for when it really counts.
Can we shift gears for a second? I want to talk about the things that are not as pragmatic. Like I know that you really believe in building families with emotional resilience, being mindful around transitions. What about that kind of preparedness? What are some things that you think people should be doing more actively to support their family as they are in global transition?
Kim: Well a lot of it has to do with taking an honest look introspectively. One of the area’s I look at is how we interact with our children’s schools. So for example, some people have complaints about the school when they come to a new place. So if you have complaints about the school ask yourself, honestly, “Is it possible that what’s really going on is I have a fear that I’ve taken my kids from my home country and they’re missing out on all these experiences that I consider vital for a normal childhood?” And are you trying to compensate for that by making this school provide every experience that I think they should have had?
Sundae: Interesting. What are some of those things that you see? Like what do people want? What are they demanding of international schools that might be actually just a sign that they’re missing.
Kim: Anything and everything. “You don’t offer enough after school activities.” “This is a small school. It can’t offer everything. We don’t have giant team sports.” So that’s one thing. “You’re not doing enough language support for my home language.” “Hey, we have handling issues. We have staffing concerns. We can’t cover everything.”
Sundae: Well, I think I’m guilty of that one. I got really upset because they teach Spanish in the International School my kids go to. I feel like Spanish? We are on the African continent. Like why is it not French? Like why are they offering a Spanish in the lower elementary school? And thinking about my son who comes from four languages. In Switzerland we’ve got four languages, French, German, Italian and Romansh. And then I am francophone. We are in a francophone country before my son speaks swiss-german and then there’s high German which he has to learn and then all of a sudden he gets hit with Spanish. And I think that was why are we teaching Spanish on a francophone continent? And I think it was because my son has already been faced with so many languages. Why are we throwing in another one?
Kim: Yeah, and there are definitely challenges. And it’s true that not every school is the perfect match for every student. But I’m just encouraging people to kind of look inside themselves and say, “Okay if I’m putting this on the school when it really has to do with me and I can adjust my attitude to focus more on the amazing experiences that they are gaining out of this life abroad.”
Sundae: Yeah, I think that’s fair. I think it’s really fair. And you know, I’ve never thought about it before. So an invitation to everybody listening. When you are experiencing resistance or discontent, when you’re fresh from a transition and you’re making demands on the school, like an honest look in the mirror. “Like what is this really about? What loss am I mourning here? Is it a good critique for this school of its size of its caliber of its context? Or am I being unfair because I’m mourning some other loss?” Yeah, it’s super fair. What else?
Kim: I want to help families maintain really strong connections with their grandparents and other relatives like cousins. I think for me that is the biggest issue I have with living so far away from family. Because they don’t know their grandparents the way that I want them to and they don’t know their cousins at all. And so I want to help families develop a kid-friendly communication plan because I know when I sit down like, “Okay, I’m going to have my kids talk to their grandparents.” And I set up the Skype call. And like “Okay now you’re going to sit down and have a long conversation.” That they’re in and out and they make a comment here and there and then they’re gone.
Sundae: Yep, this sounds so familiar. I know everybody listening is like, “Exactly, that’s exactly how my Skype sessions go.” My kids were just like making pig noises noses and like sticking their tongue about because they would just be watching themselves in Skype.
Kim: Yeah, so I have to be a little more creative and accepting I guess of where my kids are and what they’re willing to engage in.
Sundae: So what are some of your ideas for a kid friendly communication plan? Like what does that mean?
Kim: I think honestly it comes down to me being okay with the fact that they’re going to come in and make pig faces in the Skype. But that still is a little bit of maintenance. And I think short and frequent is better than infrequent and trying to make it long and then people get frustrated. And me being okay with, “I want you to write a letter but instead they’re just going to draw a little picture.”
Sundae: Yeah, totally. You know what my kids do? My mom is so funny because when I moved abroad for the first time in 1998 and went to Spain, I had brought her to the public library and I showed her how to turn on the computer. I showed her the enter button. Like you can imagine where she was at then. Now she’ll send Snapchat videos to my kids, little gifts. Like she’ll make little animated face or she’ll make these video things. So she’s really gotten really high-tech. But I find that my mother and my kids communicate over really silly things. Like my seven-year-old will send like poop emojis and then Grandma will send back, you know other emojis. And so I kind of let them be playful, even though they’re not really like you said connecting in words or whatever, they’re still connecting.
Kim: Yes. I love that. That’s fantastic.
Sundae: There you go. You heard it here first – connecting over poop emojis.
So I love that. Kid friendly action plan. What about the cousins though? So what do we do about the cousins?
Kim: I haven’t figured that one out yet. We did have one cousin who came to visit us here last year. And that was fantastic. And it was good for us as aunt and uncle we didn’t know him that well either. But he came and we got to know each other. He and my kids really bonded. And so now they have this really special connection and they look forward to seeing him when we go back in a way that they don’t as much with the others because they don’t know them as well. And they have that shared experience too, so that was really special.
And I know that that’s not possible with all of the cousins. We do have some cousins who are closer in age to my kids and we make a point to get together with them every time we have a chance, to maintain those relationships.
Sundae: That’s good. My kids hang out with their cousins every Fourth of July at the lake. So we’re just hoping that those years, memories of being on the little golf cart, driving around fishing and that sort of thing will be enough to keep that connection as they get older.
So we’ve talked about so the connection with grandparents, we’ve talked about allowing kids to communicate in their own way as long as they’re connecting in short bursts. We’re looking at what you can do with cousins’ visits. And yeah, why not even invite, like if you don’t have a relationship with one of the cousins, why not be the bold one to say “Hey, why don’t you come and visit?” Like giving yourself permission to suggest that even though the relationship isn’t tight, it’s a way to start the relationship.
What about parent-child? We’ve talked about it with our relatives. What do you think we could do to be better prepared for transitions like goodbyes with our families? Like when our kids have to say goodbye to friends at the end of the year or what should we be doing do you think?
Kim: Yeah, I think we don’t need to turn it into a bigger deal than it is. But we need to make space to express what they’re feeling. And they might be processing things on a really different timeline than we are. It might not hit them until the day of or the day after their friend leaves. So I try to kind of lay the groundwork, let them know as far in advance as I can. So that they have time to think about it and they have time to make a meaningful gift if they want to. I try to encourage them to get the contact information so they can stay in touch and we get that settled before the people leave.
Sundae: We have one of my expect friends here do this really cute thing where she had her children make business cards with their photo on it and their contact address. And they gave it out to their third grade friends because it gave you the picture and the contact details. It was sweet. It was playful and that way they could hold on to it and then they didn’t have an excuse.
Kim: That’s such a good idea.
Sundae: So giving people advance, I love that idea of realizing they might have a different time timeline than you do.
Kim: Yeah, I tend to process but stuff over the course of several weeks and months and we talked about it with the kids. But a lot of times they’re just focused on what’s going on now.
Sundae: And any other things that you think, if you could if you had a room of 300 people and they were going to listen to you and you had one more thing to say, what would you want to encourage them to do or think about that will help them be more prepared or more resilient?
Kim: I would ask them to focus on open communication with their kids. And what I mean by that is to validate what their kids are doing, validate the feeling behind what their kids are saying. So this goes along with the goodbyes the transition. But it’s so tempting when our child comes to us with what we perceive as a negative thought or emotion, that we want to help them through it. We want to make them feel better. We want to make ourselves feel better. And so it’s really tempting to just go straight to the positive spin.
Sundae: Give me an example.
Kim: Your child says “I’m really going to miss my best friend. I don’t want to go. I’m going to miss my best friend.” And it’s tempting sometimes to say, “Oh I know but.” That’s the problem you put a but in there, “But but you’ll make new friends here. You’re good at making new friends, you’re outgoing and popular and you’re going to jump right in and make new friends and we’re going to stay in touch and we’re going to visit them next summer.” And all the reasons why “No, actually no, you’re not going to miss them, you do want to go.” Rather than saying, “Yes. I know it is so hard. And I couldn’t fix it for you. But I understand that it’s really sad.”
Sundae: It’s hard to make that a habit. It’s really hard to make that a habit as your first response. So it’s more like I would suggest for people to watch what comes out of your mouth first. And it’s so interesting because we want to encourage, we want to be positive as parents. And that is, in this case can be the last thing that the kids want.
I remember one time I was talking to my kids. One of my kids was talking about a friend and he’s like, “Mom you don’t understand how it feels to miss your friends.” And I said, you know, I was defensive. I was like, “You don’t think I understand, I’ve been doing this for 21 years. So like you don’t think I understand what it means to miss my friends?” And I remember that was my first response, was defense. But what I was trying to say was, “I get it.” My intention was to say “Honey, I understand it’s hard.” But it was like. “My pain is greater than your pain.” It came out the wrong way.
I remember we were in the car and then I reflected on that later. I’m like, “Yeah, I could do that differently.” I could have just had silence and went “I know that sucks. I’m sorry.” And that is the perfect example of unprocessed grief. Like when we aren’t doing our work. That comes out in indirect ways with our kids.
Kim: Yeah, and another thing on that. Sometimes kids process a lot faster and easier than we do and sometimes for them just being able to speak it out loud, that is processing. Not always but sometimes I will let my kids say something and I take it in and I go, “Wow, that’s so big and heavy.” And “Wow, what are we going to do with that?” And then I realize half an hour later they’re done, they got it off their chest. So giving them space to say the things that are weighing them down without us trying to shift gears is really important.
Sundae: So I’m mindful of the time. I know that we’re going to have to come to a close here. But I just wanted to say thank you so much for joining us today and giving us that important reminder, that expression of an ounce of prevention is worth a pound in cure. A reminder of how important it is to get prepared, not only in the medical sides, but on the practicalities. It feels like we’re coming at our expat life from a more empowered place. Like we’re taking charge more of our life and then that goes into how we parent and how we create that cohesion in our own family.
So I really appreciate your time today. If people want to find out more about you or get your guide, where should they go?
Kim: They can go to https://resilientexpats.com/. And they can find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/ResilientExpats/. And I also have a Facebook group, which is also called recently expats
Sundae: And I can put those in the show notes.
I do recommend you consider purchasing the guide, because it’s chock-full of a ton of stuff and it will save you a ton of really great resources. Plus you’ve got a ton of other freebies and wonderful things on your website. So check it out. The Facebook group is also great with wonderful ideas. There’s some fun stuff that was just shared around the holidays.
So if you’re listening to this around the festive season or around transition season, you’re going to want to make sure that you check it out because it’s got lots of practical tips there.
So, thank you Kim for joining us on Expat Happy Hour. It’s been a pleasure to have you.
Kim: Thank you so much. Really my pleasure.
All right everybody there you have it. Kim Adams is part of resilient expats. I like to call her the prepared expat because she’s thought about everything. And I tell you what living in a developing country like Burkina Faso I realized how important it is to be prepared and that value. So no matter where you are, check out her resources because I really want you to feel that you are taking choices in your life that feel empowered and that you are doing your best to take care of yourself. And knowing that you’re not going to cause yourself extra stress or heartache or hardship is one of those important steps.
You’ve been listening to Expat Happy Hour with Sundae Schneider-Bean. Thank you for listening.
I’m going to leave you with a thought from Jensen Siaw, he is a performance coach and motivational speaker in Asia. He says “Don’t wait until you are ready to take action. Instead, take action to be ready.”
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