You’re right, kid – it’s not fair. Today happens to be one of my kids’ birthdays. An end-of-summer birthday for an expat child is akin to a Christmas birthday for a Christian child; it never receives the full attention it deserves.
My child had a complete meltdown one afternoon this week, all in anticipation of an upcoming birthday. And you know what? I get it.
Moving is hard. It’s hard on EVERYONE. With so many moving pieces, something important to someone in the family is bound to get dropped while juggling competing priorities.
This move has highlighted for me how the little things – like having a car or an operable phone – are often taken for granted. But these little things become HUGE when you are an expat moving.
The number of times I’ve visited the cellular phone service store is out of control. It has tested my patience, but I constantly remind myself of how much harder all these things were during my first move. It helps me understand how difficult some of these things are for my kids.
Kids are resilient, yes, but I always have to temper that saying. They are resilient, but they truly build resilience only with the right support, validation, and modeling.
Expat kids and parents alike face unique challenges, which no doubt contribute to building unique characteristics and strengths. However, it’s important to acknowledge and appreciate that these challenges come with a cost. Dismissing, ignoring, or downplaying how big these things feel sets us and our kids up for challenges in understanding, validating, and acknowledging our feelings.
So, on the day of this total meltdown, I dropped almost everything and gave this child some more individualized attention. I even completely forgot about something vital I was working on. When I remembered, it somewhat panicked me, but it allowed me to fully focus on my kid and give them the attention they needed and deserved.
As expats, we navigate waters that others don’t always understand or appreciate the complexities of. Moving isn’t easy, and life isn’t fair, but even within these complexities lies a richness that cannot be underestimated. In appreciating that richness, we must also embrace the difficult feelings and sit with them, acknowledging and doing our best to teach our kids to do the same.
Earlier this week, I was talking with another coach who reminded me of the importance of mindset. Mindset is critical in everything we do – something I wish my mother had explained better to me. I work hard on being aware of my mindset while also acknowledging how difficult things feel. This practice is a delicate balance because, in the end, it’s important to be willing to experience those tough feelings while also moving forward to avoid getting stuck in them.
When my child was in a full-blown meltdown, I held them and validated their feelings. Because you know what? I agree – life isn’t fair, and this is hard. I also used different techniques like tapping while I held my child and allowed them to cry, scream, and acknowledge their own feelings. Then, I found a way to redirect this child’s attention into something that just the two of us could do together while the others were occupied.
There’s a reason they call this stuff a practice – it’s not easy, and it must be done over and over to build these emotional muscles. But the more we practice, the better we become at modeling for our kids. And that, my dear readers, is where the magic lies.
Sending all of you so much love,
Psssstttt… If you’re in the midst of a move and nothing seems to be falling into place, and your kids are struggling (because it’s HARD), I see you and I feel you. You are AMAZING, and your kid is so lucky to have someone as loving and committed as you.