Book Review: MARRIED IN MISSION

MARRIED IN MISSION: A Handbook for Couples in Cross-Cultural Service

20170531_154049by Alexis C. Kenny

 

Summary:

MARRIED IN MISSION is a handbook based on a blend of psychology and Catholic-Christian theology. As the title suggests, it is to help couples who work (or plan to work) in cross-cultural settings. After Kenny and her husband returned from working overseas, she realized that there was little to no help for couples. This resulted in her focus area for graduate school. In her extensive research, Kenny identified seven phases: discernment, preparation, realization, finalization, re-entry, and integration. These phases begin with the pre-departure stage and end with returning home. Each chapter offers insight and activities for the couple to learn and apply to their own marriages. This book is her thesis compiled into an easy to use book for any couple who plans to live overseas, are living overseas, or have returned home.

My thoughts:

I felt that the book and activities are very relevant to any couple living cross-culturally. Although I am not Catholic, I believe she explained clearly the terminology to those not familiar with the Catholic religion. I understood the concepts she presented. I liked that the reader could skip to the phase that was directly needed and not have to read the entire book to understand or gain personal insight. She also included many quotes from other couples interviewed, which helped to grasp the issues better.

The only complaint I had is towards the publishing house, and I think I know why they did it (to save money), but I feel the font is small. It made it hard to read. This is only a small complaint, but one to point out so you won’t be surprised (and for those of you like me,
have your reading glasses ready).

I do believe that this book could be used for any couple working cross-culturally, whether of the Catholic faith or not. There are some real gems that will help strengthen your marriage – and that is something, I believe, we all want in married life. Strong and happy marriages.

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The Leaving Series Part 3: You Can Take it with You

Welcome to Part 3 of The Leaving Series. If you are just reading for the first time, you may want to go back and catch Part 1 and Part 2.

Today’s post if from another friend, who I have had the opportunity to work with on team. Christa, may look short when standing next to her husband, but she is full of life and energy. I think you’ll sense that today as you read what she would have liked to have taken with her when she left…
Valley Of the Giants Western Australia

If you read the title and got upset then give me just one second because I am not talking about passing away, I am talking about moving. Of course it all depends on what the “it” is that you want to take with you. Our family lived in Shenyang, China for 12 years: both of our boys were born there and my husband and I were married there.

Before we left China there was quite a bit of debate about what everyone would be taking with us. When we decided to move, my children wanted to bring their best friends and every toy they had ever owned. My husband wanted to bring every book on the six bookcases in our home. I was much more unreasonable; I wanted to pack the Shenyang Imperial Palace, my best friends, my entire apartment, Starbucks, our school, every book in our home and every toy the boys had ever owned. We could negotiate on some of these items, but I did eventually have to admit that the Imperial Palace wouldn’t fit in my suitcase and I had to accept that skyping friends would be enough.

Our negotiation and moving process took an entire year. I started whittling down items as we used them. As I used items, I thought about whether I would give them to someone, sell them at the garage sale we would host, or pack them to take home. I would also figure out when would be the last time I would use that item then pack it in a box. Yes, in case you are wondering, I am a type A personality. Most stuff got left behind with beloved friends. When I visit now, I get to see my things being used by other people and I have to say it is one of the nicest feelings in the world.

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We worked out that we couldn’t take things with us but we could take experiences with us. We could take parts of the culture and language with us. We also got to take a lot of love and care with us because people did so much for our family to make sure we each knew we were cared for as we said goodbye.

We did quite a few things to make moving easier for the boys. We knew they would miss China, so we made sure to take a long trip around the country to see important places before we left. We talked with the boys and asked them what their favorite places were in Shenyang. We visited those places one last time to say goodbye. We made sure to talk through it with them when we were going to a certain place for the last time. We also made sure to take photos of them in those places. We let them help with packing their own things, so that their things didn’t just disappear one day. We also encouraged them to think through which items they would give to friends and which they could give to children in need. This made leaving things behind more acceptable to them because it was an act of generosity.

We looked to the future in Australia by talking about living close to a part of our family, going to the beach and having a house with a yard. We talked to them about what they were looking forward to and then made sure to mention those positive things with enthusiasm when we could.

The boys wanted a dog in Australia and my husband and I both thought that was reasonable request and something that could help them get through the transition. They looked forward to having Bolt, (our dog), for months and he has helped through emotionally difficult times. He has helped me, too when I think about it.

20.5The experiences, the culture and the language have stayed with us. We have made great Chinese friends here in Australia. I now write for a Chinese magazine here and we speak at a Chinese church in Perth. The boys talk about China often and have kept some of the language as well. The office Darren and I work at is a 5-minute walk from Chinatown in Perth and it is a wonderful way for us to stay connected to a place we all consider home or at least one of our homes. We celebrate the Chinese holidays and enjoy eating Chinese food as often as we can go to a restaurant or cook it. We also keep China in our home by having photos of friends from China, hanging scrolls and keeping things we brought with us from China displayed in the house.

Making sure to keep China a part of our lives, talking about it and participating in Chinese cultural events here in Perth has helped us to feel complete. There is no hole in our heart where China was because it has remained an integral part of what makes up our family. It is our children’s birthplace, and the place where Darren and I were married. Saying goodbye and moving to a new place cannot diminish how important China was and is to us.

Head Shot (1)Christa and her husband lived in China for 12 years. She met her husband, Darren, in China and they married there. Both of their two boys were born in China andlived there until 4 years ago. They moved to Australia, her husband’s home country, in 2010. She has been working with TCKs and other expats since moving to Australia. She is also the China promotions manager for Stacey College and Director of Student Services for Sheridan College. As part of her work she assists students in coming to Australia to study. You can visit her blog at staceycollege.com.

 

Thanks Christa for sharing today! So, readers, what do you want to take with you as you are preparing to leave? For those of you who have transitioned, what are other things that you were surprised about that may have followed you to the next destination? Share in the comments below!

TCK Mentoring – Sea Change

Yesterday I had the opportunity to listen in on a webinar given by Sea Change Mentoring. This organization, founded by Ellen Mahoney, is designed for third culture kids from the ages 16-23, although they are open to reaching out to help children as young as 13. Read their mission below:

“Help international teens develop into happy and successful adults through the power of mentoring and our tailored curriculum.”

Ellen is a TCK herself. She shared her story with us of the time she returned to the US for university alone. It was a very hard year as she felt lonely and even depressed. She found out that she was not the only one – that many of her other TCK friends were also experiencing the various degrees of the same feelings. Throughout her life she has helped children. She began as a high school teacher, then began working with an online mentoring group in the US, and now is the Founder and CEO of Sea Change Mentoring.

So what is Sea Change Mentoring?

It is just that – mentoring third culture kids through all the change that they go through. The mentoring is currently being facilitated through Skype by professionally trained mentors that have overseas experience. They use a tailored curriculum for TCKs that was developed by a TCK. Some of the “units” that are covered are Building Strong Relationships, Healthy Good-byes, Career Exploration, Career EQ, Becoming Independent, and much more.

Why is this so important?

We all know that the expat life is much like sea waves, coming and going. Children may have a difficult time adjusting or connecting with friends. This program is designed to be a 2-3 year commitment allowing the mentor time to help the child go through changes, nudging them to build heathy relationships, as well as other issues they may be facing. And for those that are older, to help them begin to think about being independent BEFORE they are independent. We as parents can help, yes, and we should be involved in this process – but sometimes a third party that is standing on the outside can see the whole picture. Possibly even better since this person understands all the emotions that our children are going through. Sea Change works with the child, but they also communicate with the parents – which I found, as a parent, to be comforting. Sea Change was founded in 2012 and launched their first pilot program this past January. So, it’s fairly new – but I don’t believe there is anything like it out there for TCKs. If you have children in this age range and wondering how you can help them with adjustment, this might be a really good option. If you would like more information, you can click here.

**I just want to note that I did not receive anything for this review, but that it is solely my own opinion from what I learned about through the webinar.

All the Colours of The World: An Activity for Debriefing TCKS

Today I have a guest writer. I sort of met Christa in college *ahem* years ago, then re-met while living and working at the same school. She is from the US, but married an Auzzie, and is living there now. I asked her to share a tool that she uses when working with TCKs as they transition from one place to another. I know you will LOVE this idea. It’s simple, brings out conversation, and turns out beautiful.

Four years ago when our family was moving from China to Australia we went to a departure seminar led for all of the team members who were moving. We were very fortunate to have a culture in our team of giving those who were leaving a weekend away with caring facilitators to think through the leaving process and to plan our goodbyes.

We were also very fortunate that departure activities were thoughtfully chosen and prepared for our two boys. All weekend long they took part in facilitated activities that led them through a process of grieving and thinking through their departure.

Well I can say I am very thankful for the time our children had at that seminar and the lessons they took part in. There was one lesson in particular that was so special I have used it each time I am asked to debrief or talk with a TCK now. When I lead children through this activity I use scrapbook paper and photos but it was originally done with my children using fabric to make a pillow. The activity is so perfect because it is easily adaptable to using whatever materials you are comfortable with.

First, I ask parents to work with children to choose or print off four photos of their time in the host country they have recently moved from. I bring with me a large selection of scrapbook materials and paper. I asked children to choose a background colour and then explain for the next step we will choose two pieces of paper we really like and two pieces we don’t. While we are doing this I ask children to recall two things they really miss and they love about their host county and two things or memories they don’t like about their host country. We each share these memories with each other and it is often surprising even to the siblings what each child shares. Once we are finished sharing our memories we cut out frames for the four photos using the two pieces of paper we liked and two pieces we didn’t. We place our photos in the frames and onto the background.

After that is finished they use the other materials I have provided to decorate the page. I then ask the children to step back and look at the page. Do they like it? What do all the photos look like? Are there individual things they like and don’t like about the page they created? During this time I intentionally compliment different aspects of the page and I also draw out more discussion and details about their time in the host country. We finish up by discussing that even though we might not like some individual things about the pages they are beautiful as a whole and in that way they are just like our time in our host country. God has used the not so beautiful times, (referring to things they share that they didn’t like), and the beautiful times to create something gorgeous and unique in our lives.

The pictures shown here are of this activity which I recently did with our boys after returning from a visit to China. There were so many emotions during and after the visit I felt it would be good to work through our time by doing this activity. 20140613_111438There are also pictures of the original pillow they created at the departure seminar four year ago. The leader did the actual sewing for all the children. What a dedicated leader! Our children still take these on every flight.

Front side of the pillow

Front side of the pillow

Backside of the pillow.

Backside of the pillow.

I hope this activity can be as useful to you as it has been to me when helping kids talk through their feelings. It will always be a continuing process and no one activity or weekend will work through all of their feelings but it has been a huge help to us and helped us to remember all the colours of our time in China in a positive and realistic way.

Head ShotChrista and her husband lived in China for 12 years. She met her husband, Darren, in China and they married there. Both of their two boys were born in China and lived there until 4 years ago. They moved to Australia, her husband’s home country, in 2010. She has been working with TCKs and other expats since moving to Australia. She is also the China promotions manager for Stacey College and Director of Student Services for Sheridan College. As part of her work she assists students in coming to Australia to study. You can visit her blog at staceycollege.com.

 

Helping Your TCK Say Good-bye

Yesterday I wrote about building your RAFT during the moving transition. It really is important to take time to do it and to be intentional to help your TCKs build their own. Children are not mature enough to understand all that they are feeling about this impending move. Maybe they didn’t have any say in whether the move was going to happen or not. Maybe they did, but their vote didn’t count – or at least that is how they feel. Either way, it is always good to talk about it with them – or at least try.

IMG_6176

 

Ask open ended questions – not ones they can answer with a “yes” or “no”. Ideas could be “How do you feel about….” or “What do you think about…” Whatever questions you ask, the point is to get them to talk about the moving process.

Listen, Listen, Listen – After you ask the questions, listen and take mental notes. You might be surprised what they tell you. Your child might tell you about an argument she was in with her best friend. Or maybe he/she might mention a favorite place they will miss that you had no idea was such a big deal to them. You might hear about the fears, the anger, and the grief that your child is going through.

Plan Good-Byes  – Sit with your child and make a friend’s list, then plan what they would like to do to say good-bye. Maybe they want a sleep-over, tea and cake party, or even going out and doing something – remember though to do what your child likes to do, not what you love to do. Oh, and take pictures – lots of pictures. Another idea is to have your TCKs write letters telling their special friends good-bye. It will help them process and give them the opportunity to say “Good-bye”.

Note Memories – Do something with the photos you’ve taken. Either make an album or allow your child to make their own album. My friend, Shelley, made her daughter a photo album when they went back “home” on furlough last year. She put in photos of her child’s home, desk, bedroom, favorite activities, and friends. I just took my daughter bowling with a group of her good friends. I took many photos, of course. I had a notebook that I had each girl write in. They could write a memory or whatever they wanted to tell Mei Mei. I told them to leave a page free and as soon as I develop the photos, I’ll put them in. Later after we move, I’ll give Mei Mei her book. Now, my son doesn’t want his friends to write anything – but we’ll still take photos of their upcoming campout and I’ll make some sort of album for him because I know he’ll go back and remember the good memories.

Use a Calendar – Remember to say good-bye to places and things. This could be favorite restaurants, night market stalls, tea shops, parks, swings, even a climbing tree or hiking trail. With all the good-bye parties and end of the school year activities time will run out if you don’t plan. Use a calendar to mark out dates to go and see whatever your children (and yourself) want to go to one last time. Again, TAKE photos. Seriously, after a few years – or even months – you’ll forget and wish you could remember.

Read books about TCKs – This one you could do anytime, but right now I’m holding a giveaway party with Valérie Basenceney, author of B at Home: Emma Moves Again. She has agreed to give one signed copy of her book about a TCK moving to one of you! Here is your chance to get a book for your child. You still have time to register – so click here and here (extra points). Other books that I’ve reviewed can be found by either clicking here or clicking on the tab labeled “Book Review”. It’s always good for kids to read about others to know they are not alone in how they feel, especially when it comes to moving.

These are just a few ideas, but I think the most important is communication. Remember that communication involves listening, not just talking. Sometimes I think as a parent it is easier to do all the talking and we forget to listen – or maybe it is just me.

Remember, only one day left for the giveaway. May 30th is the deadline, so go and enter the giveaway. It costs you absolutely nothing.

How to Leave Well: Build a RAFT

As you may know, I’m celebrating this week with a giveaway contest of the book B at Home: Emma Moves Again by Valérie Besanceney. In the book Emma goes through the transition process of moving. Though Valérie doesn’t specifically use RAFT in her book, we see Emma building one.

This time of year is bittersweet for expats and their children. The excitement of summer coming means slower mornings – the breakfast rush of passing out pieces of bread to eat on the way to school is almost over. We know that we’ll get a few months break to recharge before starting back up in the fall. The crazy thing is that after a few days we miss rushing the kids off so they have something to do besides telling us they are bored. For me, though, this summer will be about the beach, a nice large cup of cold tea (I’m so addicted to these Taiwan teas), and it’s looking like packing boxes.

Yep, we are moving – just not sure when. Yeah, that is hard, but will save that for another post as I’m still processing the unknowns. Being married to a TCK, I’ve learned a few tricks from my husband in assisting my kids in this process called moving. My husband and I both really believe in building RAFTs, and this time we are being more intentional in helping our now older kids build their own.

I really don’t like saying, “Good-byes”. I’d just rather avoid or ignore all the emotions and feelings I have during this move, but I know I can’t  – I’ve just got to go through it because if I don’t I could regret it. I’ve found that building my RAFT has been the key for me to do it in a healthy and may I say, somewhat, graceful way.

So what is this “Building your RAFT” all about?

Are we building a boat? No, not literally. RAFT is an acronym that the late David C Pollock developed to help people transition. This process of moving can take up to six months or more. Below is the simple form of this model. If you have the opportunity to go to a seminar or workshop – GO! Seriously, it will change the way you do the move – and I’m not talking about a dance step.

R = Reconciliation 

Reconciliation is just that: reconciling with people, making the relationship right. Just because you leave a place doesn’t mean the problem goes away. It doesn’t – instead it goes with you. Research has been done on health related issues due to unforgiveness. Just google it and see for yourself.

A = Affirmation

Is there anyone you are super thankful for? Anyone who has helped you greatly while living in that city? Tell them. Let them know how much you appreciate them and what they did for you, for your kids, for your family. Awkward? Write a letter to tell them – but just tell them. You have the opportunity to make someone feel appreciated – and you’ll feel great that you did it.

F = Farewell

This is the not so fun part; saying good-bye. You immediately think of all the people you want to tell good-bye. An article I just read on this topic stated to rank your friends, which sounds harsh, but I do think is a good idea. Don’t forget to say “Good-bye” to places and things as well. This may sound strange, but it really helps to bring closure. This one is important for kids as well. Plan these “events” on a calendar so you get them in. I’ll write more on this later this week…so much you can do to help your kids here.

T = Think Destination

It’s just that – think about the next place. How will it be different from where you are now? How will it be the same? Go through this dialogue with your kids as well. It will help them in the process as well. Look up on the internet and read about the new place. Check it out on Google Maps. Reminder: It’s okay to feel excited about the new destination as you say good-bye to all the old things. It’s normal.

I’ll be sharing this week a little about how I’ve been using this model in our process of transition.

Again, don’t forget to enter the contest here. Also, you can get extra points here – but remember to let me know the comments section of that post if you want to be in the giveaway.

Deadline is May 30th.

 

Your Turn: Have you used this method when you moved? Or did you use another method. Please share a moving story. Please comment below.

We’re moving back! How do we tell the kids?

In this two part series, I’ve talked (emailed) two families about how they have prepared their children for the move back to the parent’s home country. Notice I didn’t just write home country, as we all know our TCKs don’t always feel it is their home country. This first post is from a family with younger children and the other is from a family that has older children.

going&coming-6

I’ve been digitally following this family for over a year now. I enjoy Kim’s writing style and her photos capture the moments. I’ve known Kim for….we’ll just say many years. I think I was a newlywed and she one of the cool single teachers that let me hang-out with them. We have quite a few things in common. We both met the love of our life in Tianjin, China. We both taught grade 5. And we both have three kids all born in China. Her kids are younger than mine, but they follow the pattern: boy, girl, girl (and the third child is also adopted from China).

Kim and her husband, Patrick, just repatriated to the US almost six months ago. She blogged about her experience with the move and some about what she did to help her kids (ages 6.5, 5, and 3) with the transition. I knew I wanted to interview her about it because she just has wisdom pouring out from her. And don’t we all want to hear from people like that?

“We got a lot of advice. We knew about two years in advance that a relocation was coming up, but that such young kids did not need to know so far in advance.”

        The key is to balance two needs…

Kim and Patrick asked adult TCKs and early childhood specialists about how they should explain this move to their children. The consensus seemed to be within six months. Kim explains that the key is to balance two needs: 1) As small children, too much time with news of a big move was too abstract to be of any real benefit however 2) waiting too long to tell them increased the risk of them hearing it from someone else.

“Six months allowed for openness within our community for an appropriate amount of time, but did not burden our little ones with a hard-to-grasp impending move for too long.”

     Lasts, Losses, and Logistics…

As the community and the children all knew of the move, Kim and her husband began talking with their children about lasts, losses, and logistics. They made lists with their kids what they wanted to do one more time, or as Kim called it their “Tianjin bucket list”. Some ideas were fun places in the city they loved like the TV Tower, but many were typical day things they did like play-dates with specific friends or even certain foods from the local market. From this list, Kim and Patrick calculated around sixty days before departure and marked the items on the calendar. They were intentional to make sure that the kids got to celebrate the “lasts” that they wanted. I believe this is important because it gives the children a chance to say good-bye not only to people, but also to places.

Tip from Kim: Towards the end, limit the activities to only a few a day. They limited the kids to one activity/day. They allowed each other a few more, but then took turns watching the kids at home. I think this is great as it helps the kids to feel stable, especially as time gets closer to the end.

Losses are part of lasts, but still need to be talked about. Kim talked with her children about what they were going to miss: people, pets, places and possessions. She knew that this was important – even if it seemed silly, like the blender that stopped working right before the move, but apparently her oldest is a kitchen fan. Check out this post on saying good-bye to the zhou-maker.

Kim and Patrick also talked about logistics with their kids; from packing, shipping and flights. Kim said that the question, “How will that be different in Texas?” brought up all kinds of talks about what to expect in the new location. And her “Moving Book” she made helped with the transition for her youngest. If you don’t check out any of the other links, this one you just must look at. Seriously, a great tool to make for your kids.

“Preparing our family for repatriation was a huge job…one that we did with lots of help and advice, and one that we did imperfectly. Like any parenting endeavor, it is impossible to fully anticipate and fully meet the needs of every child.”

Kim, thanks for sharing your experience and your wisdom with us. And though you may feel like it was “imperfect”, I do believe you did it with grace and wisdom.