A showcase of FIGT Members' written work, focusing on the issues we study, the best practices we share, and the strategies we provide to support expatriates and cross cultural individuals and their families. Contributions are a privilege for Small Business and Corporate membership levels only and you can submit up to 3 posts per year. Please use our online form below to submit a blog for consideration or contact blogeditor@figt.org.

  • 21 Sep 2021 4:33 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    It’s that time of the year again when the FIGT community thanks and gives our fond farewells to outgoing Board Members. In this post, we hear from Trisha Carter as she shares the three things she cherishes most from her time as FIGT Secretary.

    Of the many positives Trisha says she bring away from her time on the FIGT Board, there are three main things she cherishes most.

    "Firstly, and most profoundly, I am so appreciative for the relationships built working in a global team, across time zones, datelines, languages and cultural differences - all of us unified with a common purpose! These relationships have been the greatest treasure.  

    Secondly, the opportunity to work for a purpose that I am deeply committed to - supporting people in global transitions / in cross-cultural experiences.  Building bridges of understanding has always been vital for me. 

    And thirdly, these past four years working in a strategic team guiding this precious NFP organisation through the challenges of everything the world has thrown at us - this has been the greatest opportunity for learning and growth. I’m very grateful for all of it. "

    Thank you, Trisha, for all that you have done as FIGT Secretary!

    Watch the FIGT Blog for upcoming posts welcoming and introducing to the community our new incoming board members. 

  • 21 Sep 2021 4:24 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    It’s that time of the year again when the FIGT community thanks and gives our fond farewells to outgoing Board Members. In this post, we share a parting message from Matilda Criel-Ewoldt as she reflects on what her time as Scholarship Director has meant to her.

    As Scholarship Director, I’ve had the honor to welcome into our community new thoughts and experiences, through the Pollock Scholars. That has been my main, and most cherished, role in FIGT. 

    This has been quite the journey. My term was right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, from October 2019 to October 2021. I needed to re-think what the scholars look like in a virtual format and provide them with a new platform to work from. In doing so, both the role of the scholar and their engagement within FIGT grew. Scholars have an increasingly important role in our community, as we come to expand our knowledge of intersectionality. 

    One thing FIGT board members rarely share is how much work the board positions require. We all put our souls and hearts into this work. We believe in this mission: bridging families, providing for and embracing global individuals. I will never forget that I have been a part of FIGT in a moment of monumental growth. 

    The passion, the work, the camaraderie, the friendships, the community – I would do it all over again. I am so honored to have been Scholarship Chair and I will honestly miss it dearly. I am so glad that I am being replaced by the most qualified person and friend, Adam Geller. Good luck. 

    What’s next for me? I don’t quite know. At the same time I was serving on the FIGT Board, I completed my doctorate. FIGT helped me comprehend the global individual, on a psychological level. I would not have been able to complete my dissertation without your input, for that I thank you all! I have decided to take a year off to travel and think of new ways to help people; simultaneously embracing my international, intercultural identity and rekindling my love of travel and novelty. 

    Thank you, Matilda, for all that you have done as FIGT Scholarship Director!

    Watch the FIGT Blog for upcoming posts welcoming and introducing to the community our new incoming board members. 

  • 21 Sep 2021 12:04 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    It’s that time of the year again when the FIGT community thanks and gives our fond farewells to outgoing Board Members. In this post, we hear from Mariam Ottimofiore as she shares some of the highlights from her past 2 years as Membership Director.

    Mariam states, "I joined the FIGT Board in 2019 to give back to FIGT; an organization that I first came to know of and love in 2016. But as usual, during my time serving on the Board, FIGT has given me more than I could possibly give it in return."

    Mariam says that her time on the Board has been made even better by the amazing team she has worked along side. It has also been full of incredible learning experiences and positive experiences.

    "There have been so many highlights over the past two years, it would be hard to choose just one!" There was one moment that stands out as extra special:

    "Waking up on Day 2 of our first ever virtual conference to 365 messages on the FIGT Board Whatsapp group chat! With all of us spread in different time zones, we managed the annual conference around the clock as those in Australia/New Zealand fell asleep and those of us in Europe took over and then our US counterparts ended the day. It was an exercise in international coordination and logistics like no other and one which our global lives have prepared us for in so many ways. I am most proud of our teamwork leading up to the conference and beyond, but especially during those 3 manic days which I'll never forget as we problem-solved and burnt fires right, left and center!" She goes on to add, "huge thanks to every single FIGT volunteer who helped behind the scenes!"stood out as being extra special success, she remembers:

    During Mariam's time as an FIGT Board Member, a wonderful new tradition was started. One which she says "has been a highlight for me personally as FIGT's Membership Director and one which I will certainly miss." She is referring to the quarterly 'Welcome Coffee & Connects'.

    "We started hosting quarterly 'Welcome Coffee & Connects' to welcome our new FIGT members, introduce them to our community and guide them on the resources, groups, privileges and more that they have access to as a result of joining the organization. It was so refreshing to hear from new members themselves and hear their reasons for joining FIGT and connect them to the organization in the beginning of their membership. I hope this tradition will continue as I believe being welcoming and sharing generously what we know with others who join us is such a great reflection of FIGT and the values that guide our work. "

    Thank you, Mariam, for all that you have done as FIGT Membership Director!

    Watch the FIGT Blog for upcoming posts welcoming and introducing to the community our new incoming board members. 

  • 29 Aug 2021 1:23 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    As part of our FIGT Focus on Play, educational consultant and FIGT member April J. Remfrey shares how an eye-opening personal experience, along with a lot of expert support, reinforces the idea that play is not just important, it is worth defending. 

    FIGT Focus Blogs highlight the various voices of our community and reflect the personal views of the author, not necessarily those of FIGT. 

    By April J. Remfrey, MS

    Shortly after our daughter turned three, my husband and I decided to enroll her in preschool. She was an early talker and was showing interest in books and writing. Each night before bed, she insisted we read her a certain number of books. She also wrote on anything she could get her hands on – even the walls. It was obvious she was ready.

    Our search began with three different local schools, each with its own unique method of early childhood education: religious, forest immersion, and Montessori. We researched the pros and cons of each but tried to reserve judgment until seeing them for ourselves. Having nine years of experience teaching general and special education, I developed my own opinions on early childhood education. However, I went in with an open mind, understanding that each child is different, and we were choosing a place specific to our daughter's needs.

    The Idea That  Learning is "Academics"  

    Our first visit was to a preschool right down the road from our home. It was late afternoon when we pulled into the school parking lot for a group tour. We were a bit nervous, palms sweating and all, as we stepped into the whitewashed building with its green trim, surrounded by towering pine trees. Our first impression was encouraging, the building looked clean and welcoming, and the head of school and bubbly tour guide seemed engaged and enthusiastic.

    Everything was fine until we went into the first classroom. The room mirrored the exterior of the building: whitewashed with green trim. There were no pictures on the walls, no inviting, child-friendly seating, no toys stowed away in the corners. It felt like a classroom for fourth or fifth graders, not one for three-year-olds to grow and play. Trying to better understand what I was seeing, I asked about their daily activities.

    In her overly excited voice, the tour guide told us that the program's goal was for all of the three-year-olds to master their letters and numbers by the end of the school year. Although I'm fairly certain I was not hiding my surprise, she continued her prepared speech. She pointed to a small circular table in the corner, informing us that teachers used it to work one-on-one with students who were not progressing in their learning. At this point, I know my face showed my disgust. Letter and number mastery at three years old? I looked around at the other parents nodding their heads in approval, but I recoiled at the idea of trying to teach three-year-olds the beginnings of academics. Would some be ready? Maybe, but it seemed like not only a futile act but possibly even detrimental since most kids aren't developmentally ready for this type of learning until they're between five and seven years old!

    But Experts Agree...

    In 2015, The Atlantic published an article aptly titled, "When Success Leads to Failure." In this piece, Jessica Lahey writes about her experience during a parent-teacher conference when she explained to a parent that "her child has sacrificed her natural curiosity and love of learning at the altar of achievement." Ms. Lahey questions how our society demands success from students at any cost. She concludes that we, as teachers and parents, have taught children that achievement is the only acceptable option. 

    We've known that praising effort over intelligence is best practice for quite some time. In 1998, a New York Times article cited a study published years prior from Stanford psychology professor Dr. Carol Dweck regarding this idea. Since then, this research was preached repeatedly at school staff meetings and has been in my vernacular for the last twenty years. We know best practice is to praise effort but is that truly happening in school settings?

    Fast forward to 2007, and I am physically dragging my husband out of a preschool tour because neither Dr. Dweck's research nor Ms. Lahey's insights had permeated their whitewashed walls. I can't even remember if we finished the tour or if we left right then and there. What I do remember was the hiss of my disapproving whisper into my husband's ear: "She has her whole life to hate school! Why would they want to start that at three years old?" 

    Here in Switzerland, preschool and kindergarten emphasize socialization and developing self-help skills. A similar system can be found in Finland, which is known to produce well-socialized and emotionally intelligent students. You would never find a Swiss teacher forcing a three-year-old to memorize numbers and letters. For that matter, you wouldn't have found that in the US when I was a child either.

    ...That Playing IS Learning

    We need to let children be children. We've become so afraid of them being left behind in a highly competitive world that we're setting unrealistic academic expectations for children as young as three years old. Instilling a love for learning and school starts very young, but approaching education the wrong way could teach children to hate school from the very beginning. Most parents and educators would agree that we want our children to love to learn. It's essential to recognize that we can foster a love of learning by providing opportunities not tied to success or failure, but to the sheer enjoyment of figuring out something new. 

    So please, turn away from the preschools that lure families in with developmentally inappropriate promises. Look instead for the preschools that foster learning through play, social-emotional growth, and curiosity for learning and life. Thankfully, we found a preschool set back in the woods, where the children engaged in play-based learning, and our three-year-old loved to go to every day! I'm stepping off my soapbox now.

    April J Remfrey, MS, is an educational consultant that focuses her time working with international schools and globally mobile families with neurodiverse children. She has created an ILP/RTI goal documentation cloud-based program for international schools called STEP and works with international schools to help improve their inclusive practices. 

    She has a BA in special education and elementary education from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, USA and received a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, USA in Exceptional Education. She has been a teacher for over 20 years in three countries and has experience in the public, private, and international school environments. 

    April serves on the International and European boards of directors for SENIA: Special Education Network and Inclusion Association.

    Since 2013, April, her husband, and daughter have lived in the Zurich, Switzerland area. Never one to sit still, April likes to hike in the stunning Swiss Alps, cook gourmet food, and play clarinet in the local concert band.

    See more at www.remfreyeducationalconsulting.com.  

  • 19 Aug 2021 12:34 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Even in times of COVID, perhaps especially in times of COVID, FIGT member and international educator Jacob Huff explains why it is so important to "go play".

    By Jacob Huff

    While people of all ages can be involved in play activities, children have a unique ability to engage in play and a deep need to learn about themselves and the world around them in this way. Educators and educational researchers have long understood that it is a key element of growth and learning, but in 2013 the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child Article 31 established an international understanding of the rights of children to play. While it may seem intuitive, in these strange times, it is important to deeply understand what kinds of play educators and parents can use to meet the needs of the children in our care because life in the age of COVID has brought many new challenges, new questions, and new solutions. 

    I am an international educator. I am currently the elementary principal of an American curriculum school in Malaysia. I have served as an administrator and elementary teacher in Vietnam, China, the United States, and now Malaysia. When I think of play, one of the first things that always comes to my mind is the Vietnamese word đi chơi, which translates to “go play”. I have loved it as an expression of the purity and joy of play. As a parent, as an educator, and as a scholar I hope that I can help all children to đi chơi. To do so let’s have a look at the uses of play in our lives.

    What is play?

    Play can be broken into two categories: structured and unstructured. When we think of children at play many people typically think of unstructured play. 

    Unstructured play is what children naturally do with or without guidance from adults. It has benefits in physical, social, and emotional growth. It can take many forms but must incorporate two essential elements, freedom and fun (Roche 2018). In play, children find joy but also learn about themselves and learn skills that they will use in their adult life. Self play provides opportunities to understand the physical world, use their imaginations, and increase their motor skills. Cooperative play brings social understanding, problem solving, conflict resolution, and collaboration into the mix. 

    Structured Play is purposeful play time, often led or directed by adults. These can include formal games, puzzles, task-oriented play-based learning, organized sports, goal-oriented activities, etc. They are designed to be both fun and learning opportunities. Both structured and unstructured play are essential for children and adolescence to grow; both should be provided for and encouraged. 

    At School

    In schools when we think of play most people think about the playground. The playground, recess, between class breaks, PE, and sports are all important opportunities for students to experience a combination of both structured and unstructured play. Sadly, in our high pressure educational environment, many schools have done away with or shortened recess and school breaks. 

    I once worked in a school as a teacher that had discontinued recess because the administration was unhappy with the number of office referrals that came after them. Other schools have removed recess because they feel that they cannot meet curriculum demands if they give up class time for recess. My suggestion is for parents to avoid sending their child to a school that makes this decision because unstructured play is mission-critical for learning. 

    As important as unstructured play is for students to engage in during the day for socialization and brain breaks, schools use many different forms of structured play to specifically target various goals in the school. Much of what you will see in the school would fall under the heading of Guided Active Play. Broadly speaking guided play has two forms; adult-designed activities and child-directed activities. Adult-designed guided play is an exploration in which an adult has set the parameters and determined the objective. Child-directed guided play involves activities in which adults didn’t set the parameters but ask questions, encourage exploration, ask-open ended questions, focus student attention on new knowledge, or provide reinforcement (Weisberg et al., 2016). 

    A wonderful example of this is play-based learning in early childhood programs but it can be done at all grade levels. One popular example would be Marker Spaces and Genius Hours which allow students to explore science, design, computing, and engineering through play and exploration. 

    At Home

    I always tell parents that one of the best things they can do is to play with their children. That sounds simple but sometimes simple things must be remembered and nurtured or they do not happen. In our highly competitive modern lives it can be very easy to overschedule our children and have limited time as a family, but just like in school it is a mistake when families do not allow for both structured and unstructured play for children. 

    Sports can be a great opportunity for structured play but I always encourage families to invest the time to give children and adolescents unstructured playtime and also to be directly involved in structured playtime together. It is fun and also gives families bonding time. Another point to consider is the amount of television, video games, and other screen time that students get. 

    It is far too easy to let children spend too much time on devices at the expense of real-world interaction and physical play. This is not to say that children should not be allowed to use devices for playtime, in fact, games like Minecraft, Roblox, Tinker, and Scratch can be wonderful expressions of creativity. But it is to say that families should have discussions together about limits to device usage and alternatives should be sought. 

    In my house, we practice a ritual called No Tech Tuesday. When we do this, we put down our devices, turn off the TV, and do analog things together. We try to do it every Tuesday evening. We read together, play card games, and take walks. It can include any activity which is done together, is fun, and doesn’t involve devices. We don’t always succeed but it is a fun work in progress. 

    Play in the age of COVID 

    COVID has changed everything. There have been lockdowns, movement restrictions, school closures, and many more stresses that we have never before had to deal with on a society-wide scale. While all elements of life have been impacted by COVID, play has been one area that children have suffered the most. Lockdowns and school closures have severely hampered children in their opportunities to engage in all types of play. Collaborative unstructured play is the most easily visible area of this but structured play has also been highly limited. 

    Teachers and parents have had to be inventive to combat this, but out of hardship novel solutions have emerged. PE classes have gone online. Programs like Kahoot!, Quizlet, Prodigy, and Blooket are great ways to add gamification to learning. Teachers have made fun videos for their students (see this video my teachers made for our kids). They use videos from platforms like GoNoodle to get students up and moving. They use video sessions to have students do talent shows. The list is endless. There are struggles but if there is one thing I have learned as a principal it is that teachers have an endless supply of clever and innovative ideas to help make learning and play accessible to students. At home parents have helped to set up video play dates, let their children play games with friends while talking to them in a video chat in the background, and set aside time to board play games as families. 

    It has been a hard time for everyone, even more so for international families who have not been able to visit their home countries or see families, but in challenging times we find strength together. I would encourage all families to evaluate the importance of play, understand their children’s needs, discuss it as a family, and seek opportunities for play. Play together, learn together, grow together, and I will see you on the other side because sometimes we all need to đi chơi!

    Works cited

    Roche, M. M. D. (2018). Children’s Right to Play. Journal of Moral Theology, 7(1), 124–140.

    Weisberg, D. S., Hirsh-Pasek, K., Golinkoff, R. M., Kittredge, A. K., & Klahr, D. (2016). Guided Play: Principles and Practices. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 25(3), 177–182. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0963721416645512

    Jacob Daniel Huff is a seasoned international who is now in his third decade living internationally. He currently lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with his wife and daughter, where he works as an international school principal. He was a 2020/21 David C. Pollock Scholar and is presently writing his doctoral thesis on international school teachers' perspectives on TCK identity development. His next project is a collection of vignettes from ATCKs about their travels through the perspective of items they chose to bring with them throughout their international moves and the items they have lost along the way. If you would like to contribute to this project or contact him you can reach him at his LinkedIn profile https://www.linkedin.com/in/jacob-daniel-huff/ or his Twitter @mrjacobhuff

  • 16 Jul 2021 4:21 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Families in Global Transition wishes to thank multi-year Gold Sponsor CrossBorder Living Institute for ongoing support of our organization and our broader globally mobile community.

    Longtime member and Gold Sponsor of FIGT, Jennifer Patterson has lived abroad more than half her life. Together with her dual-national husband Jeff, they know issues surrounding cross-cultural living firsthand, having raised two tri-national children while working for Patterson Partners, their advisory firm for international clients.

    Over time, Jennifer realized more needed to be done to help educate and guide those living and working across cultures, and the financial practitioners who support them. 

    She created CrossBorder Living Institute with two aims in mind. The first is to provide events and training for the globally mobile to create, grow and manage their financial assets – regardless of how much or how little they might be – in a way that best supports how they want to live. 

    The second is to teach cross-border technical and practice-related topics to financial practitioners who serve such clients. 

    Jennifer has been a regular attendee and sponsor at FIGT conferences for several years. When we caught up wither recently, we asked about her perspective of our recent first-time online conference, FIGT2021.

    “Congratulations to the FIGT Team for a job well done,” Jennifer shared. “In many ways, you managed to make a virtual conference more intimate than an in-person one.”

    “I’ve made a number of connections over the years and I always hope to catch up with everyone, but rarely ever achieve that goal – partly due to so many competing conversations, activities, and the actual logistics of travel. This year, however, the virtual environment made it very easy to connect with attendees whom I might not have in an in-person environment.”

    “As a sponsor,” Jennifer continued, “we were able to be of more help. For example, during the conference we were able to reach out and obtain answers from several of our professional contacts to obtain clarification on a couple of important detailed financial matters for a couple of attendees in a timely and efficient manner.”

    “We also heard from a number of attendees that they really appreciated our conversation starter handout and looked forward to using it, which we were very excited to hear!”

    FIGT appreciates all Jennifer and CrossBorder Living Institute have done in support of FIGT’s mission over the years, and is grateful for their continued sponsorship. 

  • 29 Jun 2021 10:50 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    As part of this year's conference closing ceremony, our members create a piece of community art in line with FIGT2021's theme, "Embracing and Bridging Differences".

    As part of FIGT2021, artist and FIGT Member Camille Deniau facilitated a session to allow us to create our first ever piece of community art.  Under Camille’s guidance, attendees each created an element of the final piece; leaves, branches, or a part of the trunk. According to Camille, "Everybody did it in their own ways, expressing their own personality and what they wanted to contribute to the conference". She then brought the individual pieces together. "It was a massive puzzle," she explains. "I tried to link [each piece] wherever I could find those bridges". The final creation is the FIGT Tree, which we are displaying here for the first time.

    We encourage you to zoom in or enlarge the FIGT Tree to see how the pieces connect.

    To learn more about the story behind the FIGT Tree, please watch this short video conversation with Camille and Valérie Besanceney, our former Programs Director.

    To learn more about Camille’s work, visit https://projectrootsart.com/ 

  • 20 Jun 2021 11:53 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Families in Global Transition is grateful to Cross Border Financial Planning, a Silver Sponsor over the past two years. We value their participation in our organization, and their support of financial planning for the globally mobile.

    Cross Border Financial Planning specializes in providing financial advice to those who live, work and move across borders. 


    Growing out of their specialized skills in this field and an interest from all of their partners to live and work abroad, according to CBFP’s Edward Cole, their focus “has and always will be to provide financial advice to a large but often underserved group – globally mobile people.” 


    The financial planning solutions they develop take into account the tax, currency and legal implications of clients’ current country of residence, as well as past and future plans. Additionally, they’ve developed a trusted network of professionals across the world that they work with in areas such as tax advice, legal services, immigration advice and property finance.


    CBFP sponsored and actively participated in FIGT2021, our first ever online conference held in March.


    “The virtual conference provided sponsors with an opportunity to make information about their company and services readily available for people to explore in their own time,” Edward shared. 


    “Although it will always be hard to replicate the benefits of a proper stall that you can have conversations with people at (i.e., in person), the ability to upload brochures and have a virtual stall at the conference was a well thought through alternative.”


    Regarding FIGT’s conference platform Pheedloop, he indicated that it “was easy to learn, and made interaction with other attendees a simple process. It was also a good platform for sponsors to have their logo on display throughout the conference.”


    Edward also gave an enlightening Power Presentation on Saturday, March 13th, entitled Whilst You Move, Your Money Stays Still: Understand and Simplify Global Financial Planning, in which he drew upon a range of country-specific topics as well as discussion covering broad themes and ideas relevant for most or all countries. Conference attendees may still access the FIGT2021 platform to check out this and all other presentations until September 15th.


    FIGT appreciates Edward and Cross Border Financial Planning’s two years of partnership as one of our Silver Sponsors. Many thanks for your support of FIGT, and we wish CBFP much success.


  • 12 Jun 2021 10:40 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)
    FIGT Research Network and Counseling and Coaching affiliate discussed with Dr. Tim Stuart and Dr. Jang Eun Cho what helps Third Culture Kids (TCKs) and parachute kids build resilience so that they can thrive, even in the face of adversity.

    Title banner with speaker photos

    It’s not easy growing up with a mobile life, crossing borders, cultures, and languages. What helps Third Culture Kids (TCKs) and “parachute kids” build resilience so that they can thrive, even in the face of adversity? And in what ways can parents, educators, counselors help these children build resilience?

    On 4 December 2020, FIGT Research Network and Counseling and Coaching affiliate co-hosted a discussion with guests Dr. Tim Stuart and Dr. Jang Eun Cho to talk about “Third Culture Kids & Parachute Kids: Building Their Resilience.” The event was hosted by Dr. Danau Tanu, Co-Chair of the Research Network, and Sundae Bean of the FIGT Counseling and Coaching affiliate.

    Image of child parachutingWhat is a parachute kid?

    Parachute kids are children who are sent to a new country — most commonly for educational reasons — to live alone or with a caregiver while their parents remain in the home country.

    The name “parachute kid” comes from the idea that the parents bring the child over in a plane; the kid gets dropped off via parachute in the new country; and the parents fly right back to their home country.

    Sending children off to school in another country is a fairly common phenomenon. Not only must these children adapt to a new environment — culture, language — but they must do it alone, away from their families. 

    Sending children away to study is not new

    While the term “parachute kids” was coined in the 1980s to describe Taiwanese children who were sent to study in the United States, the practice of sending children away to study is not new and comes in many forms. 

    Historically, it was common for British administrators in colonial outposts to send their children back home to attend boarding schools. This practice has continued among the elite, leading to what researchers call the “boarding school syndrome.” At the other extreme end of the spectrum, indigenous children in North America and elsewhere were often forcibly separated from family and placed in residential schools. 

    Not only are parachute kids moving into a new world with possibly a new language, but they are doing it alone.

    Today, missionary kids are commonly sent to boarding schools while parents work in remote areas. Also, both local and international schools in Singapore, for example, have become hubs for students from across Asia to study while living with host families or other caregivers.

    These various experiences are not equivalent but may share some things in common.

    The vast majority of the participants commented that this was the first time they heard the term; some — including Dr. Ruth E. Van Reken, co-author of Third Culture Kids — even realized that they were in fact parachute kids!

    What are some challenges parachute children face?

    Jang works with parachute children and TCKs and she observes that mobility can be very traumatic for children. 

    Not only are parachute kids moving into a new world with possibly a new language, but they are doing it alone. They are suddenly responsible for managing life. 

    “Doing household chores, checking their own appointments, managing homework, money, and health…. It’s a huge mental load,” Jang says.

    “Give children challenges that can be overcome in steps, so that when the child is faced with big adversity, they have the “muscle” to overcome it.” —Jang 

    A move to another country — whether with the family or alone — also changes family dynamics. Even if the child is moving with their family, they will experience generational, cultural gaps.

    But the separation and distance for parachute kids make it even more difficult to maintain the parent-child connection; the cultural and language gaps will be bigger. 

    “While the parents’ identity stays permanently in their home country, there will be a gap [with the child’s experience and identity],” says Jang. “It’s new territory for parents too, because they’re not moving with their child and so they can’t understand what’s going on in their kid’s inner life.”

    What is resilience?

    When faced with these difficult conditions, what allows a child to overcome the challenges versus succumbing to them? What gives a child the resilience to overcome adversity?

    Resilience is often mistaken for endurance, notes Sundae, an intercultural coach. “But enduring leads to depletion,” she says, “[whereas] resilience leads to rejuvenation — you are able to restore what is lost, build what you need to be a productive member of the community, be happy and balanced.”

    “...enduring leads to depletion, [whereas] resilience leads to rejuvenation.” —Sundae

    Tim agreed: “Resilience is associated with avoiding adversity [and] … protect[ing] children from adversity. But protecting a child is impossible. It does the opposite of creating resilience; it creates weakness, the inability to cope with adversity.”

    He went on to say that it’s not about protecting the children from adversity but creating environments where TCKs can use adversity.

    A child who can overcome adversity vs a child who succumbs to it

    When Tim was working as a college counselor at the Lummi Nation Reservation in Washington state, the students told him, “Don’t pay too much attention to us because we’re ‘at risk.’” It stunned him to hear a child use this label on themself. Tim heard the underlying message: “I’m at risk of failure, of not making it.” 

    All children experience adversity. But while some children can believe that adversity is going to contribute to their growth, others see that it will diminish them and will give up.

    “The opposite side of the ‘children at risk’ coin is ‘children at promise.’” — Tim

    Tim decided to research what the difference was between these children. And he found that two factors made a difference: a belief system (seeing oneself as part of a bigger scheme of things) and having an adult who cared. 

    When Tim talked to the children on the Lummi Nation Reservation about turning points in their lives, they often told him it was when a person stepped into their lives and believed in them. 

    And that was his experience too. “I grew up in adversity, so much moving around. But the people who stepped into my life [who showed me], ‘you can do this, you can overcome it’ — that made the difference.”

    Interestingly, Tim found that children who grew up in affluence often identified adversity as the turning point that forced them to grow up. When they failed was when the more affluent children realized they were meant for something bigger than themselves.

    What can parents do?

    Jang tells the families she works with that they have to show their children that there are challenges, but there are ways to turn those challenges into positive outcomes. Her suggestions:

    ☑ Give children challenges that can be overcome in steps.

    Parents should give their children challenges that can be overcome in steps, so that when the child is faced with big adversity, they have the “muscle” to overcome it; they feel “yes, it’ll be challenging but I can do it.”

    ☑ Be humble.

    Jang advises parents to be humble. “Know you cannot know the whole world of your child…. As an Asian parent, I want to do everything for my child — but…we can’t protect our children from all adversity. They will have to face adversity.”

    ☑ Recognize what your goals are for your child. 

    “I know you love your children. So focus on the bigger goals — what does it look like? Often, it’s along the lines of ‘I want my child to be a happy, healthy, productive part of their society.’ When you know your big goal, you can think about how you’re going to raise your child.”

    ☑ When moving, help your child connect to a social network.

    For moves, parents of younger children and elementary schoolers can help their children to adapt by helping them find a social network. 

    ☑ Understand that your child’s “love language” can be different from yours.

    The “love language” of kids — how children perceive love — can be very different from that of the parents — how parents express love. 

    “All children really need to hear that they’re loved, hear what the parents think,” says Jang. But in Asian families, for example, there is a lot of unspoken language that happens within a family. “That unspoken language might be difficult for the kids [to recognize]. Parents have to verbalize their thoughts.”

    What should educators and parents avoid?

    Danau commented on the negative impact of “gaslighting” on TCKs, when adults continuously communicate and focus on only the positives of mobility and refuse to recognize the challenges. It causes additional mental stress, causing confusion and self-doubt.

    “[To experience] the pain of departure and leaving friends behind, and then being told not to worry, that we’ll make new friends. On the surface, this sounds encouraging — focus on the future. But this counsel bypasses the first step in the grief process, acknowledging the loss,” says Danau.

    “If parents/guardians could acknowledge the child's loss, they could both care for what is being left behind AND anticipate good things up ahead.” 

    “As children, we need to have adults who can see past our coping mechanisms and see us for who we are.” — Danau

    Adults also need to keep in mind that children experience mobility differently from grown-ups. The move happens during crucial developmental years and children often are not given a choice. If they are young, they are also dependent on their parents to keep in touch with those they left behind.

    Muslim teachers with students

    What can schools and educators do?

    In the case of parachute kids, the parents may not be there and other adults, such as educators, may need to step up to provide the kids the support they need.

    “The investment in kids will make the difference between a kid being successful and not. We can make a difference,” affirms Tim. 

    He calls upon educators — counselors, pastors, anyone who works with children — to step into the children’s lives rather than retreating from them.

    “The opposite side of the ‘children at risk’ coin is ‘children at promise.’” — Tim

    He points out that this also means schools need to create policies that allow schools to step into a child’s life in moments of adversity. For example, when a child is caught taking drugs or smoking, the typical school response is: “we’re going to push you out.” 

    “But that’s the opposite of what schools should be doing,” says Tim. “That’s when the schools should be stepping in.”

    Tim also invites educators and other adults to see the children — see them and hear them.

    “Our agenda is to get them educated, pass the exams — but we don’t pause long enough to listen, see who these kids are. Many schools are failing in this area, particularly when it comes to transitions, kids who are global nomads.”


    photo of Tim StuartTimothy S. Stuart, Ed.D, is the Head of School at the International Community School of Addis Ababa and former Executive Director of Strategic Programs at the Singapore American School. He serves as the chief architect for research and development and supports strategic school reform.

    Tim has been an international and cross-cultural educator for 25 years serving schools in Turkey, Switzerland, Indonesia (High School Principal of Jakarta International School), Singapore (High School Principal of Singapore American School) and on a Navajo reservation in the United States.

    His passion to support internationally-mobile children led Tim to co-author Children At Promise and Raising Children At Promise. He is also a co-author, editor and contributing author of multiple other books.

    photo of Jang Eun ChoJang Eun Cho, MD, is a board-certified child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist in the US with expertise in both psychopharmacology and psychotherapy and Director of the Consortium at Center for Cross Cultural Student Emotional Wellness, which is partner to the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and affiliated to Harvard Medical School.

    As a bilingual and bi-cultural psychiatrist, she formerly headed Hope Clinic, a free mental health clinic for under-served Korean Americans, and now runs her own telepsychiatry practice, Cultivate Psychiatry.

    Jang is also founder and co-chair for the Asian Caucus in the American Academy of Child Psychiatry and is involved in various advocacy work for the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities in the US.

    photo of Danau TanuDanau Tanu, PhD, is author of Growing Up in Transit: The Politics of Belonging at an International School, the first systemic study of structural racism in international schools. She is an Honorary Research Fellow at the School of Social Sciences at the University of Western Australia and a Visiting Research Fellow at Waseda University, Japan.

    Danau has published anthropological studies on Third Culture Kids and mixed-race identities and is a contributing author to Writing Out of Limbo: International Childhoods, Global Nomads.

    She is also Co-Chair of the FIGT Research Network and Co-Founder of TCKs of Asia and Third Culture Stories podcast.

    photo of Sundae BeanSundae Bean is a solution-oriented coach and intercultural strategist who specializes in minimizing time to adapt and maximizing satisfaction and success abroad. Sundae helps individuals adapt as quickly (and painlessly!) as possible to the ever-changing circumstances of international life.

    Her expertise is sought out by clients ranging from European multi-national organizations to international NGOs, from West and East African country directors to seasoned expat spouses. Sundae helps individuals and organizations expedite success, create meaningful connections (abroad and at home), and cherish the experience.

    Her podcast Expat Happy Hour has been rated No. 1 episode in Places and Travel on iTunes. She is a member of the Forbes Coaches Council, the founder of Expat Coach Coalition and leader of the Facebook community Expats on Purpose.



    Families in Global Transition

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    Mentioned by discussants

    The FIGT Research Network seeks to to bring together producers and consumers of research to support the growth, success and well-being of people crossing cultures around the world. You can join the Research Network mailing list from their page. 

    [Written and edited by Ema Naito and Danau Tanu]

  • 10 Jun 2021 10:06 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

    The Covid-19 pandemic brought with it loads of uncertainty, but one thing is for sure: it has had an impact on all of us, and continues to change our world in so many ways.

    It seems like both yesterday and a previous lifetime since we made the decision to cancel FIGT’s 2020 conference. For many of us, it feels like we’re on Day eleventy million of living with the pandemic.

    For some of our community, there is a glimmer of hope. There have been cautiously optimistic conversations about flights, family reunions and border openings. For others, there are new waves of uncertainty and even fear.

    The reality is that all these weeks and months after that decision to cancel FIGT2020, we are STILL living with the pandemic. And even if by some miracle, we were to all begin to return to a life without lockdown tomorrow, the aftershocks of the last months are going to be felt for a long time to come.

    Whatever your personal situation or experience, this has had an impact on all of us. The world has changed. We wanted to take a moment to reflect on the changes, the support that many of us still need and will continue to need for some time to come.

    There are many in our community who are living with loss. Some have lost loved ones to COVID and some have experienced the dual challenges of bereavement and distance from their loved ones. Without being able to comfort and be comforted by family members or go through the important rituals of funerals - there has not been a good final goodbye for so many during the pandemic. 

    There is loss too in the plans, hopes and dreams, for the lives we thought we would be living by now. Many families are still separated by closed borders, passport issues, visa delays and more. For many of our community, there is no opportunity to ‘go home’ and see family. Travel has perhaps never been more complicated or anxiety inducing.

    The pandemic has also confronted many of us with our privilege in ways we had perhaps not expected. We have been faced with differing medical care, access to the vaccine and the ways in which the pandemic has been ‘Chinese’, ‘Indian’ and ‘African’, depending on the stage of its development and variation. There has tragically been a rise in racist attacks against many in our global and local worlds.

    Many of us have become more conscious of those who can easily access affordable medical care and a vaccination and those who cannot.

    And all the research tells us that the pandemic has impacted women more than men, in the sense that so often it is the woman in the family who is handling work and home-schooling and whose career will suffer.

    It is not all bad news though - the pandemic has forced some of us to slow down, to reflect and to think differently about the future and in doing so, to make positive changes.  The demise of global mobility has been greatly exaggerated. We are still moving and working through transitions, even with the added layers of complexity that the pandemic brings. 

    If there is one huge challenge ahead of all of us, perhaps it is this - to hold space for each other as we continue to live with the pandemic. Each of us is experiencing this so differently. What might bring one person to their knees will not impact someone else in the same way. We need to continue to listen and to create safe spaces for each other to be able to share and seek and receive the support they need.

    While living with the pandemic is the theme of this month’s Focus, it is a thread that we will try to continue to return to regularly as we try to do what we can to support the FIGT community. If you have suggestions for future content, we would love to hear from you. Please reach out to Flor Breton-Garcia at communications@figt.org or Sarah Black at communicationsmanager@figt.org.

    And a very special thank you to all our volunteers who despite their own unique pandemic challenges continue to keep FIGT happening.

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