Category Archives: Raising Twins

One year expatsincebirth

Bildschirmfoto 2013-08-15 um 11.28.06

Yes, today is my blogs’ first anniversary! It’s been exactly a year since I published my first post and I have to say that I really enjoyed writing every single post.

I’ve started blogging one year ago because I had written about many topics just “for me” and wanted to share them somewhere. To write a book about them seemed very appealing but then I realized that I covered so many different topics, that it would have been like a jack of all trades device. A friend gave me the idea to try to write a blog. But it was a few months later, when another friend told me the same, that I really started blogging. It was during our holiday in Switzerland that I choose the name and the main cathegories I would write about.

Selecting a name for my blog didn’t take that much time. My status as an expat-since-birth did pretty much sum up the topics. I did evaluate the different definitions of Third Culture Kids, Adult Third Culture Kids, Global Nomads etc.  in a post called “expat definition maze” but couldn’t find really a cathegory I could fit in, so I created my own one: expatsincebirth.

About multilingualism:

The knowledge I acquired during my studies about bilingualism and multilingualism brought me to write several posts about these topics in the cathegory being multilingual. As a multilingual person, my home are my languages and when I got children, I had to choose which language to speak to them in our multilingual family. With the  “secret language among (my) twins” I introduced the complex linguistic situation within our family. After pointing our the different definitions of OPOL I wrote about OPOL among multilingual siblings.

I find it pretty interesting that multilingual siblings don’t necessarily have the same language preference and that the initial language plan we usually make when our children are still babies, can change for several reasons when they get older.

There are many myths about bilingualism. I didn’t want to list them all up. There are already many posts and literature about this. But one in particular did intrigue me. It’s about multilinguals having multiple personalities. I’m still collecting answers about this in order to write a paper about it. – You’re very welcome to leave a comment on my post about this.

And then there is the myth about code switching being a sign of weakness. Well, it is not, on the contrary: Don’t worry if your child does code-switching!

Those who know me, know that I’m firmly convinced that reading is very important. And it is even more important for multilingual children to read in the different languages they grow up with. For those who don’t like to read, I wrote a post about how to make our children like poetry (and songs!).

Learning new languages for expats is not always that easy. But there are some tips that can help. I did point out the five more important ones that worked for me and added another post with tips how to encourage children to learn the local language.

There are many reasons to become multilingual at any stage. We don’t have to start at a young age to become multilingual. I shared my multilingual journey and pointed out that the most important thing is to be willing to learn new languages: “When there’s a will, there’s a way to become multilingual“.

About parenting:

In my posts about parenting I tried to give some practical advices. Some more will follow but up to now I gave some advices for when the children have the flu and I shared a first-aid experience I had this summer with one of my daughters, trying to remind other parents about refreshing their First Aid skills regularly.

In the colder period of the year Indoor activities for children become more important and role plays can be fun also for the older ones.

I’m not an over protective parent and like the  Love and Logic approach in parenting which consists also in doing lot of questioning in order to make the children take their own decisions from a very early stage. Also helping less helps our children more than we sometimes think, and it helps us too to realize how independent they can be (even as toddlers).

I’m very interested in e-safety for parents and children and the resources that are available about this topic. I published a few posts about  “How to reduce screen time for children” and about “mobile phones for children“.

The importance to spend one-on-one time with our children and how to manage if you have more than one child is very important in my daily life with my kids. “How to make children listen to us and how to listen to them” and “communicating is listening with empathy” are two posts where I point out the importance of effective communication with our children.

I got a bit annoyed by posts called “What not to say…” and decided to post some about “What to say”: “to parents of a child with a disability” and to a “mum of twins” because I prefer positive reinforcement.

I didn’t write a lot about twins yet, but I’m preparing a whole series about twins “from baby to teen”. The first post about this is called “Twins at school: once separated always separated?

When we spend holidays with our children we sometimes don’t really get to enjoy them as much as we would like. By giving them some chores we can easily get some holiday feeling too.

In order to lead a happier life, despite of all the movings, the changes and having many tasks around our kids, families and work, I wrote a post about the fact that our happiness depends on our selves: if we decide to be happy and take action we will succeed.

As I’m raising my children in a multicultural context and see many different parenting styles every day and I’m really fascinated in the different parenting styles across cultures I wanted to find some answers to the question “Do you think the cultures you’ve been in touch with did influence you in your parenting style?“. I’m still collecting feedbacks which I will publish in a paper. You’re very welcome to leave a comment on the post.

About expat life

I did publish several posts about expat life in general and some specific ones about the Netherlands and Switzerland. I will add some more about Germany and Italy, and maybe some other countries.

About ATCK’s raising TCK’s

Lately I got involved in several discussions about ATCK’s and TCK’s and joined several TCK groups online. I’m planning to write a small book about this and am preparing a questionnaire for ATCK’s (Adult Third Culture Kids) that I’ll soon publish on my blog.

I found out that TCK’s (and expats, global nomads etc.) often “tend to “start cutting bonds around 3 years into a friendship”” and that three is a magic number for TCK’s. Other topics in this cathegory are the good-byes, the ways “people call you“, the impossible question about “where is home” that TCK’s don’t like to be asked and “what kind of memories our kids will share with us“.

If you are interested to participate in my ATCK survey, please leave a message in the responses of my post “Are you an ATCK raising TCK’s” and I’ll get in touch with you.

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The most satisfying aspect of running the blog in this first year has been interacting with bloggers and parents from around the world. I found many like minded persons and am having really interesting conversations with people around the globe that I’m really grateful to have found this bloggosphere.

 I’ve joined several groups on the internet and met some of them also in real life. The Multicultural Kid Blogs group on Facebook did even start a own blog that I strongly recommend. Then there are the fb groups Mum knows Mum, Third Culture Kids Netherlands, Expats in The Hague which meet regularly and Third Culture Kids Everywhere etc. that all give me very interesting ideas and inputs for posts.

I would like to thank all my followers for joining my blog and for leaving very interesting comments! The almost immediate response to my writings is amazing and all your feedbacks are very precious to me.

Van harte bedankt – Vielen herzlichen Dank – Con un grazie di cuore –

With a heartfelt thank you – Merci de tout coeur – Gracias de todo corazon!

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Bilingual siblings and their language preferences

We can find many studies about how to raise “a” or “one” bilingual child, but what happens when you have more than one child? And maybe twins? Will it be possible to keep the initial bilingual or multilingual situation within the family? Do the children influence the language dynamic in the family? Do all the children in the same family prefer the same language? Do they influence eachother regarding the preference of the language?

Suzanne Barron-Hauwaert did publish a great book about Bilingual Siblings: Language Use in Families. A great guide for parents and teachers. Even if a family shares the same experiences, each child can get more or less out of a situation. The same occurs to the languages every family is in touch with. Within the same family you can find children who embrace the languages wholeheartedly and others who are more reluctant. Maybe one will „absorb“ every language it’s exposed to, while another one chooses a few and the next one prefers only one.

In my experience, you sometimes have to adapt your language situation within your family to the individual needs of your children. I’ve already mentioned the linguistic situation in our family in an other post.

Our situation right now is, that we talk German within our family, but in very specific situations we switch to English or Dutch. This happens when we talk about an experience we had in these other linguistic contexts, when we have friends over who don’t understand or talk German or when the children are playing together. Our children are exposed to Italian and Swissgerman only during playtimes with children who speak the same language or whilst reading or listening to stories, songs in these languages and during our visits to our family in Switzerland.

I’ll try to answer to some questions Suzanne Barron-Hauwaert did ask in her book and that can help to shed light on your linguistic situation too:

1) Which language(s) do the siblings prefer to speak together?

Our children mainly talk German to each other, but it can happen that they talk Dutch or English while talking about a topic they had at school or shared with their English friends. The same happens with Dutch.

2) What happens when there are two or more children at different stages of language development?

Usually, when you have children from different age groups, it’s natural that they are in different stages of language development. Those who are older often can help the younger ones to develop their language skills. But it also can happen that an older child uses the babytalk (or very basic language) with the baby or toddler…

Our children are all on a different stage of language development. Our son is already fluent in all the languages I’ve mentioned. Our twindaughters are more or less at the same level, nearly fluent. One of our daughters is a “lazy speaker” so she seems not to be as far in her language development as her sister, but her vocabulary is quite good in all three languages (even her Italian passive knowledge is improving a lot and she likes Italian very much). Both girls mix up the syntactic structure of German and English. – This affects a bit our conversations, as I usually have to model their sentences.

3) Could one child refuse to speak one language while another child is fluently bilingual?

Our son did refuse to talk Italian when he was 2.5 as a reaction to our moving to the Netherlands and his exposure to Dutch and German. But now he’s interested in learning French and thinks that Italian is a nice language too. He’s now fluently multilingual (in German, English, Dutch). His sisters are nearly fluent in the same languages. Our son is also re-starting to talk Italian, whilst our daughters have a more passive knowledge of this language.

It’s not that one of our children does really refuse to talk a language whilst the other one(s) speak it, but one of our daughters would prefer talking only German. She is much less interested in languages than our other two children. The other daughter had a phase where she wanted me to talk Italian to her. I did try, but after a few days we all agreed that I wouldn’t talk different languages to all of them, so we’re back on talking German altogether. – But when I’m upsed or I have to tell them something very quickly, I switch to Italian – that’s much quicker and they all know that things are getting serious when I do so.

4) How do factors of birth order, personality or family size interact in language production?

In our family, personality is the most important factor that decides about the languages we use. We all speak two to four languages per day and these are not always the same ones. Our children did decide on a very early stage which languages they wanted to talk and it were external factors who did influence us all on this. When we moved to the Netherlands we didn’t find Italian friends in the first months and I was the only person talking Italian to my son. He also knew that I was perfectly able to talk and understand Swissgerman and Dutch (I learned Dutch along with my son), and his refusal to talk Italian was very economic and natural. I persisted talking Italian to him until the girls were 15 months old. We then narrowed down the languages within our family from three to one because our girls developed a secret language. – So, in the end: birth order and personality did influence the languages in our family.

All our children behave in different ways in linguistic terms and we are aware that the situation might change in the future.

What is the language history of your family? Did your children also develop along uniquely individual linguistic paths?

MultilingualBücher

 

This post has been republished on Expatica.com on 17/09/2013.

5 tips to spending one-on-one time with your child(ren)

Drachenfliegen

©expatsincebirth

If you have more than one child and/or twins, you probably are concerned that you’re not giving them enough individual attention.

When your children are attending school, going to after school activities etc., they barely have time for family activities and sometimes no one-on-one time to interact with their parents. All siblings, no matter how many they are, if they are twins or not, need to have breathing space from each other from time to time. If the one-on-one time with you gives them attention and a bit of a spotlight feeling, it will boost their selfesteem and give them more balance in life.

If you have twins, it’s even more important to organize some special time with one of them, because most of the time, being in public with twins attracts public attention. When they go out on their own or spend one-on-one time with you, they have the unique opportunity to be themselves.

I consider the exclusive attention time very important and recently did set up a weekly schedule for my children.

Here are some hints about how to organize your one-on-one time with your children.

1) Take all the help you need

Do allow friends or family to help you to take your children to separate outings or arrange playdates for one child while you dedicate some time of undivided attention to the remaining child. You can always return the favour.

2) Schedule one-on-one times

This applies to every sort of relationship and maybe you do it already with your partner to nurture your relationship. Scheduled one-on-one time is very important for your children: it gives them uninterrupted time with you. The only thing you need to do is to find a moment that fits in your lifestyle. It’s almost impossible to do it on a daily basis, but you can arrange a few hours per week to dedicate to each of your children.

The time you choose should be relaxing and enjoyable. You don’t need to do something expensive. Children often enjoy chilling on the sofa listening to music or are perfectly happy to do the errands (but not if it gives the feeling of a „have-to“…). Obviously, an evening out with your teenager is very special (going to the movies, a restaurant, a theater or doing what your child likes to do with you).

3) Find a common interest

Every child has a favourite activity. Even multiples can have very different interests that you can share with each of them. It can be sport, gardening, a hobby that you both enjoy together. It is a great opportunity to learn something new with your child.

4) The power of rituals

Rituals are vital for every family. In The Heart of a Family, Meg Cox explains that “Studies have shown repeatedly that the children who are best equipped to face the rude world and stay centered are those who feel close to their families, and that closeness comes from routine reassurance and shared experiences.”

Try to establish routines within your daily life that foster the sharing of one-on-one time with each child. For example, involve one child in cooking dinner and setting up the table, the other one in preparing lunchboxes and the third one in getting things ready for the next day. Or hanging out the laundry or doing other chores in and around the house together. Also, instead of sending the children to bed altogether, take one child at a time and talk to him while he or she is getting ready for bed. – These might seem unimportant moments because they are part of our routine, but if shared with one child only, and not done in a hurry, they can become very precious moments.

Each child has the right to get the opportunity for individual attention. Find out what is best for you and each of your children. Your relationship with your child will surely be rewarded. And don’t forget to have fun and enjoy!

5 Things to say to…a twin mum

Have you ever noticed that there are many articles and posts about „Things not to say“ to all kind of people: cops, girls, men, (ex-) girlfriends, (ex-) boyfriends, friends with children, childless friends, pregnant women, to a dj, to a PhD student, at a job interview etc. ?

To be honest, I would rather like to read lists with „things to say“ to all these different groups. We can find those too, but somehow they don’t appear that often in blogs or newspapers and they don’t talk about all the topics the „things not to say“ do.

Negative facts and topics attract more people, but don’t we feel sad if we read and focus always the negative things to do, to say etc.?

Why keeping it negative and pointing at what we surely don’t want to hear? Personally, I practice positive reinforcement techniques with my children and friends, and this is probably affecting my whole life.

I would rather positively reinforce behavior with a pleasant feeling for the payoff. Therefore I propose to start lists about „things to say“ instead.

I found one post about what not to say to someone with „Fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome… And what we’d like to hear instead“. This is a very good example to start with.

Here is my list with „5 Things to say to a twin mum“:

©expatsincebirth

1) Twins! That’s double pleasure!

It is, even if the first 2-3 years can be really hard. The pleasure is double! The satisfaction to see two babies lying next to eachother in the crib or playing together, trying to talk to eachother for the first time, making their first steps; this whole experience is so heartwarming that all the sleepless nights, all the worries become insignificant.

2) One kid for free!

Somehow it is true. It really feels like a bargain: one pregnancy, two children. One child „for free“.

3) There are probably twins in your family: did this help you a bit?

Yes, usually there are twins in the family and if you had the opportunity to get to know them and to know the situation they were raised in, this really helps.

4) I can imagine the surprise when you discovered you were expecting twins!

Oh yes. Luckily I was already lying down…

5) I always wanted to have twins too…

I know that most of the people who say this, really did wish to have twins. And this kind of remark makes every twin mum – even if the pregnancy wasn’t the easiest one – feel very special.

Who’s next?…