Tag Archives: Children

Age appropriate chores for children

I’ve recently had an interesting conversation with some parents and despite our different cultural background and our different parenting styles, most of us agreed on the fact that children need to do some chores. Some parents realized that they would ask less involvement from their sons than their daughters and this was the topic of another discussion I then wrote a post about (Why dads need to wash dishes and mums need to fix the plug… ). We all tried to make a list of the chores we would consider appropriate for several age groups. Interestingly, the flandersfamily sat up a very similar list already:

 

Bildschirmfoto 2014-06-28 um 22.02.21

I may add some chores my children do regularly like making their beds, tidying up, loading the dishwasher, setting the table etc.. Some of the chores in this chart are not necessarily daily tasks. I would ask my children to do them occasionally and some of them would figure under “special” tasks – which, in our family are “rewarded” either with some extra pocket money or an extra activity in the weekend.

 

Which chores do you ask your children to do on a regular basis?

Do you ask your sons and daughters to do the same chores?

Are chores for children an issue in your multicultural (extended) family?

 

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Why reading aloud is important

We usually tend to read less to our children when they start reading by themselves. It’s such a big milestone to be able to read everything from the ingredients on the food-packages, the countless adverts, to the biggest book on the shelf!

The world of words is now open and we, parents or caregivers, can relax. – Or not?

An article on Mindshift and some discussions I recently had with my children and some friends made me realize that we should keep on reading to our children even if they already comfortably read to themselves.

“Reading aloud to older children — even up to age 14, who can comfortably read to themselves — has benefits both academic and emotional, says Jim Trelease, who could easily be called King of the Read-Aloud. Trelease, a Boston-based journalist, turned his passion for reading aloud to his children into The Read-Aloud Handbook in 1979; it has since been an unequivocal bestseller with sales in the mult-millions, and Trelease is releasing the seventh, and final, edition in June.”

Fact is that when someone reads to us we focus on the pronunciation, the intonation, the content . If we read to ourselves, we often don’t even know how a new word is pronounced and would probably not recognize it when someone uses it in a conversation.

What about bilinguals?

Many bilinguals – children and adults – are very good in finding out naturally how a word is pronounced in the other language(s). But being able to read a text in a phonetically perfect way doesn’t mean that we captured its meaning. In fact, if asked to find a synonyme or to paraphrase what we’ve read, we often struggle. Sometimes we even get the wrong sense of our readings simply because we misunderstand a word. – When using the word “eventually” in English, for example, I still need to keep in mind that it means “finally/at length” such as “schließlich” in German or “finalmente” in Italian, whereas “eventuell” in German or “eventualmente” in Italian express an uncertainety.

Of course, monolinguals can struggle too with comprehend the semantic width of a word, but they have more chances to use these words in their everyday conversations at home and they have more opportunities to correct and consolidate the use of the vocabulary acquired while reading.

"To be successful at reading comprehensio...

“To be successful at reading comprehension, students need to …” (Photo credit: Ken Whytock)

Why it is important that teachers keep reading to the children

Our nine-year-olds usually had “two solid years of drill and skill, a lot of testing, a lot of work, and they’re competent, but they’re thinking in terms of reading as a sweet experience”, and we, as parents and teachers, are pleased they do. But children may tend to choose books that are not challenging enough to keep up the learning curve. Especially when left alone to choose their readings. Therefore “when a teacher reads a good book above student reading level, he shows students that the good stuff — the really great books — are coming down the road, if they stick with it” and, by choosing books that are slightly above the level of our children’s competence, they can build and improve build the vocabulary and the general proficiency of that language.

 “Research collected on middle school read-alouds showed that 58 percent of teachers read aloud to their students – and nearly 100 percent of reading and special education teachers. And, while middle-school students reported liking read-alouds, little data has been collected on the “extent and nature” of reading aloud to twelve- to fourteen-year-olds.”

Personally, I think that all children and adults benefit from someone reading aloud to them, not only EAL or SEN students. – The article in Mindshift points out that they still lack of data about twelve- to fourteen-year-olds. I think this is mainly due to the lack of time parents and teachers have to read to them, and that students of these age groups (and older) wouldn’t probably appreciate an adult reading to them? Therefore my suggestion would be to make them listen to slightly older peers. This kind of research would probably give similar results as the study with middle-school students.

 

Other positive side effects from reading aloud

Reading aloud doesn’t only help students to consolidate their knowledge of the language but helps them also to wade into complicated or difficult subjects. When things happen to the characters in the story, and not to themselves, they can approach delicate topics.

“Why do you think so many children’s stories have orphans as characters? Because every child either worries or fantasizes about being orphaned.”

Reading about delicate topics aloud helps to address them in an easier and healthier way. Sharing different point of views, reflecting together on what has been read can help to cope better with similar situations in real life.

Reading aloud is also something adults use to do in book clubs. I observed that book clubs are very popular these days. People who like to read, feel the need to talk about the books and to exchange views about what they’ve read, to compare, to find synonyms, paraphrase, compare. And this is exactly what children do during group reading at school too.

 

Samuel Richardson, by Miss Highmore, published...
Samuel Richardson, by Miss Highmore, published 1804. See source website for additional information. This set of images was gathered by User:Dcoetzee from the National Portrait Gallery, London website using a special tool. According to the NPG’s website the work was published prior to 1859, and so the author is reasonably presumed dead by 1939. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Modelling the pleasure of reading is the key

In his study, Trelease acknowledges that “modelling the pleasure of reading is important, but there are more reasons read-alouds work so well — like “broadening the menu.””

“Broadening the menu” becomes even more important if a child has difficulties with reading. According to Wandering Eductators’ Dr. Jessica Voigts, who homeschools her daughter Lillie, reading aloud can make reading more pleasurable for someone with dyslexia. “Reading together – with her watching the words as I read, and then her reading to me – is a way to be together, to experience the world, to enjoy a common pleasure. I read to her, about two-thirds of the time, and then she takes over for one-third of the time. We pass the book back and forth, although we’re usually right next to each other,” she said.

And though her daughter struggles, Voigt admitted she reads to Lillie for more than just academic benefits. “This is a time — tweens, teens — when life is full of craziness. This is one way to have a place of rest, of being, something to count on each day. Shared words have power, an energy that you can’t get from TV, radio, or online,” she said.

“The power of shared words is a big reason to keep on reading aloud after children are able to read for themselves”

English: Four children reading the book How th...
English: Four children reading the book How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Did you stop reading aloud to your children when they started to read?

Would you consider reading to them again? What is your experience with this?

 

 

How to help frequently moving TCKs and expat children

Many books, articles and posts give advice about what people can expect when starting a frequent moving life as adult expats.  From an adult point of view, the benefits of a frequently moving lifestyle are the “priceless life experience, unique cultural insights and precious skills“. The excitement of a life full of changes and constant travels seems to prevail and I’m sure it’s what grown ups find the most attractive. All these positive aspects can have a cathartic effect on everyone on the move. But people needs to be aware of the long term side effects such a life can have on themselves and their children, in order to make the best out of this kind of life.

The phases of an expat life

An infographic about expats I lately discussed on this blog, points out that after a “honeymoon” phase of up to 6 weeks, expats (and TCKs and global nomads) go through a “culture shock” phase. This can be longer or shorter, depending on many factors: Is the new destination culturally similar to one we’ve experienced before? Is the language different or similar to one we already know? Will we learn the local language? Will we be able to adapt during our stay? Is the health care system meeting our needs? Do we and our family feel safe ? etc.. After this culture shock phase, that everyone experiences to some extent, we enter the “gradual adjustment” phase, which, again, depends on several factors and can take two or more years. – This applies to the “average” expat (unfortunately, the data on the infographic was not layed out; I’m still waiting for more details…).

It seems that these phases are linear and once you’ve passed one, you won’t experience it anymore; at least not in the place of your new location. I think it’s wrong. We can experience several “honeymoon” phases during one relocation, one for each aspect of our new life related to: the social environment, the location itself (countryside, city etc.), the community, the school (and its community) our children are attending, our job, the relationship with our partner etc. And the phases can overlap. We can be in a “honeymoon” phase regarding the new community but experiencing culture shock for our work life (job hunting is more difficult) and already be in the adjustment phase in what concerns our new location (we like it better than the one before and we already made some friends or accointances).

And one even more important aspect that is not illustrated or mentioned in this kind of infographic: every member of the family will go through these phases in his very personal way in his own pace. While we feel already adjusting, our children or partner might still be struggling with culture shock and other phases that can overlap. The fact that every member of the family gets to experience these phases in his very personal way makes it so difficult to understand each others mood, enthusiasm or grief.

A recent post, “Moving abroad? 7 things your child needs to hear you say“, gives several hints about how parents can help their children while moving abroad. I’m not going to list them all up, but the main message was to listen to our children, really “listen” to what they say and what they are not able to put into words. Empathy and patience is what our children need from parents during that period. Most parents are so busy organising a move and everything that’s related with it, that they don’t have the time and energy to sit down and listen to their children or observe them during the last months “in the old place” and the first ones in the new location.

Maintaining dialogue is key, especially with teenagers who could have a tendency to withdraw in their bedrooms.”

The grief of an expat child

One very important aspect pointed out in the post is that “moving abroad triggers a form of grief”. This expat grief does not only affect adults but also children. It is a myth that “children don’t grieve like adults”. Children might live more in the present than their parents and seem to cope very well after a loss, but assuming that grief in childhood is short-lived, is a major mistake. They don’t “exhibit the stigma of sadness or despair, but they grieve”, often in silent because they’ve learned to be resilient.

John Bowlby  who did pioneering work in attachment theory says that from 4 years onwards “children mourn in similar ways to adults”. This applies to every child that experiences a loss, the death of a family member or a friend, and it also applies to expat children and TCKs, who go through many kinds of losses during their nomadic life.

The impacts that unresolved grief can have on TCKs are very well known. According to Ruth Van Reken, unresolved grief is the most urgent mental health issue TCKs and expat children are facing on a long term. Ruth Van Reken writes, advocates and teaches about the psychological impact of an internationally mobile childhood.

“The issue is that transition always involves loss, no matter how good the next phase will be. Loss always engenders grief and the greater you have loved a situation or place or people, the greater the grief.”

“The layers of loss run deep:  Friends, community, pets.  Family, toys, language.  Weather, food, culture.  Loss of identity.  Loss of a place of comfort, stability, a safe and predictable world.  Home.”

Children on constant move lose the worlds they love, over and over again. They go through the stages of grief each time they move. And if they don’t take the time to grieve, they push it down, submerge it: but it surely will bubble up later in life, unexplained.

Children do grieve in another way than adults. They often don’t know how to express what they are feeling, they even don’t know what exactly is what they are feeling and just feel sad or “not well”. – The grief of children is often invisible. They are told they will adapt so they become resilient.  They are told they’ll get over missing that friend and they’ll get another pet, they’ll have a nicer room in the new house etc..

Unresolved grief “can result in behavioural problems ranging from anxiety, guilt, excessive anger to self-destructive patterns, substance abuse and school difficulties. Children may actually give up connecting with others. When they become adults and still haven’t solved their grief, they may face severe depression and/or relationships problems.” (ibidem)

(Re)patriation

When TCKs or expat children entry or re-entry their passport country to attend boarding schools or college, there are several aspects that can be difficult for them. Knowing them in advance, can help them (and their parents) to prevent several major problems.

In her post “Thoughts on entry from a third culture child“, Marilyn, a TCK (ATCK) herself, lists up 10 very important points childern or young adults needs to consider when (re-)entering the passport country – independently if they ever lived there before or not. From “realistic time expectations” regarding the period of adjustment in the new/old place, to the acceptance that as a TCK (or expat child) they’re a “combination of worlds”. It is crucial to recognize and understand  “culture shock”:

“(…) while reverse culture shock is described as “wearing contact lenses in the wrong eyes”, culture shock is having completely different lenses.”

We need to “give voice to a longing”. The portuguese word saudade expresses that feeling we all have to voice out when we have times of longing or wistfulness for what no longer exists – in this case, the life we had before (please check out my posts about this topic here and here).

“Understanding the shaping of our worldview” and realizing that our worldview differs from the one our siblings and parents have, “helps us to not expect or demand that others understand”. I particularly like what she says about “finding cultural brokers”. A cultural broker is that person that probably doesn’t share our background but understands what we’re going through.

“This personal interest helps us understand what friendship, listening, and cultural brokering look like. So learn from them. Look to them. But don’t put undue burdens on them.”

The need for time and place

I observe that many of my friends on constant moves, after 10, 15, 20 years of their nomad life, struggle. They get really tired and long for some continuity in their lives.

Even if “home” and “belonging” are very difficult to define and find for TCKs, it is crucial for everyone to find a place and its significance. TCKs have a disruption of place. Everyone has his own interpretation of the notion or concept of “home” and “belonging”.

The late Paul Tournier, a very gifted Swiss psychologist, says that “to be human is to need a place, to be rooted and attached to a place”.  We are “incarnate beings” and when those places are taken away, we suffer from a “disruption” of place. And if the “disruption goes beyond our ability to adapt it becomes a pathology”, a “deprivation of place“.

Many global movers consider all the places they’ve lived “a source of pride, of identity. They are – but losing those places has a deep impact on our lives. And if not worked through, the “deprivation of place” gives way to profound grief and struggles with identity”.

People who are on constant moves during their adulthood might not consider the moving as something negative. A part from the stress caused by all the organisational aspects and the readjusting, it is a very attractive lifestyle. They probably had a less mobile childhood or they don’t need to call a place their “home”. Maybe they don’t feel the longing for a place. Or they don’t realize that their constant urge to move and to “go on” is, intrinsically, a way to express their itch to settle down. I did write about my urge to change something in my life every three years and many TCKs did confirm that they experienced the same.

Children who grow up in this situation will most probably not have a place they can call “home”, but they will long for it. Some will long for it for their whole life. – In a discussion among TCKs I noticed that ATCKs try to avoid a nomadic life once they have children mostly because they want them to have a place to call home and because they need this for themselves too. Some are (desperately?) looking for a place that meets their needs: it has to be a place which englobes all the aspects of the experiences they made during their life. – It’s not an easy task. For some it’s a task for a lifetime.

Time is necessary to adjust. In the infographic mentioned above, expats need about 7 years (!) to “master” their new life abroad. But this is unrealistic for many of them. Many companies ask to relocate every 2-3 years and sometimes more often. If we consider that it takes 6 months to make everything work in the new location, during a 2 years stay, people have only one year to “adjust” (subtracting also the 6 months at the end of the stay, when people is busy preparing the next moving). This incredible short time does not allow families to adjust. Children who grow up with such frequent moves will feel alienated and lonely, and most probably struggle sooner or later with the consequences of unresolved grief. – They would definitively need more time in one place to get somehow “rooted”, to build friendships, relationships in general and to become more balanced. Of course, 2-3 years in the life of an adult feels much shorter than in the life of a child. It surely depends also on the age of the child when these moves happen. But when children start going to school and feel the need to belong to a group of peers, this time is too short. – Companies should be aware of this and reconsider their policies about relocation.

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The massive response from (A)TCKs and expats on a post about “TCK problems” where a mother describes anonymously the impact nomadic life had on her 14 year old daughter, made the author of the blog, Carole Hallett Mobbs, write a “Reaching out to help troubled TCKS“. – Many international schools are aware of the impact a nomadic life can have on children and young adults, but many of them still lack of a systematic and professional help for them and their families.

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©expatsincebirth; Varese

Summer chores for children?

Summer holidays are getting closer, some of you are already on vacation, and for mothers (and fathers) this is a great challenge. How to survive these long weeks and get some holiday feeling despite the daily chores?

In her latest post “Responsibility should not be a chore“, Nicole from Sisters from Another Mister, points out that chores teach our children responsibility, like Livia McCoy says in her article “Summer chores teach kids responsibility“.

We all know that chores are not a choice and I agree with Nicole that “we should (not) pay our children to do them”. At least, this is how I do it with my children and they know that every member of the family has to participate as best as he can, in order to “run the family”. I know how this sounds, and in fact, I consider that a family is like a business where every member has certain tasks (chores). I don’t pay my children for daily chores, because nobody is paying me to do my chores, so why should they be paid? For those of you who want to give rewards, you could think about a sort of reward at the end of the week that they enjoy but that you can do as a family.

During the schoolyear I usually narrow down the chores for our children in order to give them more time to study and play, but during the holidays, they have to take over some more (age appropriate) tasks, in order to guarantee that we all get more time to spend together. During the last few years I realized that children need structure and routine, otherwise my holidays are not fun for me as I take over all the tasks.

Whether you are spending your holidays at home or elsewhere, there are every day chores that need to be done. Children of any age understand that it’s important that someone can rely on them. Adults are used to this all the time, but our children need to learn this too. They have to learn to become dependable, to remember things they are supposed to do (starting with brushing their teeth, washing the hands regularly, packing their bags for school etc.). And every day chores help our children to learn this.

Toddlers can help with simple chores, like setting the table, emptying the dishwasher, sorting laundry, tidying up (toys etc.) or helping with setting the table before breakfast, lunch etc. They can help to prepare meals (by chopping up some vegetables or fruits etc.).

Elementary school children can do more complex chores. If you have a garden, they can help to clean up the yard, maybe mow the lawn, pull the weeds etc. They can not only set the table, but also help to prepare some meals, write the shopping list etc.

Teens can already take on many chores. In addition to the chores mentioned above, cleaning out the garage or another room and helping with some chores around the house are simple and quick tasks they can do on a regular basis. They can also babysit their younger siblings if needed (maybe not necessarily during the night, but during the day – it ). Teens can also help you with the maintenance of the car or the bike  and learn some basic repair skills. And they can run easy errands. – Find more ideas for chores for teens here.

If you are spending your holidays in a new place, let your child be your guide. If they can read a map they usually are very proud to take the lead and they will surely be less bored during long walks. – Also for the packing you can give them a list with the items they have to pack. I do this regularly with my kids since they were 5.

Nobody likes chores, but we all have responsibilities in this world and chores “step up to the plate none the less, with or without the promise of ice cream”. Make sure that everyone knows what you want them to do. Everyone needs to know what he is held responsible for. You can make lists to put in a prominent place in order to remember everything you all need to do.  Electronic calendars can also be helpful (I use google calendar on my computer and smartphone). You can also download chore lists/charts from the internet here or here for teens etc. You may think that having charts is time consuming, but believe me, they take away the nagging and reminders because the children can see what they need to do without you repeating it over and over…

final laminated chore chart

But after all those chores, don’t forget that holidays are supposed to be the moment where families live adventures (camping, swimming, vacationing etc) and form memories. Therefore, enjoy your holidays and have a great time with your families!

Family Playing at the Beach

Family Playing at the Beach (Photo credit: epSos.de)