Surviving? Thriving? How about Striving?

“Are you thriving?”

It was during our first term on the field, and our pastor asked me this question in a Skype chat in front of our home congregation. My answer? As I remember, it was in the neighborhood of “Well, I’m not sure we’re thriving, but, uh, hmmm, something, something, something, not always easy, but . . . uh . . . we’re doing fine.”

Thriving is a big topic when it comes to living and working overseas, as in “Don’t just survive, thrive!” It’s a great goal, and there are many who reach it, including some whom I know well. But I’m afraid that thriving was something that eluded me during my time as a missionary. And experience tells me that I’m far from alone. A missionary who came back to the States a few years ago told me that while he had hoped to thrive, “just” surviving was a more pressing need most days. Any amens?

But let’s say you’re able to put a check mark in the survival box, but thriving still seems out of reach. Where does that leave you? Is there another alternative?

Earlier this year, Anisha Hopkinson wrote here about what success looks like overseas. Struggling, she says, is not the same thing as failing. In fact, “struggling” is another way of saying “endeavoring,” “going all out,” “making every effort,” “plugging away,” “trying your hardest,” . . . and “striving.”

Maybe it’s because it rhymes, but I think striving is a great third way.

Survive. Thrive. Strive.

There’s a lot of “striving” in the Bible, even though it’s not always rendered that way in modern translations. One of the biblical Greek words that carries the meaning “to strive” is agōnizomai. Occurring eight times in different forms in the New Testament, it comes from the root agon, representing an assemblage of people coming together to watch athletic games. Therefore, agōnizomai means “to labor fervently,” “to fight against an adversary,” “to struggle for victory” or, literally, “to contend for a prize in a competition.” (And, yes, this is also where we get our English word agony.)

Here is how agōnizomai is used by New Testament writers, as presented in the American Standard Version:

Strive to enter in by the narrow door. . . .” Luke 13:24

“Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews. . . .” John 18:36

“And every man that striveth in the games exerciseth self-control in all things.” I Corinthians 9:25

“. . . I labor also, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.” Colossians 1:29

“Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, saluteth you, always striving for you in his prayers. . . .” Colossians 4:12

“For to this end we labor and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God. . . .” I Timothy 4:10

Fight the good fight of the faith, lay hold on the life eternal. . . .” I Timothy 6:12

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7

The metaphor of an athlete straining for a prize is fleshed out by Paul in I Corinthians 9. It’s an image applied to the whole of our lives as Christians, not dependent on a location or vocation or station in life. It is the entire practice of following Jesus, and the reward is the crown of eternal life.

We often hear that our time here on earth “is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.” But I’m thinking it’s actually more of a steeple chase. That’s the race where competitors run around a track fitted with hurdles and water jumps. Today’s steeplechase, though, whether on foot or horseback, is a somewhat sanitized version of the original races. Long ago, riders aimed at a church steeple on the horizon, the only structure rising above the trees, and took whatever route necessary to get there—navigating streams, rocky bluffs, fences, and bramble-filled gullies. Sounds like discipleship to me.

“Are you thriving?” If I were asked that question again, on or off the field, I think I’d have a better answer now. It would be something like this: “No, I can’t say that I’m thriving. But I am striving. Living life is often hard, but I’m striving. Working at my job is often hard, but I’m striving. Transitioning between cultures is often hard, but I’m striving. Sharing the good news is often hard, but I’m striving. Practicing what I preach is often hard, but I’m striving. Fixing my eyes on the steeple in spite of all the trees is often hard, but I’m striving. And I hope to keep striving until the end. Pray for me that that will be true.”


[photo: “Cross Country,” by stephrox, used under a Creative Commons license]

An Open Letter to the Kind People in My Host Country

Dear neighbors:

When my wife and I and our four children stepped off the plane in your country, with our 12 carry-on bags—and all our plans, enthusiasm, expectations . . . and naiveté—you welcomed us. In fact, the customs agent greeted us with a smile. And during the following years that we lived among you, we lost count of your kindnesses.

We weren’t refugees, we didn’t arrive on your shores having been forced out of our homes, we weren’t stranded. We had chosen to come. You didn’t find us naked and bloodied at the side of a road, but still you were often good Samaritans to us. When you saw us sitting on the curb, so to speak, facing roadblocks or not sure where we were headed, so many of you did not simply walk by on the other side.

For this we thank you.

To our language teachers who patiently, ever so patiently, led us through vocabulary lessons and guided us on the nuances of your culture, laughing with us but not at us, thank you.

To the food-cart vendors who listened to us practice the names of what they were selling and cheerfully rewarded us with wonderful tasting snacks and meals, sometimes putting something extra in with our order, thank you.

To the policeman who loaded up our family in his patrol car and took us home after we got lost on a walk, even though we ended up being only three blocks away from our apartment building, thank you.

And to the people near our home who didn’t think the worst of a family, who, for some reason, was riding in a police car, thank you.

To the young workers at Subway who bravely came forward to serve the foreigners wanting a turkey sandwich with “that” and “that” (no, not “that,” “that“) and some of “that” and “that” and “that,” thank you.

To the cab drivers who regaled us with their political insights while taking us where we wanted to go, and to the one who found my son’s billfold on the sidewalk and drove up and down the street until he saw another of our sons and gave it to him, thank you.

To the man on the street begging for spare coins who accepted our friendship and allowed us to pray with him, thank you.

To the hairdresser who loved to trim my daughter’s hair and then proudly styled it as if she were a Hollywood starlet, thank you.

To the university professors who partnered with us, introducing us to their students, and to those students, who listened to our stories and served us many, many cups of tea, thank you.

To dear friends who let us join them in celebrating the birth of a child and mourning the death of a parent, and who shared in our joys and struggles as well, thank you.

To the produce seller at the day market who told my wife when fresh strawberries would be coming in soon, thank you.

To fellow passengers who confirmed that Yes, we’d gotten on the right train, thank you.

To the young professionals who let me join their Bible study in a cafe, sharing my hope that it could someday become a house church, who read the Bible with me in their heart language even though it would have been much easier for us all to speak English, thank you.

To the lady who collected our recyclables twice a week and to her young daughter who taught us what they could take and what was simply trash, thank you.

To the Christians in the church plant who let us worship with them when we first arrived, helped us find an apartment, and blessed us in so many other ways, thank you.

To those who made all of our visitors from overseas their honored guests, thank you.

To our family doctor who treated those visitors when they got sick, at no charge, thank you.

To the surgeons who skillfully operated on our son’s heart for eight hours, thank you.

To more doctors, and nurses, who cared for another son when he severely burned his hand and spent 42 days in the hospital, to the specialists who performed the skin grafts, and to the therapists who guided us in his care, thank you.

And to the lady who saw me at a store on the day of your biggest holiday and asked me if I had plans—I told her No and she invited me to her house for a celebration with her mother and brothers and their wives and children and didn’t retract the offer when she found out how big my family was, saying that she wanted to show us hospitality because that’s what someone had done for her years before when she was an international student at a university in Texas, with no plans for Christmas—thank you.

We thank you all for so many acts of grace, large and small, for seeing us as neighbors, for making us feel at home.

Sincerely,

Your grateful friend

[photo: “Post Office Shoot8,” by Bryan Pearson, used under a Creative Commons license]

If you have your own neighbors to thank, please join in in the comments below.

10 Ways Teachers Can Support Third Culture Kids

I was talking to the principal of an international school recently, and he had never heard the term “Third Culture Kid” (TCK).

This really surprised me. By now, after more than three decades of research dedicated to understanding the impact of growing up globally mobile, I had assumed that those working with TCKs would at least be familiar with the concept.

Since this conversation, I’ve been thinking about what I want my children’s teachers to understand about TCKs. What are the basics they should know? And how this knowledge could prove helpful to them as they guide these children in the classroom and on the playground?

Key Points About TCKs For Teachers

 

The late Dave Pollock provided a good definition of third culture kids:

“A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture. The TCK frequently builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture may be assimilated into the TCK’s life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background”

The childhood lifestyle of TCKs (one high on cross-cultural experiences and mobility) impacts development patterns, fosters certain character traits, and influences the way these children typically interact with others and form relationships. These characteristics often become more pronounced in older TCKs and on into adulthood (a four-year-old TCK, for example, may seem anything but flexible, mature, and socially competent).

3 Typical Areas Of Strength For TCKs

There is now a significant body of research that identifies some of the typical strengths and areas of challenge associated with growing up in more than one culture. Here are some of the strengths/benefits that the third culture kids often develop over time:

  1. Flexibility/Adaptability

Over time, TCKs learn to blend effectively into new places and adapt to new settings and experiences. Many TCKs become so skilled at doing this that they are akin to chameleons—easily adjusting their dress, language, and style of relating to reflect their surroundings.

  1. Maturity/Perspective

TCKs often seem more mature than their peers–particularly in the ways they interact with adults and how they view the world. Their diversity of life experience tends to broaden their perspective and cure them of black and white thinking at an unusually young age. This, combined with the acute observational skills that help them adapt to new settings, tends to make TCKs skilled at picking up on nuance and seeing more than one side to situations.

  1. Advanced cross-cultural communication skills and general social skills

Third culture kids become practiced at communicating with those from other cultures and backgrounds. When it comes to making friends, they tend to have the ability to form unusually intense connections with others fairly quickly. In part, this tendency to form fast and deep relationships comes about because TCKs often jump straight to talking with others about universal life experiences such as passions, hobbies, family and relationships, rather than trying to connect around more culturally-bound topics such as TV shows and sporting teams.

3 Common Areas Of Challenge For TCKs

  1. Unresolved grief and loss

Dave Pollock once claimed that, “Most TCKs go through more grief experiences by the time they are 20 than mono-cultural individuals do in a lifetime.”

When TCKs move they often leave behind pretty much everything and everyone who has shaped their world—their house, school, friends, church community, relatives, and more. These sorts of massive life upheavals can be particularly tough on children. Children lack the life experiences and sense of time that help enable adults to put moving into perspective. And children often lack the self-awareness and emotional vocabulary to communicate about the impact of these drastic changes.

  1. Inner insecurity

Many TCKs become excellent at adapting and “blending in” where they find themselves—they become practiced at taking their cues on dress, speech, food, and do’s and don’ts from their surroundings. However, other TCKs tend to define their identity through difference—they despair of ever really fitting and choose instead to embrace being different and define an identity around that. Whether TCKs generally “adapt” or “define themselves through difference” this process tends to take effort and come at cost.

Some TCKs never feel completely comfortable, relaxed, or at home anywhere—they must always spend some extra energy monitoring their surrounds to feel like they know how they “should” act.

Some TCKs fail to develop an inner sense of stable values, preferences, and sense of right and wrong.

Some TCKs end up feeling a bit like cultural or social frauds. They know that on the surface they appear to fit in, but they don’t feel that their cultural or social knowledge extends “bone deep”—the way it seems to for true locals or some of their peers.

  1. Real or perceived arrogance

Particularly when they move back to their passport country or to the developed world, TCKs can be perceived as arrogant. Their ability to see things from multiple perspectives can make them impatient and judgmental with others who don’t seem to view the world as broadly. Because of their breadth of life experience, TCKs can also come to view themselves as more cosmopolitan, smarter, and globally aware than others.

However there is also another, more complicated, dimension to this issue of arrogance. Marilyn Gardner puts it like this: “Arrogance is often insecurity by another name. When the third culture kid feels ‘other’ they resort to coping mechanisms. This can come off as profound arrogance and result in exactly the opposite of what they really want – cause further alienation and feelings of being ‘other’ when what is longed for is connection and understanding. This can turn into a vicious cycle for the TCK and needs to be addressed for what it is – a deep insecurity with who they are within the context of their passport culture.”

10 Ways Teachers Can Support Third

10 Ways Teachers Can Support TCKs

 

We’ve just covered three typical strengths and three common areas of challenge for TCKs. There are many others, but since this is a blog post and not a book (for a good book on TCKs click here) let’s move forward and look at things teachers can do to support their TCK students.

I offer these suggestions with great humility. I am a psychologist who specializes in stress, trauma, and resilience. I grew up as a third culture kid. I am the mother of two young third culture kids. However, I am not a teacher. In fact, I often look at the teachers in my son’s preschool classroom with something akin to awe. I’m not quite sure how they manage to stay consistently positive, energetic, and calm in the midst of that chaos, much less implement a strategic teaching program.

Also, all TCKs are different. I don’t pretend that all TCKs would benefit from all of these suggestions. However, I do think that the cyclical uprooting and replanting experiences that shape TCKs (and the resulting personality and social characteristics you see in many TCKs as they mature) suggest that certain types of guidance in the classroom may be particularly helpful for many TCKs.

So, disclaimers aside, here are some specific ways that I think that teachers could help support the TCKs in their care.

  1. When a TCK first arrives in your classroom, pay particular attention to asking them about themselves

Where has the TCK come from? Where have they lived before? What are some things they miss about their old school or home? What are some things they are coming to like about their new school or home?

In the aftermath of an abrupt transition, a TCK can feel that they have lost a large chunk of their identity. Their old life feels like a dream, and their new life can feel exhausting and overwhelming. Some kids go on and on about where they’ve come from (and often alienate other children with these tales). However, particularly for the TCKs who have gone silent about their past, take some time to ask them some questions.

Just by asking and listening you are already supporting your student. Your TCK will feel better understood and cared for because of this interest. However, you can also go a step further and build on your TCKs experiences.

Consider involving your TCK student in teaching others about their passport country or places they’ve previously lived. Design some classroom activities around the customs, geography, or culture of the countries that your TCKs are familiar with and give them a chance to shine (or at least feel some ownership) in front of their peers.

  1. Give them extra time, attention, and help during the first couple of weeks.

New students have to learn the rules of a new school as well as a posse of new teachers and peers. That’s already a daunting task. Your new TCK is also trying to learn a new culture, a new city, and a new house. So pay extra attention to your new TCKs and try to ease the burden of all that extra processing where you can.

Make things explicit. Tell them about the classroom rules and routines. Talk to them about things that you do regularly that they may never have done before (for example, do you say a pledge at the start of the day? Do you sing hymns? Does your child have to join in with these activities or can they pass? What are the procedures about completing and turning in homework, and around discipline?). When you see TCK students looking lost or uncertain, help them understand what’s going on around them.

  1. Try to help them make friends

Having some friends is foundational to most children’s happiness and emotional health, so do what you can to facilitate those social connections for your students. This is particularly essential if your TCKs have come in mid-term or mid-year, after children in your class have already made friends with their peers. Many TCKs may be quite practiced at making friends by the time they are in late high school, but making friends may not come naturally at all for some TCKs, particularly the younger ones. These “socially struggling” TCKs may not join group activities, may prefer to play by themselves, and may come across as withdrawn, uncooperative, depressed, angry, or disruptive.

Help create opportunities for your TCKs to have fun, connect with, and learn about their peers in small-group or one-on-one settings. For older students you could use group or partner work, or get-to-know-you exercises or games to facilitate this. With younger students, consider taking a more active role in how you encourage them to connect with fellow students (and how you encourage fellow students to connect with your new TCK and “share” “co-operate” “practice kindness” and “play well together”).

  1. If your TCK can’t speak the language, do your best to have a translator available

If your TCK student can’t speak the language you teach in, do your best to have a translator close by to help during their early days. Things will be hard enough for your young TCK as they work to learn a new language. They should at least have someone they can ask where the toilets are.

  1. Teach about “identity” “differences” and the “TCK experience”

TCKs can really struggle to form a clear sense of identity. Some TCKs won’t even know which country they’re from or where they were born, much less have internalized these concepts. As an example, my three-year-old has already lived in five houses on three different continents. I’m still trying to persuade him to accept that he has a last name (he often insists that he is “just Dominic”). I have yet to get him to consistently and correctly tell me which country he currently lives in. We haven’t tried to explain the concept of Australian and American passports yet.

You can support your TCKs (particularly your young ones) by designing activities that explore identity—family tree, country and culture of origin, personal likes and dislikes, etc.

Also, if you teach a lot of TCKs then you have a group of students who have come from very diverse backgrounds. The way they see the world (even down to what’s right and wrong, how you handle conflict and anger, what’s honorable and what is shameful) will be different. Explore, acknowledge and celebrate social and cultural and other differences in your teaching. Also, teaching about the term “TCK” the common experiences of TCKs can help TCKs realize that they are not alone. That realization can be very powerful and healing.

  1. Help TCKs understand their host culture

Help orient your TCK by teaching about local traditions, foods, customs and other things related to the country you are in.

  1. Realize that the word “home” may be loaded and confusing

The concept of home is confusing for many TCKs well into adulthood. I spent three years writing my memoir, Love At The Speed Of Email, primarily to untangle that particular word. I know I’m not alone in my deeply felt struggles on this front. Many TCKs are deeply confused about where home is (and what “normal” is) and deeply unsettled by that confusion.

  1. Connect a TCK that is having difficulties with a qualified school counselor and/or extra academic support

Sometimes your struggling TCKs will be obvious—they are the kids who are “acting out”. Their frustration, insecurity, and anger can be very evident. Sometimes, however, a struggling TCK will stay silent, put their heads down, and do their best to disappear. Look out for your TCKs (and other students) who appear isolated from their peers or whose academic work is not on par with their apparent abilities.

Support your TCKs who are struggling academically by connecting them with tutoring resources that can help fill in any gaps in their education (this is often a particular problem in math and science subjects). If your TCK is also struggling emotionally and socially, seeing a school counselor (if there is one) for a season may really help a TCK student in their transition.

  1. Mark the end of the school year and the coming transition—into summer and into the next year.

TCKs go through many transitions, often without much time to process them. You can help your students by recognizing that goodbyes are particularly complicated for most TCKs. Help them with the transition to a new class and teacher at the end of the year by acknowledging this transition as the year concludes. Talk about goodbyes. Share with your students what you have really cherished about the year, allow kids to share what they have enjoyed (or not), and how they feel when they have to say goodbye and move on. Explain what they can expect next year.

  1. Do not waste time arguing with a three year old when they insist they’re in an entirely different country

This may only be applicable to anyone who teaches my eldest TCK, but … don’t waste time arguing with a child who insists they’re in Thailand when they’re actually in Vanuatu.

If such a child refuses to change their mind after two or three exchanges on this topic then they either (a) just need to be right, or (b) they really need to believe they actually are in Thailand during that moment. Either way, speaking from experience, it’s a battle not worth fighting. There will be others that are worth fighting. Trust me.

There is a lot more I could say on this topic, but I want to turn the floor over to you.

What tips do you have for your children’s teachers?

What do you want your kids teachers to know about TCKs?

What have you seen work well to support TCKs in the classroom?

The Language of Sport

Language study is one of the hardest and most time-consuming efforts missionaries make.

There is, however, a language which is common to the world and far easier to learn.

This is the language of sport.

When my family arrived in South Africa as lovers of sport, we missed a trip to the Super Bowl by my wife’s hometown team. At the time, we just did not know how to watch the game. Now I could tell you many ways.

Instead of watching the Super Bowl, in the early days our TV was tuned to cricket. I attempted to understand this game and its rules. Especially difficult was the idea of playing to a tie over five days!

I’ve seen how learning, watching, attending, and playing the local sports of a nation can build bridges and bond you to a culture.

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Here are 7 things I have learned sports can do:

1. Provide conversation. Wearing a soccer jersey or making a comment about the latest sports match can open up a conversation in an easy manner.

2. Earn you respect. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been met with a quizzical exclamation about my knowledge of a local sport or team. This inquiry is also met with a sly smile of admiration and respect.

3. Tell people you are embracing culture. Multiple times I’ve had people compliment me on my embrace of the culture when they learned my kids played rugby at school or as an American I was attending a cricket match.

4. Give you an insight into the nations vices. Attending sports matches also gives insight into issues a nation deals with. One cannot attend a cricket match in South Africa without observing alcohol abuse to epic proportions. While sad, it brings awareness to the needs of a nation.

5. Provide Exercise. Our staff often engages in weekly soccer/football matches, which opens doors of relationship while gaining valuable exercise. I’ve been able to participate multiple times in bicycle races as well.

6. Help you to have down time away from ministry. All work and no play….happens in ministry often. A balanced, long term missions career must include relaxation. Playing or attending sports makes for wonderful relaxation.

7. Make memories for you and the family. I will never forget sitting in a Cape Town monsoon watching the local rugby team with my youngest son. We make an annual trip to a rugby match as a family. And of course, the early Saturday mornings of watching my kids play these sports will etch South Africa into our family story.

What would you add to this list?

How does the language of sport help you embrace the culture you live and serve in?

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Photo credit: Nivali via photopin (license)

When You Need Help Abroad: Finding A Good Counselor When You Live Overseas

One of the first questions people often ask me when they learn that I’m a psychologist is, “are you practicing?” They are invariably disappointed when I tell them “no, I’m still busy with our young children, and I’m trying to start a business on the side.” Here, like many other places I’ve lived abroad, there is a shortage of trained mental health professionals who are well equipped to help the expatriate population.

And, boy, a significant chunk of the expatriate population needs some helping.

That’s not surprising, really.

Moving abroad pushes you out of all sorts of comfort zones. Pretty much everything in life – from grocery shopping to figuring out the point of life – gets more complicated. The level of challenge in your life goes way up, right when you lose a lot of your normal support and coping mechanisms.

Yes, this can be a recipe for great personal growth. It is also, often, a recipe for great personal struggle and pain.

Coping with sudden and extreme change gets exhausting. Living far from family and friends gets lonely. Witnessing the impact of your choices on your family members – particularly your children – can breed guilt and insecurity right alongside gratitude. Having the familiar social and cultural scaffolding of your life ripped away can force you to confront core identity questions around yourself, privilege, meaning, purpose, and the existence and nature of God. The pathways to answering these questions often lead through dark valleys.

I would guess that those who live overseas entertain a higher chance of experiencing significant mental health problems, marital challenges, or substance abuse issues than those who remain on home soil. I’ve seen numerous marriages hit the rocks and other important personal and team relationships become hopelessly mired in miscommunications and conflict. I’ve seen people skid into alcohol and porn addictions. I’ve seen parents feel guilty and helpless as they watch their children implode (or explode). I’ve frequently seen more people who cannot shake anxiety, grief, bone-deep exhaustion, or the grey, soul-sucking fog of depression.

When these things happen (and they happen more often than you might think) expatriates can find it very difficult to get help.

There are all sorts of reasons why this is so, but one of those reasons is a shortage of qualified mental health professionals who themselves live abroad. So today, we’re going to talk about how to find some help when you find yourself struggling with a dark, difficult chapter in your story.

Keyboard_Help

When you’re trying to find a counselor locally, ask around

If you’re looking for a psychologist or counselor, start by asking others in town about the options. You don’t have to go into details, just ask if anyone knows of any psychologist, counselors, or social workers living in town.

You might want to start with your embassy. Talk to the doctor on staff at the embassy clinic, if there is one. Ask them whether they know of any psychologists or counselors practicing locally and, if not, what they recommend when people contact them asking for mental health or family counseling referrals.

If you live near an international school, you can approach them for information, too. The international schools may know of skilled expats in town, especially those who work with children.

You can also ask other expatriates, particularly doctors, nurses, midwives, doulas, and pastors.

Search online

world magnifyingWhen you live anywhere outside the major city centers, word of mouth is your best bet when it comes to finding mental health professionals who live nearby. However, you might get lucky with an internet search. Here are three things to try…

Check out International Therapists Directory. It provides an online global listing of professional mental health therapists who are familiar with the TCK and international expatriate experiences.

Use Google. I’m in Laos, so I would try searches like “mental health Laos” “mental health Vientiane” “psychologist Laos” “counselor Laos” “family therapy Laos” etc and see what comes up. I’d also search LinkedIn with those same search phrases.

When it comes to choosing a counselor, be picky

Don’t work with someone just because they live nearby. Yes, there are some benefits to sitting down with someone face to face, but a significant proportion of the mental health professionals I’ve met abroad are… well… to be honest… strange.

Be picky. You will be far better off talking to someone you trust and like via Skype than sitting with someone locally who isn’t qualified or able to help you.

Selecting a counselor is an important and individual process. Remember that a counselor who works well with one person may not be the best choice for another person. Also, when you live overseas, it can be helpful if your counselor has lived abroad themselves or has previous experience working with expatriates.

When you’re considering working with someone, you might want to let the counselor know you’re thinking of making an appointment and ask if they have a couple of minutes to talk with you before you make a decision.

Don’t use this time to explain at length why you want to make an appointment. Instead, ask some questions that can help you get a better feel for this counselor and whether you feel comfortable talking to him/her.

Here are some questions you could ask:

  • Can you tell me a bit more about your training and experience? Are you a licensed mental health professional?
  • Can you tell me a bit more about your general approach to counseling?
  • What do you enjoy about counseling?
  • If you feel comfortable naming the issue that you want to work on in general terms (e.g., “issues related to humanitarian field work,” “child-rearing problems,” “marital issues”), you might ask, “How much experience do you have working with people with this concern?”
  • How long (over time) do you generally like to see clients?
  • Can you tell me more about your fee structure/how you handle billing? (Either on the phone or in your first meeting, the counselor should provide information about procedural matters – fees, meeting times, availability, confidentiality, etc.).

When you meet with a counselor, ask yourself whether this is a person with whom you feel comfortable talking. You may need to talk with the counselor more than once to know the answer to that question. Do you feel the counselor is listening to you? Does the counselor treat you with respect? Does the counselor respond to your questions constructively?

If you can’t find someone local who you like and trust, find someone back home and work with them using Skype, Facetime, or other video-chat options. Nowadays, many counselors are happy to take on long-distance clients.

Find and read resources online

Articles, online training modules, and podcasts are not an adequate substitute for talking to someone, but they can help along the way. Here are a couple of websites that you might find useful.

The Headington Institute: Provides psychological and spiritual support services for aid and development personnel worldwide. Check out their free online training center covering topics related to resilience, stress, trauma, relationships, spirituality and more.

Member Care Associates: Provides and develops supportive resources for workers and sending groups within the mission/humanitarian sectors. Click on their Articles/Books tab to find a long list of resources for those on the mission field. Click here to read about their latest book in the Member Care series.

The American Psychological Associations Online Help Center: This is a good source for general articles and tips sheets about health, emotional wellness, families, relationships, and children.

Please chime in and add to this list!
Feel free to ask questions, share your experiences, or add useful links.

Four Things You Could Do

There is no shortage of  instructions on the interweb.

In any given month it is quite likely you will be instructed on multiple topics.  The list could include:

 Ten things not to say to your single friends

Five things Christians should stop saying

Ten things for a healthy marriage.

Five reasons your teen is rebelling.

Those never ending lists just serve to overwhelm me.  Say this. Don’t say this. Do that. NEVER do this.

I can barely follow directions. Kraft Mac and Cheese has one step too many for me.

There are SO many instructions and they all run together and before I know it I have applied one of the items to the wrong problem.  After reading all those articles I learned that my teen was rebelling because I was too controlling. Somehow I got mixed up and became certain one of the keys to a happier marriage was to be more controlling.

As you can see, there is a HUGE margin of error here.

 *             *             *

Today, I shall add fuel to the fire…

My list of things you “should” do to care for yourself.

One caveat, I don’t actually care if you reject my entire list. These are just some things that have been helpful to us in eight years overseas.

Guess what?  Just because they helped us, doesn’t mean they will necessarily work for all of you.

Therefore, today I present to you:

Four things you could do.  (Four possible not mandatory ways to care for yourselves and your families while working/living/serving and growing “overseas” .)

  1. Time Away/Rest
  2. Community
  3. EMDR and Counseling
  4. Prayer

Time Away/Rest – I don’t have to tell you this, you have heard it a kajillion times. “Even Jesus took time away”.   So do that.  Be like Jesus.

We all do what we do because we believe it to be important, even necessary, work.  There is a tendency in all of us to cast ourselves in a role that is irreplaceable, as in “without me this cannot happen” – so I cannot rest. Well,  here is the thing: If that is true, you have got larger problems than just needing a rest.

Take time off. Leave work and “mission” for a time and regroup. I am not suggesting you be  a lazy lard. I am suggesting that within a system of accountability you take time away every so often because that is good for you and your family.

Community – This is easier for some than it is for others.  There is a great benefit to living in community with other believers.  In this day and age there is a way to have an on-line community and an in-real-life community. If you can have both, you have the best of both worlds.  There should be a few people in your life that you can share your deepest fears and joys with on a semi-regular basis. There should be people that you allow to speak into those things.

EMDR and Counseling – Right now you are wondering where the heck the train left the track, you did not see it coming.  Stick with me, please. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing and it is a type of trauma treatment.  Any of us that spend significant amount of time living cross culturally are almost guaranteed some trauma.  I could give you sixteen examples but I will simply share this testimonial:  After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti we discovered that PTSD was not just something soldiers in combat have.  EMDR seemed like hocus pocus to us at first, but we can tell you it absolutely helped us with the trauma of the earthquake and other previous trauma we had not dealt with at that time. It was an effective way of dealing with small and very large traumatic happenings.

If trauma is not your issue, perhaps basic therapy/counseling would be a way to process some of the stressors of living cross-culturally.  Going to talk to a professional to get some advice, feedback, or help is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of being a real, living, feeling, human being.  Marriages fall apart under stress and living abroad is stressful.  I am no math expert, but after some rudimentary calculations I can see that perhaps counseling would be helpful for those doing marriage outside of their home culture.

Prayer- This is a big one…Maybe even the biggest one. There are two parts to this suggestion.

First, have a team of people in place that you know you can count on when you call or write them with a prayer request or urgent need.  Whether they are your parents and siblings, your home church, or a circle of friends, you will find that you need a group that will carry you when things are very difficult.

During one of our years in Haiti we had a personally devastating set-back that made it hard for us to get out of bed for a couple of weeks let alone accomplish our daily tasks.  There were those “back home” that carried us in prayer until we were back on our feet and able to face life again.  On another occasion we were in a parking lot in Port au Prince when I sensed danger. I could not identify what it was, but I knew I needed to go back to the car with our kids.  That afternoon when I returned home I had an email from my Dad that said, “Where were you at noon? I had a strong sense you were in danger and I prayed for you guys until it passed.”  You will likely have times when these intercessory prayers will absolutely matter.

Second, make prayer a part of your breathing. As you go about your day, be seeking God in each interaction and task. Try to make family and spouse prayer times a high priority.  Try to pray with your community and carry one another’s burdens. None of us were meant to do this work alone, call on your Heavenly Papa and ask for His help.

As soon as I finished this list I remembered that there is a fifth thing.  I guess I failed at internet bossing, cannot even count it out correctly.

5. Excercise Regular exercise will help you feel better about everything that is hard about your life. You could give that a try too.

 

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This ^ combines prayer, community, and excercise – three of the five happening on one run.

 

That is my list of four five. 

What else would you add? 

What ways have you found helpful when taking care of yourself?

31 Flavors of Foreigners

Next Door NeighborsWhat’s your favorite ice-cream? Baskin Robbins’ 31 flavors of ice-cream are fairly well known in the States. They’ve added some more flavors, but they founded their fame on the great number 31. My 1st choice is Rainbow Sherbet. So yum!

This is a get-to-know-you post! Let’s take it a little deeper than ice-cream preference, though, okay? Dessert information is mighty vital in any acquaintance; but we shall go to another classification of flavors.

What flavor of foreigner are you?

Charts make me happy. I put together a fun chart to help you answer that question. I call it “The Foreigner Classification Chart”. Start on the left and follow the flow to find out what flavor you are. Then leave your answers in the comments section.

The Foreigner Classification Chart:

31 Flavors Image.docx

(You might try clicking the above image to enlarge it if the text is hard to read)

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DaRonn and Angie Washington

Neat, right? Connection empowers us. True story: most Bolivians assume at first glance that I am German and they think my husband is Brazilian, even though we are both from the U.S.  Many presuppositions placed on foreigners about origin and occupation might give us advantages, and they might hinder us. Our minds classify people, whether we like it or not. Expanding our classification system helps us to interact with a broader spectrum of people.

Questions to answer in the comments section:

1. What’s your favorite ice-cream?

2. What flavor of foreigner are you?

You might want to check back and scan the comments periodically to see if any other readers here at ‘A Life Overseas‘ happen to be the same kind of foreigner you are.

For further reflection you can think, and comment if you like, on this bonus question:

BONUS: What’s the general opinion of the people native to your region regarding your flavor of foreigner?

Whatever flavor you are, it makes us super pleased to know YOU are a part of the conversation here and we hope that you find the content on this site helpful and thought provoking.

 

– Angie Washington, co-editor of A Life Overseas, missionary living in Bolivia, South America

blog: angiewashington.com twitter: @atangie work blog: House of Dreams Orphanage

How Will You Know When To Go Home?

Lis and Mike Jan 2014Three weeks ago, just after Christmas, we learned that my husband, Mike, has testicular cancer.

We were in Thailand at the time, on a three-day getaway from our home in Laos. Mike had noticed something different downstairs ten days previously, and we’d scheduled an appointment to get it checked out in Thailand while we were there (Laos medical facilities are, shall we say, sub-par).

Right up until the day of the appointment, I wasn’t worried. The chances of it being anything serious are so slim, I reasoned. And after everything that’s already landed on us in the last two years – a baby’s broken femur, my broken ankle, depression, Mike’s two herniated discs and spinal surgeries – it’s so not our turn for this sort of medical drama anymore, amen.

I was carrying our five-month old and simultaneously trying to prevent our leashed and unhappy two-year-old from climbing into a fishpond, when Mike walked up to me after his appointment and said the words: “I have a tumor. It needs to come out as soon as possible. The doctor said it could be life-threatening.”

Well. So much for not our turn anymore.

As we were driving back to Laos the next day, Mike and I began to do something we’ve gotten rather skilled at doing – planning for how to deal with a medical challenge in Bangkok while we continued living in Laos.

During that drive home, we decided that Mike would leave ASAP to have surgery in Bangkok while I stayed in Laos with the kids. If further treatment was needed after that, we hoped that perhaps Mike could commute to Bangkok for radiation or chemotherapy and then return to Laos and work in between treatments.

It seemed like a good plan to us. It didn’t seem like such a good plan to two of our good Australian friends – both doctors – who are also currently living in Laos.

These two friends came around to our house that day after we arrived home from Thailand. Over the course of the next three hours they lovingly but firmly laid out all the reasons why, given Mike’s test results, we should all catch the first available flight to Australia.

Forty-eight hours later, one minute before midnight on New Years Eve, our flight from Bangkok to Brisbane lifted off. I believe we were being serenaded at the time by our exhausted two year old screaming in rotation, “COOKIE MAMA, RIGHT NOW!!” and “OFF PLANE!!”

Now it’s the 20th of January. We’re living at my parent’s house. Again. Mike had surgery in Brisbane six days after we landed in Australia. His tumor turned out, as expected, to be cancer. What we didn’t really expect was for a Stage 3 diagnosis. Lymph nodes in his groin and his chest have already been affected. I’m writing this article in the oncology unit, sitting beside Mike. The nurses are preparing to hook up the first treatment in what will be at least nine weeks of chemotherapy.

I am so profoundly grateful that we are not in Laos or Bangkok right now, and that our kids are being watched over by their grandparents while I’m here.

I was wondering yesterday what to write about this month that might be relevant to you all when this question popped into my mind: How will you know when it’s right to leave the field?

Our first inclination when Mike was diagnosed was to stay in Asia. We only decided to temporarily relocate to Australia because we invited, and then took, the advice of two friends who knew more than we did about what we might be dealing with.

One of those two doctor friends reassured us as we were still trying to process stepping away from Mike’s job, our house, and “normal” life for an indeterminate amount of time.

“The specifics about your house and everything else will sort themselves out,” she said. “They always do. And within six months this will all most likely be behind you. You’ll be back. You just need to step away for a while.”

What sort of situations or warning flags would make you decide to step away for a while, or even leave the field permanently?

Sometimes we’re faced with a pretty clear crisis point, like a cancer diagnosis, that raises the question of whether to go or to stay. Speaking as both a psychologist and someone who has been through a couple of those crisis points, I can tell you that no matter how calm you feel in the immediate aftermath of a crisis point, you may not be thinking logically and rationally. Right when you need to be making 101 important decisions, you will not be at your best.

Make up your mind now not to go it alone during those moments. Who will you trust to help you untangle your options and to give you advice? Think now about who could be a good sounding board for you then.

Beyond that, however, think about what sorts of seasons and reasons should cause you to at least consider leaving the field. In the absence of a specific crisis point, we can slowly acclimatize to all sorts of stresses and strains without realizing the extent of the pressure that we (or our relationships) are under. That proverbial frog in the boiling pot of water might have survived if he’d kept his eye on a thermostat. Along those lines, we should keep some of our own personal and relational thermostats within view when we’re living in potential pressure-cooker situations. When you choose to live overseas, it’s wise to identify some personal warning signs that should prompt you to reconsider whether your life overseas is worth the cost that you and your loved ones are paying.

What signs of marital strain would act as this sort of trigger for you? What about issues with your children, or your (or a loved one’s) faith, job, sense of vocation, or health? Where would you go if you had to leave the field on short notice?

Think about these questions this week. Talk about them with your partner, friends, or family.

I hope you never have to put any “emergency exit” scenarios into place. But if you do, I hope you’ll know when to leave and that you’ll have somewhere soft to land for a season while you sort out your life. On those fronts, at least, Mike and I count ourselves blessed.

Share your wisdom with us all. Have you ever had to make an emergency exit from your home abroad? What helped you during that time?

And, what sorts of reasons or seasons might prompt you to leave the field?

Jan 19, 2014: A family "everyone still has hair" photo shoot.
Jan 19, 2014: A family “everyone still has hair” photo shoot.

Lisa McKayauthor, psychologist, sojourner in Laos
Website: www.lisamckaywriting.com      Books: Love At The Speed Of Email and My Hands Came Away Red

Helping your children stay in touch with family and friends when living abroad

Welcome back to Part III in our series on long distance relationships. If you missed them, here are links to Part I (Staying connected with your family and friends when you live overseas) and Part II (Long distance relationships: Part and parcel of international living

If you are raising children in a country other than the one you grew up in, you’ve probably wrestled with this question of how to best help your children stay in touch with your family and friends back in your home country.

I know my own parents grappled with this as they country-hopped around the world for 21 years while my siblings and I were growing up. And now that I’m the parent of (soon to be two) “third culture kids” myself, it’s something my husband and I are increasingly puzzling over. In our case the picture gets even more complicated than it was for my own parents. Mike and I currently live in Laos, but because he is American and I am Australian our children are dual citizens and we have two sets of grandparents located on opposite sides of the world. Our children are still very young, but I’m already worried that they’ll struggle even more than I did to define where home is and what it means to them.

Much more so than adults who were raised in one place and then choose to move abroad later in life, children raised outside their passport culture tend to feel split between two worlds, or more. During adolescence and early adulthood (and sometimes later) these third culture kids can struggle mightily to figure out who they really are and where they belong.

If children raised abroad are going to struggle with identity issues at some point (and in my experience, most do) you will not be able to forestall that completely no matter what actions you take to help them stay connected with family and friends “back home”. However, helping children build these important relationships and stay connected to their home culture in other ways can help make such identity struggles less acute and prolonged. If you’re parenting children raised abroad, helping them stay connected to a passport country “home base” is an important thing to spend time and money doing.

I’m going to leave aside the broader issue of connecting with a home culture for now and just focus on some tips for helping children stay connected with important people back home. I’ll be talking mostly about grandparents and immediate family here, but this also applies to key friendship figures in your life and in the life of your children.

Again, I don’t present these tips as a “how to” manual. I also recognize that some of them could prove financially prohibitive for some families. Instead, I’m sharing a list of ideas that I hope will prove to be food for thought and will spark discussion in your own family. As you read through them, be thinking about which of these you’re already doing, what else might work for you, and what you could add to this list.

2b1.     Visit when you can: This goes both ways. It’s nearly as important for grandparents etc to visit the field as it is for grandchildren to visit relatives “at home”. This helps grandkids feel that their grandparents have seen and understand “their” world. It also allows you to spend time together while the children are relaxed and at home, rather than when they are out of their element and busy meeting the myriad demands that come with holidays or home leave. Of course, it’s important for children to visit their “home” country and everyone there as well. We visited Australia either annually or every two years while I was growing up, and that did a lot to help us feel connected to places and people there.

 2.     Help contribute to the cost of travel: My parents have a policy that’s still in effect that they’ll pay half of a return air-ticket to Australia for all of us (children, spouses, grandchildren) every year.  This has helped us travel to spend time in Australia at times when we would have decided against it for financial reasons. This could go the other way, too. If you have parents or relatives that would love to visit but can’t afford to, consider whether you could contribute to the cost of their travel. Encourage other friends and family members to help subsidize travel instead of buying other birthday or Christmas presents.

 2h3.     Blog: If you live far away from friends and family, think about keeping a family blog on which you post pictures of yourself and the children and share little stories about your lives. If you’re worried about privacy you can easily set it up so that only approved people can log in and view it. This allows grandparents and extended family to easily keep up with photos and the like.

 4.     Send paper copies of photographs in both directions: If you have grandchildren overseas, send their parents photographs of yourself (especially photos of you with your grandchild). Ask the parents to show these photos to the children, or even display them where children can see them. When your grandchildren visit (or you visit them) think about making a scrapbook or photo-book full of pictures of things you’ve done together during the visit. This will help the children remember all the fun you’ve had. If you’re the one raising children overseas send photos and videos home as you can, especially if you don’t blog. There are few things that mean more to grandparents and siblings than photos of their grandchildren or nieces/nephews.

 5.     Send letter, postcards, cards, or packages: Children love to get mail of their own – send your grandkids letters, cards, photos, or packages addressed to them by post occasionally. Packages are especially exciting, and several small items usually go over better than packages containing one big item. Also consider sending some of your favorite children’s books. If you have a copy of the same book on your end, you might even be able to read it to them via Skype at some point. You can also take a photo (of yourself or something they love) and have it made into a puzzle. Send them the puzzle to put together. Finally, if they’re old enough to have their own email account, you can email them as well. From the other side, if you’re the parent of children living overseas, help your kids draw pictures or write short letters or post-cards to send to their grandparents.

 6.     Involve children in some Skype calls: Make sure you involve your children in some (but not all) of your Skype or phone calls home. Schedule these “all family” calls for times when your kids are not likely to be too tired or hungry. Resist any temptation to make the calls extra long to make up for preceding weeks of no contact (you don’t want to turn these calls into infrequent extended chores that children learn to dread). Use a webcam whenever internet bandwidth allows. Even if your computer doesn’t have one build in, external webcams are cheap, easy to set up, and add enormously to the quality of the contact (if grandparents don’t have webcams on their end, buy them one for Christmas and install it during a home visit). Consider making these calls a regular part of your routine (e.g., every second Saturday morning).

2jFor those on the home front, recognize that children often freeze up or struggle to talk via telephone or computer. Help them by asking a couple (not dozens) of open-ended questions that require the children to give more than a simple yes or no answer. Give children time to come up with those answers after you ask a question – don’t rush in too fast to fill pauses or silence, children may just be struggling to find some words. And try not to take it personally if your grandchild doesn’t seem interested in talking to you on a particular call. Kids are going to be kids at times, whether they’re on a special bi-monthly call with you or not.

Again, I know we’re just scratching the surface of this topic. But, again, this post is already plenty long enough.

Help us out by leaving a comment and adding to this list.
We’d love to hear more ideas about what works for you and your family!

That’s the end of our series on long distance relationships (for now, anyway). Thanks for reading along! If you’re in a dating or marriage long distance relationship, don’t forget to hop on over to Modern Love Long Distance and check us out.

Lisa McKayauthor, psychologist, sojourner in Laos

Blog: www.lisamckaywriting.com      Books: Love At The Speed Of Email and My Hands Came Away Red

Staying connected with your family and friends when you live overseas

I’d be willing to bet that most of you reading this post are in a long distance relationship of some sort or another. At some point in their careers, most development workers and missionaries find themselves living far away from friends and family. Some even find themselves enduring long stints apart from those they’re dating or married to. Learning how to live with some of your loved ones half a country (or a world) away is an essential skill for coping well with international living.

This post kicks off a three-part series on long distance relationships that will run in the next week on A Life Overseas.

Today we’ll look at staying connected with your family and friends when you live overseas. In my experience, this is usually foundational to thriving while living abroad. Especially early in their careers, missionaries and humanitarian workers can be much more intentional and energetic about forging new relationships with people in their host countries than they are about maintaining good relationships with those back home. I know some may disagree with me on this point, but I believe that doing this is a mistake. For many, allowing important relational networks back home to significantly degrade will, over time, compromise their health, happiness, and effectiveness in their work.

Monday’s post will focus on long distance romantic relationships, and I’ll tell you about a new website I’m launching that day called Modern Love Long Distance. This site will provide quality resources and tools for those in long distance relationships. I’ve been working on this behind the scenes for a year and I’m really excited to see this project go live!

Next Wednesday we’ll discuss helping children stay connected with family and friends back home while living abroad.

So without further ado, let’s get to it …

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Staying connected with your family and friends when you live overseas

When you live in a country other than the one you would have considered home throughout your childhood, chances are that part of you will always feel divided. No matter how eagerly you embrace learning about your new culture and forging new relationships, those new friends will probably never completely replace the friends and family you’ve left behind.

Nor should they. I don’t use the word should very often, but I’m about to now. As uncomfortable as it can be to straddle two worlds, missionaries and development workers should work to maintain important relationships “back home” even as they’re working to integrate into a “new home”.

This is perhaps easier said than done. It can be tough to stay meaningfully connected to family and friends back home when you’re living half a world away. There’s no doubt that Skype and other technological wonders have made things easier in recent years, but myriad tricky questions remain surrounding the issue of how to stay in touch with parents and siblings, and how to help children (if you have any) grow up feeling meaningfully connected to their relatives.

Questions like: What are my parents/relatives expectations and hopes about the frequency, type, and duration of contact we’ll have? What are mine? How can I help my children feel connected to my home culture and their overseas relatives? What friends am I hoping to stay in contact with? How? How can we share parts of our life on the field with those back home in ways that they’ll understand and appreciate? How can we demonstrate sincere interest in their lives when our daily realities often differ dramatically?

As I’ll share in more detail on Monday, I have a lot of experience trying to answer these questions. However, if you were hoping for a definitive how-to manual on this topic, I’m sorry. One thing that all that experience has taught me is that there is no one-size fits all on this topic. There is no one “right” set of answers. And what might work well for you in one phase of life may not work at all well five years later.

Figuring out how you want to (and can) stay connected with your family and friends long distance is a continual process of reflection, dialogue, and adjustment. It’s also, often, learning to live with the feeling that nothing you’re doing on this front is working perfectly.

With that disclaimer, here are some thoughts on ways to stay connected with family and friends.

1.     Realize and accept that many of your friends (and even your family) back home will not be proactive about staying in touch with you when you move overseas. Many people, especially those who haven’t lived overseas themselves, are not good at reaching out to distant friends. Some of your closest friends won’t email or call you regularly, read your blog, or keep up with all of your newsletters. Try not to take this too personally or get too hurt. Just accept that if you want to stay in contact with key family and friends you will have to initiate most of the contact and make the lion’s share of the effort to keep these relationships going.

2.     Help those back home “see” your life: When your friends and family back home talk about their lives, you’ll largely be able to imagine what they’re discussing. When you move overseas, your friends and family won’t have that luxury. Try to help them “see” your life by through photos, stories, and short videos. Consider starting a blog. This will allow people to dip into your story when they have time and energy and will save you from sending lots of individual “update” emails. If you’re worried about privacy you can always program your blog so that only approved viewers can log in. If you’re not a blogger, think about sending out a monthly newsletter to a mailing list of friends and family. (Hint, keep these newsletters to 1000 words or less and include one or two stories and some photos.)

3.     Talk: Emails, blogs, newsletters and the like are great, but actually talking to someone is important too. When it comes to family or others you want to stay closely connected to, you might find that it works to catch up via Skype or phone “when you have time”. If, however, you find that you never “have time” and months are slipping past between calls, think about how often you would ideally like to talk to various family members or important friends. Then try to work out a rough schedule. For example, you may want to plan to talk to your parents weekly or twice a month. As a side benefit, setting up a routine like this can also help manage your family’s expectations about how often and when you’ll get to talk. Finally, don’t forget to give close friends the occasional call. You might only talk once every four to six months, but those infrequent chats can go a long way towards maintaining your relationship in between visits.

4.     Visit: Nothing beats face-to-face time for building relationships. Travelling back and forth from many places in this world is still a time-consuming and expensive prospect. However, if you live overseas and relationships back home are important to you, budgeting time and money to go home regularly is a must (and frankly, I don’t think that “once every four years”, although regular, is often enough). Also, encourage family and friends to visit you if they can. You’ll be able to spend more relaxed quality time with them when you’re “at home” and in your own routine without all the distractions that come with vacations or home leave. They’ll also leave feeling much more connected to your life overseas.

I know I’ve just scratched the surface with this topic, but I don’t want to drown you with a 50-page post. Instead, I’d love to hear from you about this.

What do you do to stay connected with family and friends?
Get specific – we’d all love to learn from your tips, tricks, and stories.

Join us back here on Monday to learn more about Modern Love Long Distance and how it’ll serve the ever-growing number of us who spend significant time apart from their significant “other”.

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Lisa McKayauthor, psychologist, sojourner in Laos

Blog: www.lisamckaywriting.com      Books: Love At The Speed Of Email and My Hands Came Away Red