Dealing With it Alone – When You Have No Other Option

Dealing With it Alone - When You Have No Other Option

When I looked at this blank page, I hadn’t even written ten words before I began to feel overwhelmed. It’s a feeling that I haven’t experienced for quite a while now; it’s been more than three years since I’ve stopped feeling overwhelmed.

I guess that must mean that coping crept up when I least expected it!

It’s probably more than clear that this is based on personal experiences. I think the opening paragraph has more than given that one away. So, let’s squash that curiosity and say, that in a delicate and maybe not so eloquent nutshell, it’s about that slightly taboo subject of divorce and co-parenting in a foreign country … and being stuck – my situation, my life! It hits the headlines every now and then and it seems that there’s some fairly strong opinions on it, some valid, some quite purely not! 

Now, one thing I want to do is make something clear from the outset, (not that I necessarily need to because it goes without saying) that your child/children are the most important thing in the world to you. They are your creation, your life, your raison d’etre. You would walk to the end of the earth for them, for their well-being, their harmony and inner peace and your endeavour to maintain what is a life-long commitment. But let’s be honest, giving your child what they need can be difficult when you are falling apart at the seams!

Children and their well-being are crucially important in this subject. I do understand that they are key, but I also know, although you are the parent you are also someone’s child, you are also key.  You clearly need well-being but you also need harmony and inner peace to function in your role.

When you’re faced with divorce and emotional traumas, functioning normally can be monumentally difficult. When there are additional strains such as being in a foreign country, where your network is limited and you don’t speak the language, it’s a very, very lonely place! That feeling of utter helplessness can break the nerve. It’s that crack that can become a gaping sink hole that you can fall into… and easily!

Yet, being overseas and being a «stuck» parent (for want of a better word) is only a mere by-product of the issue. However, it’s a huge by-product and it only adds to the difficulties in hand, it prevents you dealing with the issues leading to frustration and stress.   Below, I am going to outline an understanding of not only what it means to be «stuck» but also discuss some coping mechanisms that are vital to the whole process.

I guess that the easiest way to move this forward, to give it some readability, is to offer an explanation of what it means to parent in a foreign country, why you become «stuck». Here is a clear-cut guide that doesn’t really waiver and some hard facts about the situation in hand!

When your place of residence is not your native country.

  1. You can’t just get separated/divorced and decide to move back to your native homeland. 

    Your child is a resident of the country where they live, where you reside. This is where it all begins and this is now the place where it all will take shape. This is now the country where you are bound to remain should you wish to regularly remain in your child’s life. You are now stuck in that country.

  2. If you skip country and go back to your native country you will infinitely risk every custody right that you’ve ever had.
  3. This is a point whereby many overseas parents become unstuck. The Hague Convention has very effective methods in place against parental abduction but it doesn’t give any consideration to a reason why an abduction has taken place and it won’t tolerate it. Accept it because you are stuck in it.

  1. Co-parenting is a very popular choice with the family courts in many EU countries.

    Once this is implemented it’s almost impossible to reverse, and every decision to be made about your child is a joint one. If one or another parent doesn’t agree with a decision, it doesn’t happen and you can’t return to a courtroom each time you need something sorted out, apart from the fact that you’ll wait forever and a day for a hearing, it’s damn well expensive.

         You are in it and you are stuck with it!

  1. Once you’re in it, you’re not going to get out of it.

    In effect, in many countries, to overturn a custody agreement that has been installed by a family court or by The Hague Convention is nearly impossible, no matter how much money or weight you have to throw at it. You are stuck with it. You need to learn to live with it.

  2. Overseas travel is often only permitted with joint consent from both parents.

    And it’s implemented! If your family is overseas and your ex-partner won’t permit that travel, you can not return to your home country with your child, not even for a weekend hangout. You are, in effect, stuck in a situation that you can’t get out of.

So there you have your quick fire guide to how it is. It’s clear and it’s concise and you have to get on with it and you have to damn well deal with it, no matter whatever the weather it is out there!

In life, it doesn’t always go as you want it to, you have to accept things that go wildly against the grains of your beliefs, things that completely destabilize your inner core and peace. And when this happens you need to be able to find a strategy to cope with the discord.

No one said it was going to be easy being an outsider in a foreign country. No one said being a single co-parent was a walk in the park. I am a foreigner but I am also a parent 50% of the time, I parent one week out of two, I have no choice in this, but one of the things that is great about it, is that I’ve ticked choice off my worry list! So here goes, I’m now going to get up close and personal… this is how I did it.

How I made my life less stuck.

  1. I moved out of the area.

    I was living in a village with a population of 1100, the nearest civilisation was 45 minutes drive away. I didn’t have the luxury of choice to move far (co parenting stopped that in its tracks) and so I moved to live in that civilisation. Living overseas is already a lonely existence. Your family, your school friends are not down the road, but living without seeing a soul is even more lonely. Our school run may be long but we love the chats in the car on the way and we love even more that we can ice-skate on the weekends and it’s not a day out for an hour of fun!

    ‘Solitude vivifies; isolation kills.’ Joseph Roux

  2. I learnt the language.

    Living with the restraints of not being able to converse throws some serious limitations into the mix. I now speak the language… it’s certainly not fluent enough to land me a job with the United Nations but it’s broadened my social life no end. Integrating with your world that’s directly around you is so character building and culture rich. In turn you pass this newly found wealth on to your child, not to mention how much easier homework help becomes.

    ‘The limits of my language means the limits of my world.’                   –Wittgenstein

  3. Unconventional is often great, train your mind to be open to it.

    I live in something that I consider to be unconventional. When my life became somewhat bohemian, I had to accept that disregard for my own knowledge of conventional practices and embrace them with open arms. I realized fairly early on that I will always be a foreigner, learning cultural differences was almost as difficult as learning a language!

    ‘To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect.’ 
    Oscar Wilde

  1. Don’t waste your energy on unanswerable questions.

    No one can answer what the future holds, you can only plan one. Some questions just don’t have a solid answer, live your life each day and plan your future to make it amazing…

    ‘So long as you have food in your mouth, you have solved all questions for the time being.’ –Kafka

  1. Careers all have a road leading to them.

    You may have some sparkling masters degree in nuclear physics but if you’re battling with limited language skills and you’re not moveable that road may be pretty much demolished. Someone once told me to work with what I’ve got… so I did! I’ve always been one to write     things down, now I get paid for writing things down, I can do this from the comfort of my own home! 

    ‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.’ –Hubbard

  1. Accept help when it’s on offer and don’t be afraid to ask for it.

    No one said you have to survive on bread and water alone. If there’s government help, take it. If your parents can help, ask them to. And it’s not just about financial help. Sometimes you just need someone at the end of the telephone, nothing more, nothing less … pick it up and dial. You’re not necessarily a burden, but your burden may be something that’s a little too heavy to carry alone, use the shoulders of another when you need it!

    Accepting help is its own kind of strength. –Kiera Cass

  2. Endure incertitude and authorize it.

    You need to understand and accept that life doesn’t always play by the rule book. It’s beyond your control and you need to learn to live alongside this in harmony. It’s surprisingly difficult to do, but if you’re on the bus and you can’t get off so you may as well enjoy the ride somewhat.

    Uncertainty and expectation are the joys of life. Security is an insipid thing. -William Congreve

It’s clear that life is going to always throw something unexpected into the mix of things. Sometimes that mix is a little more colorful than other people’s mixes, but I guess that the moral of the story is that storms never last forever they just come and go. Some are just a minor gust of wind and some are full on hurricanes that need a little rebuilding afterwards. We get through them with a little patience and hard work! Embrace the changes, make them work for you and learn to love your circumstances whatever they may be.


Annabel Rose
About the Author: Annabel Rose

Annabel Rose is a Freelance copywriter and blogger with a massive aim to write some attention grabbing, awesome and newsworthy stuff… particulary if it’s got a French or lifestyle feel to it!

And when the rain or work isn’t stopping some fabulous play you’re likely to find her hanging out with her gorgeous daughter, teaching her all of the tips and tricks on how to daydream and be a true aficionado of life!

Biggest battle so far? French verb conjugation, is it imparfait or passé composé. If you’d like to pen her a gorgeous email with a reasonable answer to that irritating French conundrum, or just get her to write you some fabulous articles, here’s her address ; . You can find out more about Annabel at https://about.me/annabel_rose.

 

4 Comments

Shavonne G

Thank you so much for writing so honestly and candidly. This article really confirmed to me that I am not crazy and perhaps there is someone out there who understands what I am going through. I am so grateful.

Reply
Magnolia

I find myself in this exact same position – stuck in a foreign country with no family or friends, no job and a nasty divorce and custody fight. I feel very overwhelmed by it all. Our move to this foreign was suppose to be temporary but after two years my spouse is now not going anywhere. It is unfair, but it is also real and the probability of a court allowing the relocation to another country (even though it’s the child’s previous home) is so remote I’m questioning my decision to pursue such an option. I would be better served by saving my money to enable me to pay the rent and put food on the table for it’s going to be a long stay in this foreign land. Thank you for your article.

Reply
Louise

I love the sentiments behind this article. It sounds as though you have successfully transferred your frustrations into helpful & positive emotions! A great model for many of life’s situations. I now feel energised to make constructive steps with my own challenges in life. Thank you.

Reply
Meegan

Beautiful. Thank you. I’ll be saving this post to help me navigate future storms more gracefully. What beautiful modelling for the kids.

Reply

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Anxiety is a sign that the brain has registered threat and is mobilising the body to get to safety. One of the ways it does this is by organising the body for movement - to fight the danger or flee the danger. 

If there is no need or no opportunity for movement, that fight or flight fuel will still be looking for expression. This can come out as wriggly, fidgety, hyperactive behaviour. This is why any of us might pace or struggle to sit still when we’re anxious. 

If kids or teens are bouncing around, wriggling in their chairs, or having trouble sitting still, it could be anxiety. Remember with anxiety, it’s not about what is actually safe but about what the brain perceives. New or challenging work, doing something unfamiliar, too much going on, a tired or hungry body, anything that comes with any chance of judgement, failure, humiliation can all throw the brain into fight or flight.

When this happens, the body might feel busy, activated, restless. This in itself can drive even more anxiety in kids or teens. Any of us can struggle when we don’t feel comfortable in our own bodies. 

Anxiety is energy with nowhere to go. To move through anxiety, give the energy somewhere to go - a fast walk, a run, a whole-body shake, hula hooping, kicking a ball - any movement that spends the energy will help bring the brain and body back to calm.♥️
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#parenting #anxietyinkids #childanxiety #parenting #parent
This is not bad behaviour. It’s big behaviour a from a brain that has registered threat and is working hard to feel safe again. 

‘Threat’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what the brain perceives. The brain can perceive threat when there is any chance missing out on or messing up something important, anything that feels unfamiliar, hard, or challenging, feeling misunderstood, thinking you might be angry or disappointed with them, being separated from you, being hungry or tired, anything that pushes against their sensory needs - so many things. 

During anxiety, the amygdala in the brain is switched to high volume, so other big feelings will be too. This might look like tears, sadness, or anger. 

Big feelings have a good reason for being there. The amygdala has the very important job of keeping us safe, and it does this beautifully, but not always with grace. One of the ways the amygdala keeps us safe is by calling on big feelings to recruit social support. When big feelings happen, people notice. They might not always notice the way we want to be noticed, but we are noticed. This increases our chances of safety. 

Of course, kids and teens still need our guidance and leadership and the conversations that grow them, but not during the emotional storm. They just won’t hear you anyway because their brain is too busy trying to get back to safety. In that moment, they don’t want to be fixed or ‘grown’. They want to feel seen, safe and heard. 

During the storm, preserve your connection with them as much as you can. You might not always be able to do this, and that’s okay. None of this is about perfection. If you have a rupture, repair it as soon as you can. Then, when their brains and bodies come back to calm, this is the time for the conversations that will grow them. 

Rather than, ‘What consequences do they need to do better?’, shift to, ‘What support do they need to do better?’ The greatest support will come from you in a way they can receive: ‘What happened?’ ‘What can you do differently next time?’ ‘You’re the most wonderful kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen. How can you put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
Big behaviour is a sign of a nervous system in distress. Before anything, that vulnerable nervous system needs to be brought back home to felt safety. 

This will happen most powerfully with relationship and connection. Breathe and be with. Let them know you get it. This can happen with words or nonverbals. It’s about feeling what they feel, but staying regulated.

If they want space, give them space but stay in emotional proximity, ‘Ok I’m just going to stay over here. I’m right here if you need.’

If they’re using spicy words to make sure there is no confusion about how they feel about you right now, flag the behaviour, then make your intent clear, ‘I know how upset you are and I want to understand more about what’s happening for you. I’m not going to do this while you’re speaking to me like this. You can still be mad, but you need to be respectful. I’m here for you.’

Think of how you would respond if a friend was telling you about something that upset her. You wouldn’t tell her to calm down, or try to fix her (she’s not broken), or talk to her about her behaviour. You would just be there. You would ‘drop an anchor’ and steady those rough seas around her until she feels okay enough again. Along the way you would be doing things that let her know your intent to support her. You’d do this with you facial expressions, your voice, your body, your posture. You’d feel her feels, and she’d feel you ‘getting her’. It’s about letting her know that you understand what she’s feeling, even if you don’t understand why (or agree with why). 

It’s the same for our children. As their important big people, they also need leadership. The time for this is after the storm has passed, when their brains and bodies feel safe and calm. Because of your relationship, connection and their felt sense of safety, you will have access to their ‘thinking brain’. This is the time for those meaningful conversations: 
- ‘What happened?’
- ‘What did I do that helped/ didn’t help?’
- ‘What can you do differently next time?’
- ‘You’re a great kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen, but here we are. What can you do to put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
As children grow, and especially by adolescence, we have the illusion of control but whether or not we have any real influence will be up to them. The temptation to control our children will always come from a place of love. Fear will likely have a heavy hand in there too. When they fall, we’ll feel it. Sometimes it will feel like an ache in our core. Sometimes it will feel like failure or guilt, or anger. We might wish we could have stopped them, pushed a little harder, warned a little bigger, stood a little closer. We’re parents and we’re human and it’s what this parenting thing does. It makes fear and anxiety billow around us like lost smoke, too easily.

Remember, they want you to be proud of them, and they want to do the right thing. When they feel your curiosity over judgement, and the safety of you over shame, it will be easier for them to open up to you. Nobody will guide them better than you because nobody will care more about where they land. They know this, but the magic happens when they also know that you are safe and that you will hold them, their needs, their opinions and feelings with strong, gentle, loving hands, no matter what.♥️
Anger is the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. It has important work to do. Anger never exists on its own. It exists to hold other more vulnerable emotions in a way that feels safer. It’s sometimes feels easier, safer, more acceptable, stronger to feel the ‘big’ that comes with anger, than the vulnerability that comes with anxiety, sadness, loneliness. This isn’t deliberate. It’s just another way our bodies and brains try to keep us safe. 

The problem isn’t the anger. The problem is the behaviour that can come with the anger. Let there be no limits on thoughts and feelings, only behaviour. When children are angry, as long as they are safe and others are safe, we don’t need to fix their anger. They aren’t broken. Instead, drop the anchor: as much as you can - and this won’t always be easy - be a calm, steadying, loving presence to help bring their nervous systems back home to calm. 

Then, when they are truly calm, and with love and leadership, have the conversations that will grow them - 
- What happened? 
- What can you do differently next time?
- You’re a really great kid. I know you didn’t want this to happen but here we are. How can you make things right. Would you like some ideas? Do you need some help with that?
- What did I do that helped? What did I do that didn’t help? Is there something that might feel more helpful next time?

When their behaviour falls short of ‘adorable’, rather than asking ‘What consequences they need to do better?’ let the question be, ‘What support do they need to do better.’ Often, the biggest support will be a conversation with you, and that will be enough.♥️
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#parenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #anxietyinkids

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