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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Big feelings, and the big behaviour that comes from big feelings, are a sign of a distressed nervous system. Think of this like a burning building. The behaviour is the smoke. The fire is a distressed nervous system. It’s so tempting to respond directly to the behaviour (the smoke), but by doing this, we ignore the fire. Their behaviour and feelings in that moment are a call for support - for us to help that distressed brain and body find the way home. 

The most powerful language for any nervous system is another nervous system. They will catch our distress (as we will catch theirs) but they will also catch our calm. It can be tempting to move them to independence on this too quickly, but it just doesn’t work this way. Children can only learn to self-regulate with lots (and lots and lots) of experience co-regulating. 

This isn’t something that can be taught. It’s something that has to be experienced over and over. It’s like so many things - driving a car, playing the piano - we can talk all we want about ‘how’ but it’s not until we ‘do’ over and over that we get better at it. 

Self-regulation works the same way. It’s not until children have repeated experiences with an adult bringing them back to calm, that they develop the neural pathways to come back to calm on their own. 

An important part of this is making sure we are guiding that nervous system with tender, gentle hands and a steady heart. This is where our own self-regulation becomes important. Our nervous systems speak to each other every moment of every day. When our children or teens are distressed, we will start to feel that distress. It becomes a loop. We feel what they feel, they feel what we feel. Our own capacity to self-regulate is the circuit breaker. 

This can be so tough, but it can happen in microbreaks. A few strong steady breaths can calm our own nervous system, which we can then use to calm theirs. Breathe, and be with. It’s that simple, but so tough to do some days. When they come back to calm, then have those transformational chats - What happened? What can make it easier next time?

Who you are in the moment will always be more important than what you do.
How we are with them, when they are their everyday selves and when they aren’t so adorable, will build their view of three things: the world, its people, and themselves. This will then inform how they respond to the world and how they build their very important space in it. 

Will it be a loving, warm, open-hearted space with lots of doors for them to throw open to the people and experiences that are right for them? Or will it be a space with solid, too high walls that close out too many of the people and experiences that would nourish them.

They will learn from what we do with them and to them, for better or worse. We don’t teach them that the world is safe for them to reach into - we show them. We don’t teach them to be kind, respectful, and compassionate. We show them. We don’t teach them that they matter, and that other people matter, and that their voices and their opinions matter. We show them. We don’t teach them that they are little joy mongers who light up the world. We show them. 

But we have to be radically kind with ourselves too. None of this is about perfection. Parenting is hard, and days will be hard, and on too many of those days we’ll be hard too. That’s okay. We’ll say things we shouldn’t say and do things we shouldn’t do. We’re human too. Let’s not put pressure on our kiddos to be perfect by pretending that we are. As long as we repair the ruptures as soon as we can, and bathe them in love and the warmth of us as much as we can, they will be okay.

This also isn’t about not having boundaries. We need to be the guardians of their world and show them where the edges are. But in the guarding of those boundaries we can be strong and loving, strong and gentle. We can love them, and redirect their behaviour.

It’s when we own our stuff(ups) and when we let them see us fall and rise with strength, integrity, and compassion, and when we hold them gently through the mess of it all, that they learn about humility, and vulnerability, and the importance of holding bruised hearts with tender hands. It’s not about perfection, it’s about consistency, and honesty, and the way we respond to them the most.♥️

#parenting #mindfulparenting
Anxiety and courage always exist together. It can be no other way. Anxiety is a call to courage. It means you're about to do something brave, so when there is one the other will be there too. Their courage might feel so small and be whisper quiet, but it will always be there and always ready to show up when they need it to.
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But courage doesn’t always feel like courage, and it won't always show itself as a readiness. Instead, it might show as a rising - from fear, from uncertainty, from anger. None of these mean an absence of courage. They are the making of space, and the opportunity for courage to rise.
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When the noise from anxiety is loud and obtuse, we’ll have to gently add our voices to usher their courage into the light. We can do this speaking of it and to it, and by shifting the focus from their anxiety to their brave. The one we focus on is ultimately what will become powerful. It will be the one we energise. Anxiety will already have their focus, so we’ll need to make sure their courage has ours.
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But we have to speak to their fear as well, in a way that makes space for it to be held and soothed, with strength. Their fear has an important job to do - to recruit the support of someone who can help them feel safe. Only when their fear has been heard will it rest and make way for their brave.
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What does this look like? Tell them their stories of brave, but acknowledge the fear that made it tough. Stories help them process their emotional experiences in a safe way. It brings word to the feelings and helps those big feelings make sense and find containment. ‘You were really worried about that exam weren’t you. You couldn’t get to sleep the night before. It was tough going to school but you got up, you got dressed, you ... and you did it. Then you ...’
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In the moment, speak to their brave by first acknowledging their need to flee (or fight), then tell them what you know to be true - ‘This feels scary for you doesn’t it. I know you want to run. It makes so much sense that you would want to do that. I also know you can do hard things. My darling, I know it with everything in me.’
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#positiveparenting #parenting #childanxiety #anxietyinchildren #mindfulpare
Separation anxiety has an important job to do - it’s designed to keep children safe by driving them to stay close to their important adults. Gosh it can feel brutal sometimes though.

Whenever there is separation from an attachment person there will be anxiety unless there are two things: attachment with another trusted, loving adult; and a felt sense of you holding on, even when you aren't beside them. Putting these in place will help soften anxiety.

As long as children are are in the loving care of a trusted adult, there's no need to avoid separation. We'll need to remind ourselves of this so we can hold on to ourselves when our own anxiety is rising in response to theirs. 

If separation is the problem, connection has to be the solution. The connection can be with any loving adult, but it's more than an adult being present. It needs an adult who, through their strong, warm, loving presence, shows the child their abundant intention to care for that child, and their joy in doing so. This can be helped along by showing that you trust the adult to love that child big in our absence. 'I know [important adult] loves you and is going to take such good care of you.'

To help your young one feel held on to by you, even in absence, let them know you'll be thinking of them and can't wait to see them. Bolster this by giving them something of yours to hold while you're gone - a scarf, a note - anything that will be felt as 'you'.

They know you are the one who makes sure their world is safe, so they’ll be looking to you for signs of safety: 'Do you think we'll be okay if we aren't together?' First, validate: 'You really want to stay with me, don't you. I wish I could stay with you too! It's hard being away from your special people isn't it.' Then, be their brave. Let it be big enough to wrap around them so they can rest in the safety and strength of it: 'I know you can do this, love. We can do hard things can't we.'

Part of growing up brave is learning that the presence of anxiety doesn't always mean something is wrong. Sometimes it means they are on the edge of brave - and being away from you for a while counts as brave.
Even the most loving, emotionally available adult might feel frustration, anger, helplessness or distress in response to a child’s big feelings. This is how it’s meant to work. 

Their distress (fight/flight) will raise distress in us. The purpose is to move us to protect or support or them, but of course it doesn’t always work this way. When their big feelings recruit ours it can drive us more to fight (anger, blame), or to flee (avoid, ignore, separate them from us) which can steal our capacity to support them. It will happen to all of us from time to time. 

Kids and teens can’t learn to manage big feelings on their own until they’ve done it plenty of times with a calm, loving adult. This is where co-regulation comes in. It helps build the vital neural pathways between big feelings and calm. They can’t build those pathways on their own. 

It’s like driving a car. We can tell them how to drive as much as we like, but ‘talking about’ won’t mean they’re ready to hit the road by themselves. Instead we sit with them in the front seat for hours, driving ‘with’ until they can do it on their own. Feelings are the same. We feel ‘with’, over and over, until they can do it on their own. 

What can help is pausing for a moment to see the behaviour for what it is - a call for support. It’s NOT bad behaviour or bad parenting. It’s not that.

Our own feelings can give us a clue to what our children are feeling. It’s a normal, healthy, adaptive way for them to share an emotional load they weren’t meant to carry on their own. Self-regulation makes space for us to hold those feelings with them until those big feelings ease. 

Self-regulation can happen in micro moments. First, see the feelings or behaviour for what it is - a call for support. Then breathe. This will calm your nervous system, so you can calm theirs. In the same way we will catch their distress, they will also catch ours - but they can also catch our calm. Breathe, validate, and be ‘with’. And you don’t need to do more than that.

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