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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The temptation to fix their big feelings can be seismic. Often this is connected to needing to ease our own discomfort at their discomfort, which is so very normal.

Big feelings in them are meant to raise (sometimes big) feelings in us. This is all a healthy part of the attachment system. It happens to mobilise us to respond to their distress, or to protect them if their distress is in response to danger.

Emotion is energy in motion. We don’t want to bury it, stop it, smother it, and we don’t need to fix it. What we need to do is make a safe passage for it to move through them. 

Think of emotion like a river. Our job is to hold the ground strong and steady at the banks so the river can move safely, without bursting the banks.

However hard that river is racing, they need to know we can be with the river (the emotion), be with them, and handle it. This might feel or look like you aren’t doing anything, but actually it’s everything.

The safety that comes from you being the strong, steady presence that can lovingly contain their big feelings will let the emotional energy move through them and bring the brain back to calm.

Eventually, when they have lots of experience of us doing this with them, they will learn to do it for themselves, but that will take time and experience. The experience happens every time you hold them steady through their feelings. 

This doesn’t mean ignoring big behaviour. For them, this can feel too much like bursting through the banks, which won’t feel safe. Sometimes you might need to recall the boundary and let them know where the edges are, while at the same time letting them see that you can handle the big of the feeling. Its about loving and leading all at once. ‘It’s okay to be angry. It’s not okay to use those words at me.’

Ultimately, big feelings are a call for support. Sometimes support looks like breathing and being with. Sometimes it looks like showing them you can hold the boundary, even when they feel like they’re about to burst through it. And if they’re using spicy words to get us to back off, it might look like respecting their need for space but staying in reaching distance, ‘Ok, I’m right here whenever you need.’♥️
We all need certain things to feel safe enough to put ourselves into the world. Kids with anxiety have magic in them, every one of them, but until they have a felt sense of safety, it will often stay hidden.

‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what they feel. At school, they might have the safest, most loving teacher in the safest, most loving school. This doesn’t mean they will feel enough relational safety straight away that will make it easier for them to do hard things. They can still do those hard things, but those things are going to feel bigger for a while. This is where they’ll need us and their other anchor adult to be patient, gentle, and persistent.

Children aren’t meant to feel safe with and take the lead from every adult. It’s not the adult’s role that makes the difference, but their relationship with the child.

Children are no different to us. Just because an adult tells them they’ll be okay, it doesn’t mean they’ll feel it or believe it. What they need is to be given time to actually experience the person as being safe, supportive and ready to catch them.

Relationship is key. The need for safety through relationship isn’t an ‘anxiety thing’. It’s a ‘human thing’. When we feel closer to the people around us, we can rise above the mountains in our way. When we feel someone really caring about us, we’re more likely to open up to their influence
and learn from them.

But we have to be patient. Even for teachers with big hearts and who undertand the importance of attachment relationships, it can take time.

Any adult at school can play an important part in helping a child feel safe – as long as that adult is loving, warm, and willing to do the work to connect with that child. It might be the librarian, the counsellor, the office person, a teacher aide. It doesn’t matter who, as long as it is someone who can be available for that child at dropoff or when feelings get big during the day and do little check-ins along the way.

A teacher, or any important adult can make a lasting difference by asking, ‘How do I build my relationship with this child so s/he trusts me when I say, ‘I’ve got you, and I know you can do this.’♥️
There is a beautiful ‘everythingness’ in all of us. The key to living well is being able to live flexibly and more deliberately between our edges.

So often though, the ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’ we inhale in childhood and as we grow, lead us to abandon some of those precious, needed parts of us. ‘Don’t be angry/ selfish/ shy/ rude. She’s not a maths person.’ ‘Don’t argue.’ Ugh.

Let’s make sure our children don’t cancel parts of themselves. They are everything, but not always all at once. They can be anxious and brave. Strong and soft. Angry and calm. Big and small. Generous and self-ish. Some things they will find hard, and they can do hard things. None of these are wrong ways to be. What trips us up is rigidity, and only ever responding from one side of who we can be.

We all have extremes or parts we favour. This is what makes up the beautiful, complex, individuality of us. We don’t need to change this, but the more we can open our children to the possibility in them, the more options they will have in responding to challenges, the everyday, people, and the world. 

We can do this by validating their ‘is’ without needing them to be different for a while in the moment, and also speaking to the other parts of them when we can. 

‘Yes maths is hard, and I know you can do hard things. How can I help?’

‘I can see how anxious you feel. That’s so okay. I also know you have brave in you.’

‘I love your ‘big’ and the way you make us laugh. You light up the room.’ And then at other times: ‘It can be hard being in a room with new people can’t it. It’s okay to be quiet. I could see you taking it all in.’

‘It’s okay to want space from people. Sometimes you just want your things and yourself for yourself, hey. I feel like that sometimes too. I love the way you know when you need this.’ And then at other times, ‘You looked like you loved being with your friends today. I loved watching you share.’

The are everything, but not all at once. Our job is to help them live flexibly and more deliberately between the full range of who they are and who they can be: anxious/brave; kind/self-ish; focussed inward/outward; angry/calm. This will take time, and there is no hurry.♥️
For our kids and teens, the new year will bring new adults into their orbit. With this, comes new opportunities to be brave and grow their courage - but it will also bring anxiety. For some kiddos, this anxiety will feel so big, but we can help them feel bigger.

The antidote to a felt sense of threat is a felt sense of safety. As long as they are actually safe, we can facilitate this by nurturing their relationship with the important adults who will be caring for them, whether that’s a co-parent, a stepparent, a teacher, a coach. 

There are a number of ways we can facilitate this:

- Use the name of their other adult (such as a teacher) regularly, and let it sound loving and playful on your voice.
- Let them see that you have an open, willing heart in relation to the other adult.
- Show them you trust the other adult to care for them (‘I know Mrs Smith is going to take such good care of you.’)
- Facilitate familiarity. As much as you can, hand your child to the same person when you drop them off.

It’s about helping expand their village of loving adults. The wider this village, the bigger their world in which they can feel brave enough. 

For centuries before us, it was the village that raised children. Parenting was never meant to be done by one or two adults on their own, yet our modern world means that this is how it is for so many of us. 

We can bring the village back though - and we must - by helping our kiddos feel safe, known, and held by the adults around them. We need this for each other too.

The need for safety through relationship isn’t an ‘anxiety thing’. It’s a ‘human thing’. When we feel closer to the people around us, we can rise above the mountains that block our way.♥️

That power of felt safety matters for all relationships - parent and child; other adult and child; parent and other adult. It all matters. 

A teacher, or any important adult in the life of a child, can make a lasting difference by asking, ‘How do I build my relationship with this child (and their parent) so s/he trusts me when I say, ‘I’ve got you, I care about you, and I know you can do this.’♥️
Approval, independence, autonomy, are valid needs for all of us. When a need is hungry enough we will be driven to meet it however we can. For our children, this might look like turning away from us and towards others who might be more ready to meet the need, or just taking.

If they don’t feel they can rest in our love, leadership, approval, they will seek this more from peers. There is no problem with this, but we don’t want them solely reliant on peers for these. It can make them vulnerable to making bad decisions, so as not to lose the approval or ‘everythingness’ of those peers.

If we don’t give enough freedom, they might take that freedom through defiance, secrecy, the forbidden. If we control them, they might seek more to control others, or to let others make the decisions that should be theirs.

All kids will mess up, take risks, keep secrets, and do things that baffle us sometimes. What’s important is, ‘Do they turn to us when they need to, enough?’ The ‘turning to’ starts with trusting that we are interested in supporting all their needs, not just the ones that suit us. Of course this doesn’t mean we will meet every need. It means we’ve shown them that their needs are important to us too, even though sometimes ours will be bigger (such as our need to keep them safe).

They will learn safe and healthy ways to meet their needs, by first having them met by us. This doesn’t mean granting full independence, full freedom, and full approval. What it means is holding them safely while also letting them feel enough of our approval, our willingness to support their independence, freedom, autonomy, and be heard on things that matter to them.

There’s no clear line with this. Some days they’ll want independence. Some days they won’t. Some days they’ll seek our approval. Some days they won’t care for it at all, especially if it means compromising the approval of peers. The challenge for us is knowing when to hold them closer and when to give space, when to hold the boundary and when to release it a little, when to collide and when to step out of the way. If we watch and listen, they will show us. And just like them, we won’t need to get it right all the time.♥️

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