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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Follow Hey Sigmund on Instagram

Behaviour is never from ‘bad’. It’s from ‘big’. Big hungry, big tired, big disconnection, big missing, big ‘too much right now’. The reason our responses might not work can often be because we’ve misread the story, or we’ve missed an important piece of it. Their story might be about now, today, yesterday, or any of the yesterdays before now. 

Our job isn’t to fix them. They aren’t broken. Our job is to understand them. Only then can we steer our response in the right direction. Otherwise we’re throwing darts at the wrong target - behaviour, instead of the need behind the behaviour. 

Watch, listen, breathe and be with. Feel what they feel. This will help them feel you with them. We all feel safer and calmer when we feel our people beside us - not judging or hurrying or questioning. What don’t you know, that they need you to know?♥️
We all have first up needs. The difference between adults and children is that we can delay the meeting of these needs for a bit longer than children - but we still need them met. 

The first most important question the brain needs answered is, ‘Is my body safe?’ - Am I free from threat, hunger, exhaustion, pain? This is usually an easier one to take care of or to recognise when it might need some attention. 

The next most important question is, ‘Is my heart safe?’ - Am I loved, noticed, valued, claimed, wanted, welcome? This can be an easy one to overlook, especially in the chaos of the morning. Of course we love them and want them - and sometimes we’ll get distracted, annoyed, frustrated, irritated. None of this changes how much we love and want them - not even for a second. We can feel two things at once - madly in love with them and annoyed/ distracted/ frustrated. Sometimes though, this can leave their ‘Is my heart safe?’ needs a little hungry. They have less capacity than us to delay the meeting of these needs. When these needs are hungry, we’ll be more likely to see big feelings or big behaviour. 

The more you can fill their love tanks at the start of the day, the more they’ll be able to handle the bumps. This doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be enough. It might look like having a cuddle, reading a story, having a chat, sitting with them while they have breakfast or while they pat the dog, touching their back when they walk past, telling them you love them.

All brains need to feel loved and wanted, and as though they aren’t a nuisance, but sometimes they’ll need to feel it more. The more their felt sense of relational safety is met, the more they’ll be able to then focus on ‘thinking brain’ things, such as planning, making good decisions, co-operating, behaving. 

(And if this today was a bumpy one, that’s okay. Those days are going to happen. If most of the time their love tanks are full, they’ll handle when it drops a little. Just top it up when you can. And don’t forget to top yours up too. Be kind to yourself. You deserve it as much as they do.)♥️
Things will always go wrong - a bad decision, a good decision with a bad outcome, a dilemma, wanting something that comes with risk. 

Often, the ‘right thing’ lives somewhere in the very blurry bounds of the grey. Sometimes it will be about what’s right for them. Sometimes what’s right for others. Sometimes it will be about taking a risk, and sometimes the ‘right’ thing just feels wrong right now, or wrong for them. Even as adults, we will often get things wrong. This isn’t because we’re bad, or because we don’t know the right thing from the wrong thing, but because few things are black and white. 

The problem with punishment and harsh consequences is that we remove ourselves as an option for them to turn to next time things end messy, or as a guide before the mess happens. 

Feeling safe in our important relationships is a primary need for all of us humans. That means making sure our relationships are free from judgement, humiliation, shame, separation. If our response to their ‘wrong things’ is to bring all of these things to the table we share with them with them, of course they’ll do anything to avoid it. This isn’t about lying or secrecy. It’s about maintaining relational ‘safety’, or closeness.

Kids want to do the right thing. They want us to love and accept them. But they’re going to get things wrong sometimes. When they do, our response will teach them either that we are safe for them to come to no matter what, or that we aren’t. 

So what do we do when things go wrong? Embrace them, reject the behaviour:

‘I love that you’ve been honest with me. That means everything to me. I know you didn’t expect things to end up like this, but here we are. Let’s talk about what’s happened and what can be different next time.’

Or, ‘Something must have made this (wrong thing) feel like the right thing to do, otherwise you wouldn’t have done it. We all do that sometimes. What do you think it was that was for you?’

Or, ‘I know you know lying isn’t okay. What made you feel like you couldn’t tell me the truth? How can we build the trust again. Let’s talk about how to do that.’

You will always be their greatest guide, but you can only be that if they let you.♥️
Whenever there is a call to courage, there will be anxiety - every time. That’s what makes it brave. This is why challenging things, brave things, important things will often drive anxiety. 

At these times - when they are safe, but doing something hard - the feelings that come with anxiety will be enough to drive avoidance. When it is avoidance of a threat, that’s important. That’s anxiety doing it’s job. But when the avoidance is in response to things that are important, brave, meaningful, that avoidance only serves to confirm the deficiency story. This is when we want to support them to take tiny steps towards that brave thing. It doesn’t have to happen all at once.l and it doesn’t matter how long it takes. Brave is about being able to handle the discomfort of anxiety enough to do the important, challenging thing. It’s built in tiny steps, one after the other. 

We don’t have to get rid of their anxiety and neither do they. They can feel anxious, and do brave. At these times (safe, but scary) they need us to take a posture of validation and confidence. ‘I believe you, and I believe in you.’ ‘I know this feels big, and I know you can handle it.’ 

What we’re saying is we know they can handle the discomfort of anxiety. They don’t have to handle it well, and they don’t have to handle it for too long. Handling it is handling it, and that’s the substance of ‘brave’. 

Being brave isn’t about doing the brave thing, but about being able to handle the discomfort of the anxiety that comes with that. And if they’ve done that today, at all, or for a moment longer than yesterday, then they’ve been brave today. It doesn’t matter how messy it was or how small it was. Let them see their brave through your eyes.‘That was big for you wasn’t it. And you did it. You felt anxious, and you stayed with it. That’s what being brave is all about.’♥️
A relationally unsafe (emotionally unsafe) environment can cause as much breakage as as a physically unsafe one. 

The brain’s priority will always be safety, so if a person or environment doesn’t feel emotionally safe, we might see big behaviour, avoidance, or reduced learning. In this case, it isn’t the child that’s broken. It’s the environment.

But here’s the thing, just because a child doesn’t feel safe, doesn’t mean the person or environment isn’t safe. What it means is that there aren’t enough signals of safety - yet, and there’s a little more work to do to build this. ‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, it’s about what the brain perceives. Children might have the safest, warmest, most loving adult in front of them, but that doesn’t mean they’ll feel safe. This is when we have to look at how we might extend bigger cues of warmth, welcome, inclusiveness, and what we can do (or what roles or responsibilities can we give them) to help them feel valued and needed. This might take time, and that’s okay. Children aren’t meant to feel safe with every adult in front of them, so sometimes what they need most is our patience and understanding as we continue to build this. 

This is the way it works for all of us, everywhere. None of us will be able to give our best or do our best if we don’t feel welcome, liked, valued, and free from hostility, humiliation or judgement. 

This is especially important for our schools. A brain that doesn’t feel safe can’t learn. For schools to be places of learning, they first have to be places of relationship. Before we focus too sharply on learning support and behaviour management, we first have to focus on felt sense of safety support. The most powerful way to do this is through relationship. Teachers who do this are magic-makers. They show a phenomenal capacity to expand a child’s capacity to learn, calm big behaviour, and open up a child’s world. But relationships take time, and felt safety takes time. The time it takes for this to happen is all part of the process. It’s not a waste of time, it’s the most important use of it.♥️

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This