Moving From Qatar?

Transition – Leaving

While moving can be in many ways exciting and positive, it also inevitably entails a sWinnie 1ense of loss.



What are some of the possible losses?

  • Friends
  • Being seen a certain way
  • Knowing how things are done
  • For some, as much family closeness
  • Sense of control over one’s own destiny
  • Involvement with certain activities


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What are some ways that kids express their feelings of loss / lack of control / fears of the future?

  • May be negative, argumentative or angry
  • May break family rules and expectations
  • May become withdrawn or over-sensitive
  • May be excessively helpful and obedient, quiet and complacent
  • May need more reassurance then usual about all sorts of things
  • May be “clingy”
  • May regress to earlier behaviors

These are all normal responses. However if your child doesn’t acknowledge and process his/her sense of loss now, more serious consequences can result.

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Age Differentiated Issues

While any of these reactions can occur in any age group, they occur with the most frequency in the following age groups.


  • Separation worries
  • Need for connections
  • Need for a part in the move / responsibilities
  • Difficulty understanding what’s really happening

Primary School:

  • Dislike of change
  • Need for security of everyday routines
  • Need to know about familiar and/or positive change in a new environment

Middle and Senior School:

  • Loss of friends and peers
  • Concern about fitting in / being accepted
  • Loss of control or independence
  • Stress of losing status and being unknown
  • Stress of not knowing the new routines


Suggested Strategies

  • Organize a “Goodbye/Farewell “party for both adults and children so you can formalize the goodbye process. Ice cream sundae party, movie party, theme park outing, pool party, etc.
  • Saying goodbye is extremely important to prevent unprocessed “emotional baggage” later on for both children and adults.
  • Have the children make a special “Memory scrapbook”.
  • Give your child a disposable or digital camera so they can take their own photos of special people and places.
  • Have your child pack one special box (just for them) with what they want to keep.
  • Stay connected with your special friends here after you move because they will be missing you.
  • Give yourself a special treat (going to a spa, Etc.) and just be easy on yourself. You are doing a great deal of hard work and it is an emotional time.
  • Phone/email the new school with questions before you arrive. Children can also look on the new school website to prepare themselves.
  • Keep on thinking positively and talking positively about the move. It is an opportunity to have a fresh start.
  • Research the new location as much as possible.
  • Remember that children are resilient and can adapt quickly.More Strategies
  • Make a family chart together listing the pros and cons about living here and then the pros and cons of the new location. E.g. What I will miss? What I am looking forward to?
  • Be honest with the children about the reasons for the move.
  • Buy books or look at movies about moving and/or about the new location.
  • Be aware that reverse culture shock will exist for a period of time if you are moving back to your home country. You have changed in your outlook and experiences.
  • Be a ‘tourist’ when back in your home country and travel more.
  • Make paper chain with the links representing the countdown to the move. Each evening your children remove one link.
  • Make a countdown calendar and post it where all the family can see it.
  • Use the Skype system and email to keep in touch and allow your children the chance to communicate with technology.
  • Have children make special “Let’s Keep in Touch” cards with contact information.
  • Explain to your children exactly what moving involves: packing boxes, moving company, Etc. Do not assume that children understand the process.
  • Allow your children some choice in decorating their new bedrooms and talk about this ahead of time.
  • Sit with your children and make a list together of what is positive and what is negative about the move.
  • The children can pack their own airplane carry-on bag with important items/treats.
  • “Wherever you go a little bit of you stays behind”.
  • Life in the new location will be different but keep an open mind. Remember that your reaction to transition sets the tone for your children’s adjustment.Winnie 3


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Adolescent Adolescents

I don’t know what to do with him/her? is a common refrain from parents regarding their teenagers.

This week, I came across a podcast that discusses the root causes this transformation. Please find it here. It’s definitely engaging, and enlightening, albeit cold comfort. The experts say that there is not much to do: the teenage brain is the teenage brain. However, not much is not nothing!

Here are some tips:

  1. Educate Yourself

Read books about teenagers. Think back on your own teen years. Remember your struggles. Expect some mood changes in your typically sunny child, and be prepared for more conflict as he or she matures as an individual. Parents who know what’s coming can cope with it better. And the more you know, the better you can prepare.


  1. Talk to Kids Early and Often

Starting to talk changes after they’ve already begun is starting too late. Answer the early questions kids have, but don’t overload them with information just answer their questions. If you don’t know the answers, get them from someone who does, like a trusted friend or your pediatrician.


The earlier you open the lines of communication, the better your chances of keeping them open through the teen years. Give your child books on puberty written for kids going through it. Share memories of your own adolescence. There’s nothing like knowing that mom or dad went through it, too, to put kids more at ease.


  1. Put Yourself in Your Child’s Place

Practice empathy by helping your child understand that it’s normal to be a bit concerned or self-conscious, and that it’s OK to feel grown-up one minute and like a kid the next.


  1. Pick Your Battles

If teenagers want to dye their hair, paint their fingernails black, or wear funky clothes, think twice before you object. Teens want to shock their parents and it’s a lot better to let them do something temporary and harmless; save your objections for things that really matter.


Ask why your teen wants to dress or look a certain way and try to understand how your teen is feeling. You also might want to discuss how others might perceive them if they look different help your teen understand how he or she might be viewed.


  1. Set Expectations

Teens might act unhappy about the expectations their parents place on them. Still, they usually understand and need to know that their parents care enough about them to expect certain things such as good grades, acceptable behavior, and sticking to the house rules. If parents have appropriate expectations, teens will likely try to meet them. Without reasonable expectations, your teen may feel you don’t care about him or her.


  1. Inform Your Teen and Stay Informed Yourself

The teen years often are a time of experimentation, and sometimes that experimentation includes risky behaviors. Discussing tough topics openly with kids before they’re exposed to them actually makes it more likely that they’ll act responsibly when the time comes. Share your family values with your teen and talk about what you believe is right and wrong, and why.


Know your child’s friends and know their friends’ parents. Regular communication between parents can go a long way toward creating a safe environment for all teens in a peer group. Parents can help each other keep track of the kids’ activities without making the kids feel that they’re being watched.


  1. Know the Warning Signs

A certain amount of change is normal during the teen years. But too drastic or long-lasting a switch in personality or behavior may signal real trouble the kind that needs professional help. Watch for these warning signs:

  1. extreme weight gain or loss
  2. sleep problems
  3. rapid, drastic changes in personality
  4. sudden change in friends
  5. skipping school often
  6. falling grades
  7. talk or even jokes about self-harm


Any other inappropriate behavior that lasts for more than 6 weeks can be a sign of underlying trouble, too. You may expect a glitch or two in your teen’s behavior or grades during this time, but your A/B student shouldn’t suddenly be failing, and your normally outgoing kid shouldn’t suddenly become constantly withdrawn. Your doctor or a local counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist can help you find proper counseling.


  1. Respect Kids’ Privacy

Some parents, understandably, have a very hard time with this one. They may feel that anything their kids do is their business. But to help your teen become a young adult, you’ll need to grant some privacy. If you notice warning signs of trouble, then you can invade your child’s privacy until you get to the heart of the problem. But otherwise, it’s a good idea to back off.


In other words, your teenager’s room, texts, e-mails, and phone calls should be private. You also shouldn’t expect your teen to share all thoughts or activities with you at all times. Of course, for safety reasons, you should always know where teens are going, when they’ll be returning, what they’re doing, and with whom, but you don’t need to know every detail. And you definitely shouldn’t expect to be invited along!

Start with trust. Tell your teen that you trust him or her, but if the trust gets broken, he or she will enjoy fewer freedoms until it’s rebuilt.


  1. Monitor What Kids See and Read

TV shows, magazines and books, the Internet — kids have access to tons of information. Be aware of what yours watch and read. Don’t be afraid to set limits on the amount of time spent in front of the computer or the TV. Know what they’re learning from the media and who they may be communicating with online.


Teens shouldn’t have unlimited access to TV or the Internet in private these should be public activities. Access to technology also should be limited after certain hours (for example, 10 p.m. or so) to encourage adequate sleep. It’s not unreasonable to have cellphones and computers off limits after a certain time.


  1. Make Appropriate Rules

Bedtime for a teenager should be age appropriate, just as it was when your child was a baby. Teens still need about 8-9 hours of sleep. Encourage your teen to stick to a sleep schedule that will meet those needs.


Reward your teen for being trustworthy. Has he or she kept to a 10 p.m. curfew on weekends? Move it to 10:30 p.m. And does a teen always have to go along on family outings? Encourage a reasonable amount of family time together, but be flexible. Don’t be insulted when your growing child doesn’t always want to be with you. Think back: You probably felt the same way about your mom and dad.


Will This Ever Be Over?

As kids progress through the teen years, you’ll notice a slowing of the highs and lows of adolescence. And, eventually, they’ll become independent, responsible, communicative young adults.


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You Thinking of Uni?

October was a month of college prep for our upper MYP and DP students here at SEK: We visited Education
City, held a Canadian university fair, and were welcomed by Qatar University for a tailor-made tour. Lots of
students received inspiration, some gained surety, and others now have more questions than when we
began! All in all, we can be sure that our students have excellent options for undergraduate study, whether
here in Qatar or further afield. Deciding where to choose to go remains the challenge.
The dean at the University of Pennsylvania offers the following framework for guidance in choosing the right school on his blog:


  1. Culture:
    • What is the history and mission of the institution. How is the mission relevant today?
  2. Curriculum:
    • More than a listing of majors and programs, what is the design and aim of the courses you will take over 4 years?
  3. Community:
    • Who are the people, the physical spaces of campus and the relationship of the campus to the local environment?
  4. Conclusions:
    • What should I envision for myself at the end of my college experience
    • What are some of the outcomes I may expect?


These four Cs are good place to start when students are deciding what school they want to be a part of in the next chunk of their lives. As a prudent parent, I would go ahead and add a fifth C: Cost. It is a very necessary discussion to have!

All of a our students will find welcoming places around the world. As directed above, I encourage them to look beyond a course title, or school name when making that determination, and to ask: What will my day-to-day be like there? What will my classes actually be about? How will this program serve me in my future endeavors?

I am here to help students pore over course details and catalogs, to get in touch with program supervisors,
and find illustrative answers to questions that may help guide their choices. Please have these conversations
at home, and check in with me if you too have questions! It is my pleasure and privilege to be a part of this
exciting time in our students’ lives.

The Power of Yet…

Gotta love Sesame Street!


“Do you want to grow up to be an author, an astronaut, a scientist, or a doctor? That’s great! But maybe you don’t know how many bones are in an arm or even how to spell…yet. Believe in yourself, work hard, stay focused, and one day you’ll get to where you want to be. That’s the power of yet.”

The Growth Mindset

What is the growth mindset?

Have you ever really struggled with a new concept? How did you feel? Were you able you overcome? How?

Research shows that mindset greatly affects how well one succeeds in new or challenging situations. To simplify it, I’ll quote Henry Ford, “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.”

What does this mean to our students? The most successful students know that they can grow their brain, retrain themselves to improve, and get better by learning from their mistakes.

When you fail, do you criticize yourself, or your approach? Do you try again?

Being willing to try again after a failure is key. Students, especially those who sit quietly puzzled for fear of looking dumb, are incapable of reaching their potential if they follow this path. Asking questions, making attempts, and yes, failing, are what help us learn. This messaging needs to make it to our students’ ears. When we fail, we must reflect and evaluate, and then try again.

When you succeed, is it just because you are super smart, or because you have mastered your strategy through trial and error?

Most masters at anything will tell you, they are not intrinsically their most capable, but they have become so with thoughtful, continued effort.  We must praise the process, not the person to ensure students continually take responsibility for their results, and reinvest in themselves.

Below is a great site for parents to consult. We can help our students succeed by giving them the gift of a growth mindset. It is not an instantaneous shift, but a practice best adopted familially  and communally.



Meet Your Counsellor!


My name is Ester Martinez and I am the Preschool and PYP Counsellor, as well as some MYP. I have joined SEK-Qatar this academic year, and I would love meeting you truly. Do not hesitate to stop by the office and say hi!

I have been working with children, families, and schools for the last 7 years. My background is in psychology and school counselling and I have performed as a therapist and counsellor in a clinic as well.

This is my 4th year in Doha. I came with my husband; but now, we have a new furry member in the family, Thai.

 Where you can find me:


Meet Your New Counsellor!

I am happy to join the SEK family! I bring with me over a decade of international experience in teaching, and a heartfelt belief that education is what changes our world for the better. I have joined the counselling field with this in mind. I will be working with MYP and DP students. This year SEK Qatar will congratulate their first graduating class, and it is my honour and duty to find them great places in university next year.

Personally, I am a Canadian with a well-worn passport. My dear husband Niall teaches MYP English at the school, and our twin girls, Freyja and Juno, will join us on campus next year in the P3 program. Doha is feeling like home already!

Please feel free to contact me! My office is just above the cafeteria, so pop by. You can also email anytime at


Homework tips for parents of SEK students.

 Here are some tips to help you to support your child to do their homework.  

  • Some students report feeling the expectations of their parents.
    This could be because parents don’t want them to make the mistakes they made or maybe it’s a family culture of having ‘high aspirations and achievement’.
    Although this is understandable, discuss with your child/ren what is going to motivate them.
  • Students who are struggling may have got a 3/7 grade (for example).  In the past, they might have thought of this as ‘not very good’ but now will perceive it as being ‘okay’.
    This could be to avoid self-punishment or seeing their achievement as failure.
  • Sometimes, studying can be counter-productive as it can lead to resentment and low motivation to achieve potential.
    Therefore, encourage your child/ren to produce into their study timetables ‘free time’.
    Free-time’ can act as a reward and it can also be ‘substitute’ time to do work or study when the planned time does not work out for whatever reason.

Please see this document for information on tips which could help your child whilst doing their homework.

Cyberbullying – Be a RISK TAKER…

This week I spent time with the Grade 7 discussing Cyberbullying. We focused on creating safe communities and how this ties in with our IB Mission to create a more peaceful world.  We looked at how working toward global peace starts within our smaller communities.  The students were quite engaged and concerned about creating a safe place to learn and all agreed to working toward making our SEK Community a peaceful place by acting as “upstanders”.

An “upstander” is someone who recognizes when something is wrong and acts to make it right. When an upstander sees or hears about someone being bullied, they speak up. Being an upstander is being a hero: we are standing up for what is right and doing our best to help support and protect someone who is being hurt. In many ways, this is another word for being socially responsible. Or to put it in IB terms we need to be principled, caring and risk takers!!



Today I’ve been thinking about Friendships. Not only is it a focus at school, but it is a topic we all can relate to no matter our age. Our children are just learning how to be good friends and often need the guidance of their parents. So what can parents do to support their children with friendships?

Social Issues: What Can Parents Do?

While you can’t live your child’s social life for her, there are some things you can do to help.

  • Trust the power of friendship. Most kids figure out how to handle their close friendships and circles of friends quite well. Most will get through some rejection and even betrayals without long-term scars, particularly when they have parents who are good listeners, but not fixers.Silhouette, group of happy children playing on meadow, sunset, s
  • Meet the parents of your child’s friends. Whether you have preschoolers or high schoolers, get to know the parents of your children’s friends.
  • Have reasonable expectations about your child’s social skills. Children develop the ability to become more mutual, reciprocal and empathic over time. Most two-year-olds will not share easily. Many preschoolers (and school age kids) don’t play well in groups, but do well in pairs. Most kids will be rejected by a few kids and be the rejecter.
  • Value friendships over popularity. You cannot make your child become a popular kid. But you can make sure your child has friends by inviting them over. Focusing on healthy friendships is much more important then being with the “Cool kids”“
  • Interview for coping, instead of pain. When children experience social rejection, we often experience it with them. But it doesn’t help when you dwell on it by asking excessive questions, or trying to figure it out for them. Instead of “interviewing for pain,” ask what they’ve done to solve the situation, compliment their efforts, and let your child know you are there. Keep in mind that best friends will get along, fight bitterly, and make up faster than adults. They are simply more flexible and resilient.
    Ask your child empowering questions. Encourage your child to solve social problems himself by asking instead of telling him what to do
  • Only help when your child truly needs or asks for help. When this happens, you might simply ask “What would you like me to do to help?” Try to help your child figure out his own solution. If your child has trouble verbalizing his feelings, you might help by putting words to them, like “You seem like you feel left out” without imposing your feelings on the situation.
  • Dissect the power struggles. If your child gets teased, bullied, or rejected, try to help your child find perspective on the behavior. Instead of saying, “That kid is so mean,” or getting into the details of who did what, you might say, “How does this person get so much power?” or “What gives her the power to do that?” In this way you are naming the behavior, raising awareness of it, and helping your child disengage from the struggle.”autism-power-struggle
  • Consider both sides of a story. As much as you love and trust your child, you should listen to both versions of a conflict if it’s one that needs your intervention or assessment.
  • Separate your childhood from your child’s. Your child’s social life is not likely to be the same as yours. “We often use our own experiences as children as a vehicle to understand our child’s social interactions,” notes Diane Levin, Ph.D., author of “Remote Control Childhood.” “This doesn’t take into account the fact that our children’s experiences can often be very different than our own. So try to think about what the social relationships mean from your child’s point of view.”
  • Talk with a professional. If a school conflict is really big, encourage your child to talk with the school counselor about it. And talk with the school or a professional yourself.keep-calm-and-see-your-school-counselor-13
  • Figure out if your child is at risk. If you have a child who is an extreme loner, a bully or someone who gets frequently bullied, you should talk to your child’s teacher and a School Counselor. Describe what you observe, find out what they see, and get some advice on how to help. Ask the teacher to be direct if she perceives there is a problem. If this is a group teasing issue, ask the school about group actions. If warranted, consider some therapy for your child and yourself.

This article is adapted from: