Dr. Aviva Goldstein is an educational consultant and family counselor. Her private practice focuses on child and adolescent development, parenting and family cohesion. After making Aliyah from New York, she now lives with her family in Jerusalem. She can be contacted at DrAvivaGoldstein@gmail.com
Any transition can be challenging. Moving to a new country, across the world, and starting from scratch in a foreign language can be daunting. Here are some simple ways that you can make the move slightly easier for you and for your children.
Work on your Hebrew
No one expects new Olim (immigrants) to climb down from the plane and be fluent in Hebrew, but the broader the vocabulary you have, the easier things will be. While still living abroad, you can hire a local tutor, find an online Ulpan or download any number of apps to build toward fluency. Guide your kids to develop a collection of words that will be helpful and relevant to their lives here (NBN has an great kids dictionary you can download here). Knowing basic words like “bathroom” or “pencil case” can be comforting to kids, as can phrases like, “can I use the phone” or “what time is it?” Accessing language helps us access our experiences, and having Hebrew in your toolbox is a great way to help ease the transition.
Being able to sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star is a result of being immersed in Anglo culture, either because of your experience as a child or a parent. The same goes for knowing the names (and the music) of contemporary musicians. Start immersing yourself and your kids in Israeli music before the move. Most Israeli radio stations have live streaming on their websites (as well as social media channels) and your younger ones can watch videos on YouTube of classic Israeli preschool songs or TV shows. There will be so much that your kids won’t know for a while, let them at least know the songs that their new friends will be singing. Especially for your older kids, it’s one step closer to fitting in and feeling at home.
Join as many relevant social media groups as you can find. A quick search will help you connect with Anglo parents in Israel, veteran Olim who are happy to offer help, as well as others boarding flights in the coming months. Nefesh B’Nefesh runs a number of active and vibrant Facebook groups, so join the conversation. Wondering how to navigate the system here with a child with ADHD? There’s a group for that. Trying to figure out the best Kupat Cholim (health care provider) in your area? Chances are there’s an English community group for that. Use search terms that are relevant to your needs and take advantage of the access to ask as many questions as you can.
Images to help imagine
It’s common to feel anxious about the unknown. Thanks to the internet, you can minimize some of the mystery for your kids (and yourself!) Take advantage of Google Street View to look at possible neighborhoods, schools and parks. Search for pictures of ice cream shops, supermarkets, and places you might visit on vacations. The more kids can envision what life might actually look like, the less unknown there is to fear. (Even Shalom Sesame, which is geared towards younger kids, often has great videos of contemporary Israel.)
Talk it out!
Find times to have clear and detailed conversations with your kids. Why are you making this move? What are you hoping your family will gain? What makes you excited about Aliyah? What are you nervous about? Research shows us that parents make assumptions that their kids already know why their parents make decisions, but in reality that assumption is often unfounded. So don’t assume your kids already know your fundamental motivations behind this move – say it out loud and be honest with them. And even if they do know it, it doesn’t hurt to repeat it – you’ll even remind yourself in the process.
Galgalatz (the IDF’s music radio station)
Kol Chai (Haredi radio station)
Hop! Children’s TV Playlist