You’ve decided to take the plunge and make Aliyah. Mazal tov!
There are many wonderful aspects of moving to Eretz Yisroel but there are potential challenges as well. This article will address some of the potential challenges and how to preempt them by preparing both you and your children as much as possible before you even get on the plane.
Firstly, the way you tell your children about the proposed move can have an impact. Children have a tremendous need for security and a move halfway across the world can certainly threaten their sense of stability. Open communication is vital. Your children need to feel that they are heard, and their concerns must be validated. Obviously, the discussions and approaches should be age appropriate. What and how you share with your five-year-old is very different from what and how you share with your fifteen-year-old. Be understanding. They may not be as excited as you about the move. Encourage them to speak about their feelings and show them that you are going to work together with them to make the move as successful as possible.
One of the most vital parts of acclimation for children is language acquisition. They need to learn Hebrew in order to succeed in school. It would be very helpful to hire a tutor to start teaching them the language, even prior to making Aliyah. An Israeli is preferable as they speak with the appropriate pronunciation and accent. A teen who can play games with your child in Hebrew can also be an option. Setting them up for Zoom sessions with a mentor in Israel can be very helpful as well. Even if they just ‘hang out’ together, your child will know there is someone waiting to help them when they get off the plane. That feeling of security can make a huge difference- knowing that someone has his or her back.
It is important to remember that even the best student will take time to acclimate and settle. In addition to the language itself, the style of learning may be different than what your children are used to. Math is often taught using different methodologies. Reassure your child that it is a process and you do not expect them to excel as they have in the past. Making sure the school understands an Oleh’s capabilities is important as well. Grades will be irrelevant for the first year. Remove the pressure and your child will do much better.
If possible, it would be good for your child to meet kids that will be in their class. This can also be done through Zoom or on a pilot trip if you come with your children. If that is not feasible, it would be good to introduce them after moving, before school actually starts. There will be enough ‘overwhelm’ in other areas. A familiar face on the first day of school will go far in creating a feeling of security.
Your children may be concerned about leaving family and friends behind. In today’s world of technology, it is very easy to keep up regular communication via Zoom, WhatsApp, etc. Let them know that they will not be cut off from important people in their lives.
Even though we are all Jews there will be many cultural differences and societal norms to which you and your children will have to adjust. Keep an open mind and ask, ask, ask. Do not be embarrassed and teach your children the same. Each school has its own expectations and rules. Make sure you understand them before you chose a school. In order for your child to succeed you must all be on the same page. Mixed messages will ensure that your children will not settle well. This applies to the religious realm as well. It is important that you choose a school with which both you and your child will feel comfortable. Beis Yaakov in America is not Beis Yaakov in Israel. Again- ask, ask, ask. A clear understanding, in the beginning, will prevent a lot of unhappiness and confusion later on.
Please remember that the aforementioned challenges will be compounded when making Aliyah with teens. Peers are the most important thing in a teenager’s life and the need to fit in and be accepted is paramount. Academic success is also important to them. Preparing properly is a vital step in your Aliyah process. And remember- communication, communication, communication. Share your fears and struggles. Model for them that it is ok to have concerns and then take the appropriate steps to alleviate them.
We are happy to be here and help your pre- as well as post-Aliyah process. We at EPIC Families have 17 years of experience providing Olim with professional, personal, and confidential services. We have partnered with over 200 schools and have helped more than 8,000 children and their families transition from surviving to thriving, both inside and outside of the classroom.
We look forward to hearing from you and helping you in navigating your family’s Aliyah journey.
This article was written by Shana Pogrow
Director, Parental Resource Center, EPIC Family
* Updated on May 7, 2023 *