It’s official! Our family made aliyah to join Neve Chabad a full four years ago! It’s been an incredible journey, and we’ve learned a lot along the way.

Arriving at Ben Gurion Airport, four years ago.

Mostly, we’ve learnt that it is possible to make dreams a reality – even when the road ahead might seem bumpy. The process of moving across the world and starting a new life, especially with a bunch of kids, can be overwhelming. But with all challenges come growth and lessons learned.

Here are the lessons we’ve learned about keeping things together when you arrive and making Aliyah smoother for children:

Learn Hebrew TOGETHER as a family  Play Hebrew games at home to make learning a new language memorable and fun. Laugh and giggle at the new words you’re learning as you share them each day with each other.

Be courageous together Being a new immigrant means everything around you is new and this can lead to feelings of vulnerability and being uncomfortable in many situations. Let your children see that as a new immigrant you aren’t afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Even if it means sounding “silly”, using the wrong words or doing something totally “non-Israeli”. Model being brave, stepping out of your comfort zone and learning new things daily!

Love Israel Don’t just do “Aliyah things.” Do Israel things. Visit sites. Be a tourist. Show your children why you love this incredible homeland of ours! Take a break from the various “misradim” (offices), banks and run-arounds to do something fun. Whether it’s jumping on the bus to Jerusalem to visit the Kotel, or taking a relaxing day on a beautiful Israeli beach let them experience the beauty and holiness of the land.

Learn the culture – Take time to learn how to be an Israeli, how to live in the culture and how the system works! Don’t try to live as a South African/American/Canadian in Israel… live as an Israeli!! 

Keep routine Even though you’re in a new country and just trying to find your feet, try to keep your home life consistent. Kids feel safe when things seem similar. In a new country with new surroundings, new people and a new language keep your home life consistent. Same rules. Same routine. Same loving atmosphere. You can change things up once you’re more settled but for now consistency is key.

Keep a positive mindset Point out the positives and try to see past the annoyances. Kids will focus on what you focus on. You can set the tone to see the positive side to things and help create positive memories of making Aliyah, vs. stressful negative memories.

Validate them in their struggles – When they do miss their friends or something from their country of birth validate it. It IS hard to leave your friends. It IS hard to learn a new language. You don’t need to solve their problem. Validation is enough for them to either solve it on their own, or work through their very real and normal feelings. Plus, the knowledge that you are there for them through their Aliyah challenges will allow them to feel calmer in their perceived chaos. 

Praise even their smallest accomplishment The mere act of showing up every day at school and not understanding a thing is HUGE. Praise the fact that they just showed up. When they learn a new word or phrase, compliment their ability to learn a new language. Praise them (and yourself) for figuring out food products in the store or Kashrut symbols. However small it may seem  it’s not! Also praise the PROCESS of learning, the process of making new friends, the process of acclimatizing. 

Don’t sweat the small stuff! Your kids are adjusting to a whole new world and dealing with a whole lot of emotions. Probably conflicting emotions. Probably some overwhelming ones too. Try to look past the small stuff. Try not to make a big deal of a bad mood or negative behaviour. This too shall pass.

View challenges as opportunities for growth As parents we want what is best for our children. It’s natural to want to protect them. Children may face many challenges when making Aliyah like difficulty making friends, language issues, culture shock etc. Use these challenges as opportunities to connect to your children, offer support, and help them learn and grow. Don’t try to solve their challenges for them: work through the challenges with them. This helps children develop a healthy self-esteem and a growth mindset.  

YOUR self-care and mindfulness – Be mindful of your own emotions and moods. It’s important to give yourself space to work through your feelings and emotions regarding making Aliyah. Take time to deal with them properly and be mindful of how they affect you. If you’re stressed because you are struggling to find work that’s ok. But deal with the stress appropriately. Leave time to speak to your spouse or friends and get the support you need. Take care of yourself properly and leave time to relax and take it easy. When we take care of ourselves properly, we can better take care of our children.

Lastly, create happy Aliyah memories laugh a lot, be silly, take photos, hug them, read to them and create a calm and happy home. Ask yourself how you want everyone to look back at those beginning days. Remember soon you’ll all feel more settled and thriving in Israel.