December 20, 2004

Coming home?

David Gerstman aka as Soccer Dad, in a recent comment to one of my posts, owned that one reason Aliyah is not in the cards for them in the near future is the reluctance of one of their children, a young teen, to the move. It is not advisable to make the move, he was told, under such circumstances.

We moved to Israel with four of our five children. It hurt to leave the oldest behind. But she was already an adult herself, and the decision was hers and hers alone to make. My other children at that point were 19, 16, 9, and 4. Of those that came with us the most reluctant to make this life-changing move was the 20 year old; waffling between coming and staying on his own, with his sister nearby most of the year. Even in the last month I worried that he may stay behind and not one but two of my children would be left in the USA. In the end he decided to come,

It is hard, very hard, to immigrate anywhere with older children. They already have their friends, their ways of doing things, their favorite hangouts and the like. They know the slang, what is cool and what is nerdy. They know the rules.

Put them in a new country, with the promise of less money (normally) less room, classes where they don't understand much of what is going on, ways of doing things and saying things--even simple things such as greeting that most children share, or songs that the children have grown up on-- it is a shock, and upsetting. Boundaries are unknown at a time in life when the world, due to hormones, is in flux anyway.

Talk about a hard time adjusting.

All the problems one had in one's former country come along as well. All unresolved issues, remain unresolved. The basic characteristic of a person will not change, but most likely personality traits will become accentuated. Shy before? You've might have a recluse. Homework done the last minute? It probably won't get done any faster now. Defiant before, defiantin the new life.
These are facts to keep in mind when moving with any child, but most especially an older one.

Yet, very few problems are intractable, and there is much to be gained from our move to Israel. All in all I have found the country much warmer, and people friendlier. While there is less stuff, there is a greater appreciation for what one has, and a greater willingness to share the wealth that is found. Materialism, especially in the settler world, is less rampant. Children experience a greater sense of freedom.

Whether or not to make the move is of course a very personal decision. My own belief is Aliyah is for all Jews and the sooner the better. Planning, knowing what the issues are with a particular child and trying to find solutions for them before the move isn't always possible, but can be done. A pilot trip to a place one might enjoy, moving to an "anglo" (or French or Russian community as the case may be) is another. One of our mistakes was waiting till we arrived to find one child a school, feeling, as we did, that an in person interview was best. It is probably best to find a school, know the community one will be entering, for at least a significant period of time after the move, before making the move, and then change if necessary. That gives the child(ren) a sense of stability, though not one free of complaints.

If your older child (and David may very well be doing all that I mention and more) is unwilling to make the move, consider trips or visits, and connecting through the internet or snail mail to a family or age-mates. Small moves such as these may advance the cause.

It is a beautiful place to live; I would not want to live elsewhere. Israel is home.

Posted by Rachel Ann at December 20, 2004 01:47 PM

There's a limit as to how much you have to take every individual into account when planning aliya. Or you're held hostage. Does the vote of the one who's most anti (scared, not interested) more weighty than the rest of the family? People move away when grown, even if it's to distant cities in the same country. In many cases, the most anti kid makes the best adjustment.
Of course we came a few weeks after getting married. That's the best, but I've seen families come with kids at the worst age according to experts, and the kids have done well and are adults here in Israel.

Posted by: muse at December 21, 2004 08:57 PM

I think if a child is dead set against it, the plan of action, barring an emergency situation, would be to wait and try different tactics to see if the objections can be overturned. Forcing a child may work for some; some children need a bit of a kick to get them started. But other children rebel, or the child feels so unhappy such a move would be counterproductive.

I do believe there are ways; a summer in Israel may change a child's mind. Perhaps the family could live in Israel and the child board, coming home frequently (this of course would depend on the age and constitution of the child. Some children might enjoy the move; other's would feel abandoned). Perhaps the parents could homeschool the child for a period of time (in Israel)or perhaps the family could move on a trial basis; give it a year or two.

The most important thing is to see if from the child's point of you and to answer the child's misgivings and fears.

I know you weren't simply dismissing their fears Muse, but I do know that sometimes the move isn't good for a particular child. Sometimes the move may be alright, but the approach to the move is incorrect; for instance, a very stubborn child may simply dig in their heels and "hate everything" if the parents try to encourage the child to like the idea of the move, or indicate that the child will, at some period in time, be happy about the move and the people they will meet.

It is likely that no matter how much a child wants to move to Israel at a certain point in time they will miss their country of origin; especially if family and friends were left behind. This is not an indication that the child is not adjusting; missing what is lost is normal even if one appreciates what is gained.

Posted by: Rachel Ann at December 22, 2004 05:43 PM
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