Life in the D.R. will be a big adjustment for all of us, and I would like to be intentional about making that transition smooth – especially for my little ones. My partner and I have lived there before, but I can remember how jarring it was to be in a place where everything was so different: sights, sounds, traffic, weather, language…you name it. In order to buffer some of the culture shock, there are some things I’m trying with my 3 year old before we leave. I’ve spoken with others who have moved to a different country with young children and here is what they suggest: establish a routine early, front load with information, commiserate on bad days, and do fun things together. I guess I’ll have to report back later to determine how well they worked, but perhaps they can help with big transitions for your kids…or yourselves!
Establish a Routine Early: When things are changing, kids may not feel like they know what’s coming next. I created a calendar for the month before we leave so my 3 year old could see what to expect each day. (See the picture in this post.) Some things are weekly (ie. church on Sundays, story time at the library on Tuesdays, the visit to the train museum on Fridays). Other activities are special days (blueberry picking or birthday celebrations). Daily routines are also the same: breakfast, morning activity, lunch, nap, afternoon activity, dinner, bedtime.
“Front load” with information: The first thing adults do when we have to deal with something new is research it: we consult the internet, friends, and colleagues to create a mental picture of what’s ahead. To give my preschooler a mental picture, we have “DR School” in the afternoons on Monday through Friday. DR School is a 30-minute lesson on the Dominican Republic mostly in Spanish. Week 1 is “Geography, Climate, Community, and Creatures”. This includes YouTube videos of Dominican kids and a heads up about rain and bugs. Week 2 is “Food, Culture, and Sports” so we’ll eat Dominican food, learn about music, dance merengue and play baseball. Week 3 is on transportation, money, and housing so we’ll look at guaguas and learn about different types of houses. Here’s a sample lesson:
Tuesday: Climate, Weather, Beach
· Read: “Cuando Voy a La Playa” (poem); color a picture of the beach
· Watch video about rain https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2awVAYt_6Vg
o what do you see? do the trees look the same as the trees here? what does the rain sound like? what do buildings look like?
o Song: “Una gotita sobre mi casa”
o Activity (math): addition - Cuantos gotitas hay?
Vocab: playa, arena, merienda, lluvia, gota
Commiserate on bad days: Parents probably already do this but my tendency with this move is to make the D.R. a great place for everyone all the time. Realistically, though, there will be bad days there - just like we have bad days in the U.S. So, I will have to resist the urge to say, “Baby, those bugs are not that scary” and instead say, “yikes! let’s fight them off together!”
Do fun things together: Other parents are clear on this one – remember to make the memories that will go in the scrapbook! Do something fun as early as possible. This will give kids a positive experience in the country early on.
What has worked for you during big transitions?