Before we left for Senegal we were told over and over not to worry our kids would just adapt and would easily learn language. However, one only has to arrive to a foreign country and look around at foreign kids who have been there for years to realize how much it is not a given. I soon saw that if learning language and adapting to life was a goal then it was something we would have to actively pursue. We laid it before the Lord and began working with our kids on grasping language, adapting to cultural difference and building relationships with local kids.
Now as we are working with families when they arrive this is one of the area we have begun addressing with them early on. Through this process we have learned a lot about how kids learn and how many wonderful ways there are to help them this the journey of entering a new world. I am so thankful that kids are different from adults. They don’t take nearly as much work or encouragement to change as we adults do, but it still takes work and effort to give them the tools they need and to place them in the contexts where they can learn.
As I have been traveling around I have been encouraged to see families engaging this process and the difference it is making. We have many families and many different approaches and combinations of approaches.
- Some families have done sessions all together with their kids.
- Some have a short daily language session just for their kids.
- Some have created an easy way for their kids to play and interact with kids from the community.
- Some have their kids in a local school.
- Some have a nanny come to interact with the kids in the language.
There are so many different ways to work towards this goal and I have seen them all work. Now it is true that language is just one step in the process of adapting and building relationships but it is a big first step. It makes my heart sing to see kids comfortable and at home interacting in the community where they are live. I believe that families were called to missions as a family and that whole family should be engaging in the communities where they are living – no matter where they are living.
Obviously this is a big passion for me. So this is my encouragement to everyone…
- No matter where you live…what are you doing to help your kids be part of the community around you?
- If you know missionaries…pray specifically for their kids. Don’t just assume they will adapt and transition easily.
- If you are planning to go overseas…be intentional with your kids as they will most likely need help to really become part of life.
- If you are already overseas… look at what the next step is for your kids in the process of becoming part of the life around them.