Sometimes the airport can be a bit chaotic and stressful. A few moments after meeting your kids for the first time can feel awkward. It’s ok! Embrace the awkward. Just smile and offer warmth. Your goal should be to make them feel safe and establish trust.
Welcome signs are a big deal for these kids! Seeing a sign and a smiling family waiting behind it is a very real relief. It doesn’t have to be pretty – but if you have one it will mean a lot.
1. Hire a driver
Actually I guilted my brother into doing all the driving for us on this day trip. It allowed my husband and I the mental and emotional space to deal with meeting our girls the first time. And it allowed us to sit in the back with them on the ride home and get to know them. Our best idea ever.
2. Feed ’em
(Our girls LOVE American milk!)
Food is a common suggestion – but know some kids may not feel comfortable eating in front of you or opening a snack you gave them. So take some for yourself as well and eat it with them.
Other snacks that work well – popcorn, apples, bananas, m&ms, cheese and crackers, water, fruit roll ups. I also purchased some Russian food from a local European store – as a comfort for them. I was later told – they only wanted American food! Don’t count on yours being quite as adventurous as mine are.
3. Don’t forget meds
Motion sickness meds, Benadryl, cough drops and baby wipes were a help as well. They just spent 20+ hours on a plane. What would you want if you just got off the plane after a 20 hour flight?
4. Take selfies
The selfies I have of us on the way home are priceless. They show tremendous growth in the girls and our relationship. But selfies themselves have a way of tearing down some walls. Especially if your a professional silly face maker!
5. Take a few books and crayons
My little one loved to page through books even though she couldn’t understand a word. And everyone enjoyed tracing hands, drawing smiley faces, and watching me write their names in English. Tic tac toe and the dot game are easy AND interactive.
6. Bring a bag of goodies
A trip to the dollar store works beautifully for this! Sunglasses, gum, chopstick, silly puddy, a disposable camera, army men etc. remember though – they may be too intimidated to open it unless you prompt them to. Just go with your gut here – not everything has to be immediate. (They loved the stuffed huskies we gave them. This was great because it helped them bond with our real live husky at home)
Where, what, and who they are going home to. We scrolled through pictures of our home, yard, our pets, their bedroom, and their family. I saw the confidence build and the tension release as they realized they were in good hands.
8. Sing along
Something in the background that is kid friendly. Maybe even something that you can do together. Clap your hands – snap your fingers – stomp your feet. Just suggestions. Whether they know the language or not they can enjoy the music and doing things with you.
9. Thumb wrestle
We did a ton of patty cake and thumb wrestling on the way home. I lost every time. You might want to brush up on your patty cake unless you hang out with 10 year old pretty regularly! This is fun, easy, and promotes eye contact and allows physical touch. Something these kids may not know how to handle in large quantities.
10. Finally, just have fun
Be silly. Laugh; a lot. Keep expectations low for now. Let them learn to love you in their own time. When you struggle with this -imagine taking a trip across the planet to live with people you’ve never met and can’t speak to. Now imagine being 8 when you do it. Helps keep everything in perspective right?