Monday, March 28, 2011

Ideas for Connecting When You Meet For the First Time

So I've gotten pretty nervous about meeting Kizito.
We are SO different.
We speak different languages.
He has lost more in his first 3 years of his little life than I have in my entire 31 years.
He has gone without, I have never gone without.
For all we know he has never seen TV, played on a play ground, or had ice cream.
I am fairly certain he has never seen a vacuum, refrigerator or taken a bath in a bathtub with running water.

I realized the other day... So how am I going to get to know this boy? and What do I want him to know about me?

I decided to keep it simple... I want him to know I am a safe and loving person.
That is my goal for this whole trip. That and really only that!

Then, I thought, So how am I going to communicate this seemingly simple thing to him. I can't say that... and we all know actions speak louder than words, right?

So being the teacher that I am, I made some "lesson plans" to teach him these things. These lessons come in forms of teachable moments and activities that hope to provide opportunities to show and express love and safety. Although I know this is totally up the the circumstances and I will also just have to see what kind of kiddo he is, here are my ideas.

Lessons of Love

Who am I? And where are we going together? - I have made a photo book of our town, our home, our dog, our food, our yard, our LIFE, pretty much. So that I can give him images of what he can expect. I know that if I can visualize something I am much less fearful... perhaps developing these lessons are helping me visualize my time with Kizito so that I am less fearful about the unknowns of being in Uganda and in a strange place too.

I am also bringing a bag of natural objects from our yard for him to look at... a twig, leaf, bark, flowers, dirt, ect... so he can feel it and touch it and connect with his new home in a kenastetic way.

Here and There... Getting Home - I have printed up a map of Uganda, of Africa, of the world and then of the US and of Colorado. I plan on showing him where he is and how we get to where we are going... will it make sense to a 3 year old who speak Lugandan? Only by God's grace... but it is worth a try. Kids are MUCH smarter than we give them credit for I think.

Learning Languages Together - I think one of our most challenging obstacles, initially, will be language barriers. Kizito speaks Lugandan... and well, I don't. So I created this double sided chart for communicating. It has 50 words and corresponding images with both English and Lugandan on it. This is something that is often used for non-commutative children and I had seen and used it with a student in the past. It allows a child to point to a picture to communicate needs, wants and concepts. It also allows mom to communicate back and also to have a dictionary right there and open. Some of the words are; hungry, stop, quiet, play, hug, sad, bed time, I love you. I hope that this will help Kizito and I communicate as he learns English.

Enjoying Each Other Through Play - I've arranged to do some fun, low key and simple activities and games with Kizito when I go. Here are some of them...
Play dough - I'm pretty sure he's never seen play dough.
Toy train and Airplane - Perhaps we'll be able to communicate that we have a train in Durango, and we'll be flying on a plane to get home.
Drawing - I am going to have Addie, Elias and Cora draw a picture for Kizito and then help him make one to send back to them.
Match game - I am bringing a simple match game too.

Making Something Together - My genius social worker told me that it might be fun to make something for him to keep and also to bring with him. She suggested painting rocks I could make one and he could make one, we could search for the rocks and I'd just have to bring the paint along. Then we paint them and he could keep it. I thought it was a great idea!

I then also thought about how fun it could be to make some food together. Cooking and baking are big bonding activities in our home. It is a huge treat to be the child that gets to assist in the kitchen or get to make cookies with Daddy. However, it isn't like I'll have a kitchen to work in... at least one that I would feel comfortable in. Any how I got to thinking that we could make Trail Mix. I could bring 6 or 8 different items for the mix and we could sample each one alone and then dump them all in the big bag together and enjoy it... it is the best I could think of given the limitations... but I think the chocolate chips will win favor.

Finding Comfortable Connection Time - Our social worker also stated that preschool/toddler aged children vary greatly on comfort levels of being touched, hugged and held... some jump right in your lap, others are shy and want their own space. She suggested that reading is the perfect activity for drawing physically close, without feeling like it is intrusive or forced. So I found a "First Words Book" that has lots and lots of photos of common things... one page is animals, one is foods, one is clothes... I wrote descriptions of items I thought he'd not know of and told him we have those at our house. The animal page has 2 North American animals and the rest are African animals... so we can talk about how gorillas live in Uganda and so on. Then I'll leave it with him and hopefully he can continue to be read to out of it and learn some English.

Other Fun Stuff - I am hoping to make a video or 2... one giving a tour of our house and around our house to show him. I am pretty certain he hasn't seen any thing like this. And I also want to let him listen to my ipod... I've got some kids music uploaded. I don't know, it might totally weird him out, or he might love it??? So we'll just "play it by ear." :-)

So I'll let you know what was a "hit" and what didn't work so well. But at least I feel like we have some fun and purposeful things to do.


Mandi said...

Marci, these are wonderful ideas...and smart too. I am going to be jumping on the word chart! Hadn't thought of it, even though PECs were a part of our every day life 5 years ago:) As a fellow Homeschool mom of 3 who is adopting two older children from Uganda as well I completely understand and appreciate all the brainstorming you are doing. Knowing that ultimately it's in God's hands, He can use these tools and moments however He wills. Praying for you. where are you in the process? We just filed our I-600A. Blessings,

gloryrevealed said...

Wow! Great ideas Marci. Love that you've had time to work on all this. We're still trying to figure out how best to connect with our older girl who is shy at first!

Shonda said...

A friend just passed on this blog post and I appreciated it very much. We are in process to adopt a 5 y/o (actually our youngest son's brother) and I loved all these practical ideas. Thanks!

Sara said...

I love what you are doing with him, I have to say that I might steal some of your ideas.

Marci said...

If your child speaks Lugandan I would love to email you the document so that it saves you work... I have tried to get most of the images to be racially appropriate... for us images of black children and I found several with a white dad and black son and a white mom and black son!!! I was stoked about that! But if you are adopting from China or else where it probably won't be helpful at all. :-)

I will email it to anyone for free, but if you would like to donate a few bucks under our adoption tag at the top it would be nice, since it did take lots of time... but either way it totally good. I would just like to see it used and helping children and families!

So you can leave a comment with your email and I will pass it on to you... (and I won't publish your email.)

Thanks! I am glad this is giving others good idea of how to connect in fun and mutually beneficial ways!

craig and jen said...

so great marci! i was inspired and will definitley "steal" a few of your ideas. i'd love to chat with you sometime and share what's worked with our 3 year old. he's been home for 12 days now but we spent almost 8 weeks living with him in ug before we came home. God can do such amazing things! excited for you!