Posted by: ramonamom | May 19, 2008

Realistic Expectations – “Public Encounters”

This is something I wrote a few years back, but it is still applicable in regards to public encounters with your newly adopted older child:

Most of these children come from very poor countries, often third world ones.  Some have never left the orphanage in their life, and if they have it may be to just go from one place to another and not to shop.  Even our own kids, who lived in families for the first few years of their lives, were not familiar with our Super WalMarts!  In Russia, for instance, you shop at a little corner grocery store for your food for the day.  Then, the next day, you buy food for that day.  So much for stocking up! 

 When in Russia, I tried to buy enough eggs for all five of us to eat for two days and I was literally refused!  They would only let me purchase enough for one day.  When we took our first adopted children shopping in Russia, they were struck mostly by the escalator.  It fascinated Vanya and we almost had to drag him away from it.  Once we brought them home, it was the automatic door that caught Irina’s eye.  She stood outside of KMart watching it for a long time, and I finally had to take her hand so that we could go inside the store. 

 Understand where your child is coming from.  Having never seen contraptions such as these, they will be interested, and maybe even scared of them.  Respect those fears and the curiosity, also.  Allow them time to look, watch, and listen, being sure to keep them at a safe distance from whatever has captured their interest.  It would be wise to hold on to them the whole time, in case they decide to make a quick grab at some machinery, or to run away if they are scared. 
Also, think of the nature of little boys and girls.  Boys love to push buttons, see how things work, cause things to make noise, etc.  Right?  Adopted boys are no different.  Girls love to look at pretty things, and to touch them, too.  Right?  Adopted girls are no different.  The only difference might be that they have NO concept of keeping their hands to themselves!  These are children who probably have not been taught right from wrong and have definitely never been faced with the set of temptations that a Super WalMart can present.  Even I have problems with temptations there at times, too!  🙂  Mine usually has to do with chocolate, though.
How, then, should you deal with these issues?  First of all, limit their exposure to such places until your communications are good enough for you to be able to tell them what the rules are.  Keep the rules very simple at first and don’t expect too much of them.  Boys and girls can only be so good, and a lot of their goodness is probably already being taken up by simple getting used to their new environment without exploding. If they are young enough, take them by the hand and walk them through the store.  Show them the things that they can touch and the things that they cannot touch.  You might even let them choose something that you can buy for them.  If your child is older, or is not comfortable with you holding his/her hand, then walk alongside them, doing the same thing.  Pay careful attention to them, and if you sense any loss of control, then you should leave the store right away.  Do everything you can to avoid a scene – make this first trip or two a time of learning and enjoying themselves, allowing them to leave with a positive attitude. 
If you have an older child whom you think might possibly be prone to putting things in his/her pocket, then avoid taking them to stores at all until you are more certain that this would not be a problem.  The last thing you need is an encounter with the local police.
One of our children had never ridden in a car before her adoption, at the age of 11.  She has a terrible time with being car sick, even now.  Just think how easily overwhelmed a child such as this can be.  I often wondered how our kids were able to stand all of the new things they saw on our trip back to the US – the airplanes, airports, high rise buildings, escalators a mile high (Moscow), moving sidewalks, etc.  Just like adults, kids handle stress in different ways.  Some kids will close up and stop communicating at all.  They may not want to be touched, as that may very much add to the stressful input to their fragile system.  A child such as this should be left alone for while, if possible.  Allow them to assimilate all that is going on around them, while protecting them from as much input as you can.  Other kids may react to stress by having a tantrum – even if they are “older”.  This child should be removed from public view and put in a private area immediately, if they are in your care.  Then, deal with the tantrum in whatever way you have decided to handle such things, trying at all times to understand the onslaught to the child’s sensitivities. 

I am not a big advocate of giving OTC medications to children.  I hardly ever even give my children decongestants when they have a cold.  But, I do recommend giving a child a dose of Benadryl if you are bringing them by airplane from their country to the US.  The last thing you need is a confrontation with them while in the cramped quarters of an airplane, or to have to drag them kicking and screaming (in a foreign language no less) across a miles long airport terminal.  A dose or two of antihistamine will not mar them for life, but it could make a huge difference in how well they make the trip.  And in your sanity.  Just remember that some people do not react to an antihistamine by being drowsy, though.  It does have the opposite effect on some (me, for instance).  Also, do not give your child caffeine in addition to the medication.  I speak from experience – it will counteract the effects of the antihistamine!  Irina was awake the entire trip from Moscow to Tulsa.  Well, she did finally fall asleep during the descent into the Tulsa airport.  Whew – what a trip! 

Well, that took me down memory lane.  🙂  Hopefully it can be of some help to prospective adoptive parents reading this blog. 






  1. Just an additional thought/suggestion on Bendryl, we were encouraged to ‘try it out ‘while in-country to see how their systems responded since it would be better to know ahead of time rather than while on the plane and/or running through airports! 🙂 We ended up not using it with our girls (ages 9 & 12 at the time), but I sure would have liked some for myself! 😉

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