You’re about to have an exciting time with your host child from Ukraine! They will be on their first overseas trip, and will be visiting a new country. You will be bringing a child into your home as you decide if international adoption is for you. You both will be building a new relational bridge and “dipping your toes” into the “sea of family”. This is a BIG deal for everyone!
Think about what children their age normally like to do. Where do you usually take guests to show off the high points of your city? What are the activities in your area during the holiday season? What does your family do at home to enjoy each other’s company and make the season special? Where are the free or low-cost local places where children can have fun in your community? Are there any special events planned with your family, friends or church? There are so many options that you can be planning and researching before your child arrives to assure that you all enjoy this time together. Additionally, when he arrives, be sure to find out what his favorite activities are and incorporate those into your plans.
Never underestimate the joys of family activities during this time. Remember, your host child is coming here to be exposed to family life, something very different from his normal orphanage life. Small things like making cookies together, movie nights with popcorn, sledding, playing board games, building an indoor fort, crafting, teaching your child to play a sport, reading books, or teaching him to ride a bicycle will create good memories for him to take home. If you are hosting a little girl, play with hairstyles or paint fingernails together. Remember to take pictures and make your child a small photo album to share with his friends when he returns.
It will be the holiday season, so celebrate with him! Drive around and see the holiday lights in all their glory. Attend holiday story time at your local library. Check out the special events at your local park. Is there a holiday play or special event at your church? Attend a child-friendly New Year’s Eve party complete with party hats and confetti. Plan to open some presents with your child when he arrives, even if it is a little after December 25th. What fun this can be for everyone! Research and talk about Ukrainian holiday traditions to help assure your child does not miss out on any traditions that are important to them.
If you have available funds, you can also go to a local children’s museum, take your child bowling, go to a children’s movie at the theatre, see animals at the zoo or aquarium, go to an indoor play area, or let him build himself a stuffed animal at a Build-a-Bear Workshop to take home. You can go to your local ice cream shop and let him pick his favorite flavors. Find out what his favorite foods are and take him to enjoy one of those items. Has he ever watched a pizza being made? If you decide to go swimming, remember that the children usually cannot swim, so a life jacket will be required. It will be exciting for your child to experience new places in the United States.
Shopping for some clothes and shoes is another activity that will be beneficial. Your child will likely come with little clothing, so shopping for some additional items will be necessary. Letting your child pick something out by himself is really a treat, as normally clothing is provided and shared with others at the orphanage. Shoes that fit well are also a good thing to purchase for your child. The girls usually like any kind of hair accessory and the children are used to wearing hats and gloves in the cold Ukraine weather. Just keep in mind that once the children return to Ukraine, whatever clothing items they take back will likely become shared orphanage property.
Another less-considered activity during your host child’s stay is taking him to a dentist or optometrist. The children’s teeth can often be in poor condition due to neglect or lack of fluoridated water, and they may not have their eyes examined on a regular basis. Contact your local Optimist Club or Lions’ Club to see if they offer resources for such exams. Taking the child to the appointment is fine, but do not consent to any invasive treatments. There will not be any insurance coverage available for this. Additionally, if your host child is anxious or fearful, do not continue with the exam as he may not fully comprehend what is being done and his English may not be advanced enough to understand what is being said. You do not want to make this visit something negative for your child or yourself!
There are so many ideas for enjoying this time with your host child! You can make this as busy or as calm a time as you want and it is important to let him experience what life with your family would really be like. You do not have to spend a great deal of money and you do not have to be in the car running around every day. You just have to show your child love, attention, hospitality, and the joy of family life. All children want to be cared for and nurtured… you will have several weeks to show your host child what that is like. Enjoy!