First Experiences With Your Child


first beach trip4When you bring your child home to the United States, you will experience a world of “firsts” with your child: first time in an airplane, first time in a car seat, first time at the mall, first time in a church, etc. The list is endless! It is important, however, to remember that these moments can be filled with mixed emotions for your child—excitement and fear, joy and anxiety, boldness and trepidation, awe and shock. You will likely see all of these emotions in no particular order, which can seem very confusing. Remember, many things that seem usual and expected to you are truly strange and unusual to your child. You need to be aware of this potential response and willing to take the extra time to slowly and confidently introduce your child to this new experience.

I recently took my 11 month-old granddaughter to the beach for the first time. Her big blue eyes told the tale! She was mesmerized by the waves, the myriad of people and the variety of activities and sounds around her. Those little eyes were as big as sand dollars! Initially, we simply sat her down on a towel next to us, so that she could get used to her new surroundings in a safe and secure manner. We then introduced the beach toys (the obligatory bucket, shovel and castle sand molds) and let her examine those while safely beside us. As her comfort level increased and her curiosity grew, she touched the sand in front of her. Yes, she was extremely unsure of it and a little unsettled by its texture at first, but within ten minutes, she was letting it flow through her little fingers and giggling with delight. As she kept intently watching the other children and families jumping and playing in the waves, I carried her to the water’s edge. With a calm soothing voice, I talked to her about the water, pointing out the “ooohs” and “ahhhs” that the other little children were experiencing. Although she doesn’t yet talk, she seemed soothed by just hearing my steady voice while she observed something new to her. She loves to wave at people, so I encouraged her to wave at the swimmers and she got plenty of waves and smiles right back. This small activity helped her to blend the familiar with the unfamiliar. Then the big step; I held her on the sand where she could feel the waves rush over her little feet and legs. Yes, there was shock and awe, fear and joy, and confusion and happiness. To cry or not to cry, that was the question. Up we went, back into the safety of Mumzi’s arms! We watched some more and tried it again and again. With that safety net of patience and comfort, she began to truly enjoy this new experience. Before the end of the day, she was covered head to toe in wet sand, had mastered the art of the beach shovel and had a blast playing with four other little ones about her age. New experience conquered!

Like adults, children want new and exciting adventures and experiences. However, they need the ability to quickly retreat into your loving arms if they are scared, and they must have your patience as they slowly acclimate to new environments and experiences. If you help your child learn how to confidently discover people and places that are new to her, she will be able to challenge herself to be more independent as she gets older, and she will be open to exploring and appreciating this great big world around her.

Karlene Edgemon works as MLJ Adoptions’ Director of Social Services. Throughout her 25 year social services career, Karlene has been able to watch adoption transform the lives of children and she is always brainstorming new ways to support adoptive families before, during and after their adoption.