One Family's Return Trip: Dealing With Fears and Melt Downs

You would think that two kids who have been looking for to this trip for months wouldn´t have any fears. Right??? WRONG!! The list of their concerns upon arriving in Bogotá has been lengthy. Our youngest, adopted from Bogota at almost 2 years of age, reverted to some self-soothing behaviors we haven´t seen for over a year. Our older child felt panicked when people began talking to him in Spanish. He would respond with the correct answers in English and look blankly at us when people didn´t seem to understand. Clearly, this experience is stressful, and not as joyful as we expected.

Here are some ideas for those of you bringing older children with you to Colombia.

1. Recognize that they will be stressed. So things that normally wouldn´t cause a melt down, ie being asked if they want to eat another arepa, may just bring it on. I thought that this only happened in our older son when we adopted our youngest because he was struggling with the whole sibling issue. Now, I see both of them a lot more on edge and realize that there is more afoot than I thought.

2. Sleep is essential. This one is hard, especially when visiting family. Everyone works until late and so their visits are even later. The boys are going to bed between 10 and 11 pm. No matter how quiet we try to be, the endless string of car alarms, honking horns, and neighbors with radios are cutting into the `sleeping in´ time. Try to establish clear bedtime limits. We have been excusing ourselves to help the boys get ready for bed and then trying to get them in bed on time -- not working as well as I would hope, but it is helpful.

3. Bring comfort food. Okay, I know luggage space is limited, but I can´t begin to tell you how much our boy´s attitude changed when we broke out the brownies.

4. Bring comfort objects. Again, with limited space it is hard, but that stuffed dog is keeping us sane.

5. Establish a signal word or phrase your child can use when he needs a break. We chose, "I need a huggie!" When being around so many people speaking a foreign language gets a bit overwhelming, our boys give us the signal and we make an escape for some alone time. Remember that in Colombia personal space is different so American kids can get easily overwhelmed by the closeness of new friends and relatives. We just seem to need more space to feel comfortable.

6. Don´t over plan. This one is more for me than anyone else. I wanted the boys to see so much, that I needed to reevaluate. They have been happier doing fewer things, and spending less time doing things than I thought. THIS DOES NOT MEAN SIT IN YOUR HOTEL OR COUSINS HOUSE FOR 4 WEEKS! Just keep it fun for the kids.

7. HAVE FUN!! This trip has been for the boys as much as for us, so we are trying to make sure everyday has something positive to record. The boys are writing their favorite experience of the day in a journal. It has been amazing to see that the things they like best are buying chocolatinas jet and playing with their aunt's dog.


Carolina said…
Great post Melinda, I never thought about how stressful would be for a child to go to Colombia since I see it as a very nice experience, although giving it a little bit more of thought, yes, it gets stressing.
The last times I've been there I haven't made great "hey I'm going" announcements because I didn't want to spend my time visiting.
Have fun!

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