Each child is different and will experience stress differently depending on the circumstances and even depending on the day. For a child participating in the hosting program, meeting their host family for the first time will be stressful. The host child may be experiencing many emotions at the same time including the following:
- Exhaustion When you meet your host child, they would have been traveling for 20+ hours, arrived and departed in and from multiples countries and been on multiple airplanes. It is likely that they have not slept well (or at all). Any sleep they had would have been sitting upright and constantly interrupted. Understandably, these kids are tired!
- Fear For many host children, this trip will be their first hosting experience. It is normal to be frightened of the unknown. The fear may trigger a child’s fight, flight or freeze response. The child may yell, kick or hit (fight). The child may try to run away or threaten to run away (flight) or express no emotion at all (freeze). Children living in orphanages are survivors and these are all tactics they may have used to survive to this point. It is also impossible to know what they may have been told by others regarding what to expect. It could be that past caregivers or other children told them that the families would do terrible things to them. One of our previously hosted children indicated to us that she was told that when she came to the U.S. her organs would be harvested. Of course, she was terrified on the car ride to the host family’s home.
- Frustration The host child from Ukraine will speak Ukrainian and/or Russian and have little or no English. They are used to being able to express themselves to other children and their caregiver. They may be very frustrated that they cannot express themselves or their needs to the host family upon initial meeting, and even thereafter. The child may be hungry, thirsty or need to go to the bathroom. It is understandably frustrating not to be able to easily communicate.
These emotions may make the initial meeting a challenge. It could also be the case, that the host child is elated about this new experience. Both experiences are normal, but it is best to prepare for the challenge. Host families and children, however, have proved time and again that the challenge is worth it for both the host children and the host families. In fact, when the host families bring the host children to the airport for departure, the opposite often happens, the children are upset because they don’t want to leave the host family.