Saturday, July 23, 2011

What's Working For Us #4 - Meeting New Adults

Our recent trip to Alabama to visit friends and family could pretty much be filed under the category of "disaster" as far as Wenxin's behavior was concerned.

We were reminded how much meeting new adults stresses him out.  As we introduced him to lots of people who've prayed for him throughout this journey, he thanked them by clinging to me, hiding his face and occasionally grunting at them.  His overall demeanor said, "Everyone get away from me."

I spent lots of my time lamely saying, "He's shy," in response. 

After that experience, we seriously reconsidered our plans for this trip to Colorado.  There are 5000 people at this conference - and a whole lot of them have prayed for us through our adoption of Wenxin.  Daily we meet friends from around the world - people we only see every few years at times like this.  We were afraid it would push Wenxin - and perhaps us - over the edge.

Before making a decision, I made a phone call to our social worker, Debra Hewitt, and explained the situation.  She empathized with Wenxin.  Even in China, we were told he was naturally shy in new situations.  And she reminded me that for kids in state care, new adults are not always good news.  She could see how meeting new adults would be stressful for someone with his personality and background.

But even in light of all this, Debra felt that we had to teach him the skill of responding appropriately when being introduced to our adult friends.  She helped me come up with a plan.

First, she asked me to quit saying, "He's shy," to excuse bad behavior.  She reminded me that while shy people may have to try harder in social situations, being shy in not an excuse to growl when your mother introduces you to a friend. 

Next, she asked me to role play meeting new people with him every day in preparation for our trip.  When I pretend to introduce a friend, he practices responding by looking at them and saying, "Nice to meet you."  (Believe it or not, it really, really helped him to have a memorized line to say in response.  I never thought about how having to come up with the response off the cuff, might be stressful to him.)  We also practice answers to the few questions that adults usually ask kids upon meeting them.  "How old are you?"  "What grade are you in?"  And so on.

Lastly, we came up with a plan to help him have a lot of success at this conference.  Every time he responds appropriately to being introduced to a new adult, I slip him a little treat.  I'm walking around the conference with a bag full of gum, mints and other little goodies. 

And you know what?  It's working!


  1. Dana - LOVE that the plan is working..YEAH!!!!!!

  2. congratulations Wenxin! ( and mama) My daughter had such a hard time answering questions...we did similar role playing and that helped

  3. Hey, go with what works, right? Also, the practicing responses to new adults, that is what I have to do with my oldest. He is also very "shy" and won't utter a word to anyone. Role playing helped him, too!