I’ve met hundreds of kids after concerts in the lobby of churches and arenas, in homes and on playgrounds and streets in the developing world. Unbeknownst to me I was being prepared for the day S would join our family. On so many levels kids are kids, regardless of skin color, wealth, culture or language. Here are three much-tested and proven ways to kickstart a connection with any kid.
1. Pictures. Show him pictures from a story book, from your photo album…from your fridge. Sponsors often bring along pictures – of their pets, their vacation to the beach, their Christmas tree – when they’re meeting their sponsored child. They sit together and flip through the strange images from the other side of the world – it’s like visiting another planet. S and I sit on the the floor in front of the fridge and he points his little brown finger at face after face. “Who dis?” he asks again and again.
2. Trading Language. Kids love to feel smart. And they are. They have so much to teach you. Starting with what they call that bump in the middle of your face. Learn how to say “What is this?” in their language and you’re set! Point to your nose and ask. When they tell you, say it back to them. If you get it right they’ll be thrilled. If you don’t they’ll be immensely entertained. And you’ll be immensely humbled. S has been laughing and I’ve been humbled for days. Which brings me to…
3. Laughter. My oldest boy, Gresham (8), “accidentally” tooted the first night S was with us. Up that point S had been noticeably nervous, shy, serious. But when he heard that sound we saw his smile and heard his chipmunk laugh for the first time. Ah, the power of gas. Slapstick is powerful too. I’ve got some go-to tricks when I’m visiting a Compassion child development center. Falling down while playing a sport, sitting in a chair made for pre-schoolers and acting like I’m stuck, making funny faces – comedic gold. S also likes it when I get hurt or spill things on accident. Unfortunately and thankfully, I do this often.
So there you have it. Read a book with pictures. Fumble through a foreign language. Get nailed in the face with a stray whiffle ball. And you’ve broken the ice. Even better, you’ve earned a little trust and started a relationship.