But some things are working. None of these ideas are original, but they are currently being tested and found true in our household.
#1 - Find safe, playful, loving ways to touch your older internationally adopted child.
We did not expect seven year old Wenxin to immediately want to be held or cuddled by us. When we walked into the orphanage in Beijing, someone brought him in and said, "Say Mama and Baba," and minutes later we left with him. It was all so quick. Suddenly we were a family. But we were still strangers.
Wenxin went with us willingly, but did he really have any choice? He was pretty happy, but hyperactive -- on constant alert. I remember wondering if I'd ever be able to snuggle up with him like I do with my other kids.
One of the first things we taught him, was how to play "thumb war." Within a couple of days he could say with us, "One, two, three four, let's have a thumb war. Five, six, seven, eight, open up the battle gate." Playing this game over and over was a fun, safe way for us to touch and hold hands and just get used to each other.
In the same way, Mike carried Wenxin on his shoulders almost everywhere we went in China.
We held hands when we walked together.
I brought lavender baby lotion and every night after his bath, I'd sit on the bed with him and "lotion him up" from head to toe. He loved it and would remind me about his lotion if I forgot.
Later, after we were home, I taught him a little baby nursery rhyme. I trace circles on his tummy as I say, "Round and round the circle goes the teddy bear. One step, two step, tickle Wenxin up there." Wenxin is almost eight, but he loves this and wants to do it before bedtime each night. Then he runs over to Mike for "This little piggy. . . " These fun little games that all American parents play with their babies seem to fill Wenxin's emotional tank.
Lastly, we sleep with him. I'm not sure if Wenxin's ever slept alone. As a baby, he slept in the bed with his foster mom. Families sleep together in Asia; cribs are a Western thing. Later, he slept in the orphanage in a room full of boys. Mike lies down with Wenxin at night in Wenxin's bed and stays with him until he falls asleep. I tell Wenxin that when he wakes up in the night, he may come get in bed with us. That way, he has the security of knowing we are always available to sleep with him, but we still get at least part of the night without a squirmy child in our bed. Even though it would be more comfortable for us to have him totally sleep on his own, night-time parenting gives us lots of opportunities to snuggle and hold him and help him feel safe as he sleeps.
Three months of this kind of safe, fun, high-touch parenting have produced a much more relaxed child who loves nothing more than to snuggle with his mama. Lots of safe, playful, loving touch is working for us.