We've been chatting with a few families who recently arrived home with older adopted kiddos. It's strange in a way to kind of be taken back in a time machine! Many of the concerns and fears these families are facing are the same ones we had. We worried if we were doing things that would scar Sarah for life! Was she scared of us? Was she scared of the house? Was she hungry? Was she worried she'd never find food she liked? Was she lonely not being able to communicate well? Was she having bad dreams? And these are just a few of the thousand thoughts racing through our minds?
So a bit about some things we've experienced and/or heard from other families. These are things related to the first few weeks together when everyone is trying to get his/her footing. As you settle in, many of these things will just become a memory or will transition into more long-range ideas. At first, our suggestion is to just focus on some basics ... the rest will follow in time.
1. Light & Sound. At the orphanage lights are on 24/7. Even at night the rooms are not completely dark because the aunties need to be able to move around. So a dark bedroom, hallway and bathroom may be very scary. Night lights seem to work great but if that's not enough perhaps leaving a closet light on or adding a small table lamp would do the trick. Also, orphanages are not quiet places, even at night. Usually there are many kids in one room plus any noise from other rooms or people walking in the hallways. Several kids have enjoyed having a small cd player in their rooms to "cut the quiet" down so they can fall asleep.
2. Soft beds and Sheets. Along with scary dark and quiet rooms, American beds and sheets are probably going to be strange to your kiddo. As many of you know from your hotel experiences in China, beds in China are HARD and those are beds with thicker mattresses. At many orphanage the beds have very thin mattresses or no mattresses at all. Sarah had a hard time with how soft her bed was which is really funny now because she complains when we go to a hotel about "how hard" the hotel beds are and how much she misses her nice soft bed! Also, in China, there are blankets but not sheet sets so you'll probably have to explain that the kiddo is to sleep between the sheets and not simply on top of them.
3. Food. Ramen noodles, ramen noodles, ramen noodles. We were buying these by the case when we first returned home. Now, Sarah will ask for some maybe once every few weeks. Also, try hard boiled eggs, plain white Chinese rice (NOT minute rice), flour tortillas with scrambled eggs and meat inside, original red can Pringles (don't know why, but many families have reported kids loving these!), hard bread sticks (again Pringles makes one Sarah loves), popcorn and crackers. We were so worried that we weren't providing her with nutritional meals but really at the start it's just about getting the kiddos to eat SOMETHING. And many kids won't do well with dairy foods and haven't had much in the way of milk or cheese.
4. Bonding. Overall, I give my husband all the credit in the world when it comes to bonding during those first few weeks. His idea was to just be silly! And it worked. It made Sarah more at ease and a happy kid. It's the best suggestion I have to offer! Other suggestions include badminton (and you don't even need a net -- just hit back and forth), drawing on the sidewalk with chalk, blowing bubbles, taking walks or pretty much any outside game.
5. Hugs. Lots of people are wanting meet your new kiddo! They want to welcome him/her with big hugs! Except that in China hugging is an odd behaviour that most people don't do! To most Chinese, hugging is just down-right weird! I'll never forget when we went to meet with a few of Sarah's friends and the minute the kids saw each other they raced to one another, stood about 1/2 an inch from each other's face and jumped up and down -- all without hugging or touching each other in any way! So don't be surprised is there is squirming when hugs are given and if your kiddo doesn't want to give hugs in return.