Holden was only 2 years old when he came to live with us. Our home was already his ninth placement, and Holden was emotionally distant and easily frightened. The sound of the doorbell or a phone call would send him into a panic. He refused to be rocked or hugged.
As new adoptive parents, we quickly discovered that no amount of reading or classes had prepared us for the journey ahead. By the evening of Holden's second day with us, I already felt like a failure.
The first weeks home are a major transition for both parents and child. Because Holden came to us as a toddler instead of a baby, I had to restructure things for the first couple of weeks so he could feel safe in his new environment and trust could begin to develop.
Setting aside time
I decided to let go of certain responsibilities. I allowed friends to bring us dinner. Instead of folding and sorting laundry, I stacked blocks with Holden when he felt playful. I took time to get to know him by reading books and coloring. I learned what he liked to eat by giving him choices at lunchtime and letting him help me prepare the food.
A familiar routine
Times of transition were difficult for Holden, so while we were home, I kept a strict schedule. The routine helped him learn what to expect. I intentionally did not leave the house for a week. I asked friends and relatives to shuttle my other children to school and to church.
A flexible structure
We set boundaries and told Holden the household rules, yet we realized he might never have been exposed to structure before. We have a strict bedtime rule in our home, but we understood that his first few nights might be sleepless or lonely. We were prepared with a little pallet by our bed if he needed to sleep near us to feel comfortable.
I reminded myself every day that this was his journey, too. This wasn't just our family learning to adapt to a new little guy who may have never felt love; this was a 2-year-old child who couldn't understand what was going on in his world.
On Holden's ninth day home, we were going through the bedtime routine when I asked if he would let me rock him. This time, without words, he unexpectedly crawled onto my lap. As seconds turned into minutes, I could feel his little body melt into mine.
Christina Lang is an author, speaker, wife and mother of six. She blogs at "The Lang Gang Loves."