For some adoptive parents, making their childs lifebook comes
easily, for many others it does not. Not every parent considers themselves to be
a writer or storyteller. Yet every adoption is a story that should be told, by
the parent to the child. If you are a parent, I encourage you to record your
childs adoption story in some way. Here are three suggested formats for making
your childs lifebook.
1 - Create a Photo Story
Its been said, A pictures worth a thousand words. Consider
creating a Photo Story lifebook comprised entirely of images. Use a photo album,
scrap book or an on-line digital photo book service to build your book. In
addition to the photographs you already have of your adoption journey, take
pictures of significant documents and memorabilia (birth certificates, adoption
decrees, passports, plane tickets, etc.) to add to the Photo Story.
Arrange the pictures in chronological order to tell your story
visually. As you look through the Photo Story with your child, you can choose to
narrate the story in an age appropriate manner, adding details as your child
grows and asks questions. Starting early, when your child is young, will offer
you the opportunity to become comfortable with the adoption dialogue.
One disadvantage of a Photo Story lifebook is that the details of
your childs story may be lost over time. You might think youll always remember
the names, dates and places pictured in the photos, but chances are youll begin
to forget some things.
So you may want to go one step further and add simple captions to
accompany the photos and other images. Include the names of individuals (Your
birth mother, Sarah Smith), locations (General Hospital, Anywhere, USA) and
dates (Your Adoption Finalization Ceremony, June 14, 2006) to help preserve
2 - Make an ABC Book
Some parents choose to make an adoption ABC book for their baby
or toddler. This is a fun and simple way to share adoption information with a
young child. The idea is to use the alphabet to organize and share elements of
your childs adoption story using one book page for each letter - A is for All
About You, B is for Birthday, C is for Celebration, and so on. A list of
suggested letter topics is listed below.
A = Adoption Day, All About You, Always
B = Birthday, Birth Mother, Birth Family, Brother, Baby, Boy
C = Celebrate, Cherished, Chosen, Caregivers
D = Daddy, Daughter
E = Excited
F = Family, Father, Forever, Foster Family, First
G = Grandfather, Grandmother, Grandparents, Gotcha Day
H = Home, Heritage, Hope, Happiness
I = I love you, Irresistible
J = Joy
K = Kisses
L = Loved, Lullaby
M = Miracle, Mom, Memories, Map (of birth country)
N = Nursery, New
O = Orphanage, Official (Adoption Finalization), Our Dream Come True
P = Parents, Passport, Plane Ride
Q = Quiet Time, Quilt, Questions
R = Referral, Ready, Room, Remember
S = Siblings, Sister, Son, Smiles, Special
T = Together, Toys, Travel, Thankful
U = USA, Us
V = Visit, Visitors, Visa
W = Wishes, Waiting, Welcome Home
X = X Marks the Spot (location on a map), XO (kiss/hug)
Y = You
Z = Zodiac Sign, ZZZZZZ (sleeping)
The names of states, countries, continents, culturally
significant items, and people can be used, as well.
An ABC book wont have the flow of a story however, and your
child may soon outgrow its simplicity. An ABC book may not meet the definition
of a lifebook in the true sense, as this playful format makes it hard to include
some of the more difficult aspects of an adoption story (such as the reasons for
abandonment or a birth familys challenges). But it will get the adoption
conversation started and that is important.
3 - Write a Chapter Book
A chapter book organizes the adoption story by sections according
to topic. This method is a bit more challenging than making a Photo Story or an
ABC book because it requires a fair amount of journaling. Still, you may find
this method easier than trying to write the story as one flowing narrative.
Chapter headings might include, but are not limited to:
Target your writing for the reading level of a 10 or 11 year old.
You can always paraphrase when reading the book to a younger child. You can
choose to keep it simple with each chapter consisting of a single page of text
followed by a page of photos, or create two facing pages with a combination of
photos and text on both.
Here are a few more bits of advice:
Remember to use
positive adoption language.
Stay focused on
your childs story (not your story).
Stick to the
I hope these three
possibilities, a Photo Story, ABC Book or Chapter Book inspire you to make a
lifebook for (or with) your child. You can do it!
Sara Mayes is both a wife and
the mother of two boys. She owns Once upon a Lifetime (www.customadoptionbooks.com),
and custom-creates books to document others adoption journeys.