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 those memories.
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:
Your Birth Family
Your Foster Family
Your Life in (birth country)
Its Official (adoption finalization or citizenship ceremonies)
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 facts.
Keep your sentences short.
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.
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