What is an adoption Lifebook?
An adoption Lifebook, or adoption storybook, is a handmade scrapbook and keepsake that chronicles and illustrates a child’s journey to his or her adoptive home. It is used as a source of information as well as a way to open up the discussion of adoption with a child.
Why is it beneficial to create a Lifebook?
Looking at a Lifebook can help adopted children learn about their history. Having a book to look at, read, and enjoy together can also be a catalyst for discussion between parent and child. Children can ask questions that are important to them and parents can address them with age-appropriate answers. Some parents find that their child will want to read and look at their Lifebook every night before they go to sleep for six months and then suddenly decide to leave it on the bookshelf for a while before taking it down again for new discussion and insight. The Lifebook can be kept in the child’s room to be looked at alone if he or she wishes.
What should I include?
Every family will be different and may include individual keepsakes and photographs from their child’s birth and/or early history. Lifebooks can be typed or handwritten. Some parents will buy a photograph album to use as the base of their child’s Lifebook, while others may use a three-ring binder so that individual pages can be updated or added. Other parents download scrapbooking software so they can arrange images and text on their computer and print out the album.
Many families provide answers to questions that their young child may have when looking at the book together, such as: Where am I from? Why was I adopted?
Some families create a personal name for their child’s book like Leon’s First Year or The Day Samantha Was Born. In a domestic adoption, the book may start with a picture of the child’s birthmother at an initial meeting or before she gives birth. Keepsakes, like the child’s hospital wristband, can be included or perhaps a special note or object from the birth family.
Families adopting internationally may include early pictures of their children with their foster families or caregivers. Maps, visas, or postcards can be included to show the parents’ trip to the foreign country.
Remember, the Lifebook is for the child, not for the adoptive parent. The focus should be on how the child came to your family, not the adoptive family’s journey to parenting.
Why does getting started feel so hard?
Feeling ready to begin the book will be different for each family. For some parents who were challenged with infertility and then the emotional roller coaster of adoption, looking back to the child’s adoption may bring up the feelings they may have experienced while waiting to become a parent.
Even parents who may have gathered images, mementos, and design ideas may still struggle with the actual writing. It can take time and contemplation to find the right words to address difficult questions in a child’s history. Don’t be afraid to ask your adoption agency for guidance in finding the right words.
Where can I find ideas, information, and support?
Because the process of putting together a Lifebook can feel daunting many parents benefit from scheduling a dedicated time to work on the book with other parents. By working side by side on their child’s Lifebook, parents can brainstorm ideas and support each other’s creative process. They can also practice answering difficult questions with other adoptive parents and gain support normalizing the emotional issues they may face when looking at the book with their child.
There are plenty of resources to support the Lifebook creative process. There are a number of books written on the subject and options for families wishing to put something together using digital scrapbooking software. An online Lifebook workshop can be found through Adoption Learning Partners.
Parents Place of Jewish Family and Children’s Services offers workshops at its offices in Sonoma County and elsewhere. Contact Adoption Connection to see if we have more resources in your area.
Get started and good luck!
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