One does not need to be creative or crafty, only motivated to create a important lifebook for their child.
What is a Lifebook?
A lifebook is an actual, tangible book that parent’s can create, sometimes with the assistance of their child. A life book is a celebration of your child’s past, and shows your beginning as a family. Typically they begin with the journey before your child is born as your child’s story begins before they even met you. It is important to remember to not only include your side of the journey but to also include details of their birth parents. The lifebook can also include a letters from birthparents or your recounting of the reasons why an adoption plan was made for your child. Keep in mind, this is a lifebook for your child and it is important to share his whole story in a child friendly way.
Even though your child may have not entered your family for days, weeks, months, or even years after he or she was born, their story began before then and it is an important part of their life to know about as well. There should be pages that include any details about your child’s birthparents. Of course, it should also have plenty of pages to include the day you first met, your travels if you adopted internationally, finalization day, visits with birthparents, and the many very special moments that follow placement. Once your child is old enough, get them involved as well. Ask them what adoption means to them and include their wording in the lifebook. They can draw a picture or choose the pictures they want included in the book. Here are some additional ideas to help you get started:
• Pre-adoption information, items from the placement process
• Date and Location of child’s birth, health records and photos
• Details of the adoption experience, where were you when you got the “call,” prior meetings with birthparents, meeting with your child for the first time, be sure to include lots of dates and photos
• Information about your child’s birthparents
• Things your child’s birthparent(s) did after they were born and things they continue to still do
• Your parental reflections and reactions to moments up to meeting your child for the very first time
Why Make a Lifebook? Why is it Special?
This is a life history book that will tell your child’s story from even before they first entered the world. It is a tool to pull all the pieces of your child’s story together and to help them make sense of all the events in their life. Preserving their history by gathering a memoir of images, thoughts, and information will be one of the most meaningful gifts you can share with your child.
Because you child’s adoption journey is life-long, you can keep the lifebook active by adding to it each year. Working together with your child to add information can be a therapeutic process. It can also open up dialogue between you and your child about their adoption. You might be surprised to find that your child may say things or ask questions they might not normally ask or talk about while working on this project. The exercise provides an opportunity to build trust and attachment while countering misinformation and fantasy. Parents can decide how to share certain information with their children and the lifebook can help foster adoption discussions as well as helping to strengthen a child’s identity because they are able to claim their own story.
What a Lifebook Isn’t:
You might be wondering what the difference between a lifebook and a scrapbook is. In a scrapbook, the pictures are the most important part and in an adoption lifebook, the words are equally if not more important. Scrapbooks also tend to be more public, often given as a gift or kept on a shelf in the living room to pull out when guests come over; where a lifebook is special and really only meant for the child and their family. Now, this doesn’t mean that some pages can’t be scrapbooked by you or your child because that can be a very fun activity and documenting special memories and moments can really enhance the lifebook.
When Should You Get Started?:
There is no right or wrong answer here. If you have a baby or a toddler, get started by writing the text in a way that a school aged child would be able to read. Then you can always go back and select photos or mementos that fit the best. Pulling details of your child’s story together before they start to fade from your memory is a little motivation to get started early. Depending on their age, having your child help write their lifebook is the best way to get started. Even if your child is only three, he or she can help pick a title-page picture, draw pictures, stick stickers, etc. The most important thing is to start a lifebook; there never is a wrong age to start a lifebook for your child.
Creating a lifebook may seem like a daunting task, but once you get started things will start to flow! Share some of your lifebook ideas or language with the adoption community; we are each other’s best resource! Happy lifebook making!