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An adoption lifebook should grow with your child throughout his life. Not only should his lifebook include information about his birth, birth family, and the circumstances surrounding his adoption; it should also tell the story of his life with you, his adoptive family. Some ideas for post-adoption pages are:
As you can see, a lifebook can play a significant role in your child’s life. Spend time with him as he grows older working on lifebook pages together, and looking through and reading his lifebook; as well as discussing any questions that may arise out of those moments. By creating a lifebook for, and with, your adopted child, you are passing on a heritage to him that he will treasure for years to come.
An adoption lifebook is the story of your child’s life, beginning before he was adopted. It offers as much detail about his birth family as possible, and then grows with him as he goes through life. A lifebook is more than a baby record book, more than a scrapbook, it is his story and his connection to who he is, where he came from, and why he was placed for adoption.
Beth O’Malley, author of Lifebooks: Creating A Treasure For The Adopted Child [Adoption-Works Press, 2000], believes that a lifebook “should be required for each adoption, just like the birth certificate.” In response to being asked for her explanation of what a lifebook is, Ms. O’Malley declares that a lifebook the “best gift in the world for an adoptee.”
Creating an adoption lifebook can be as simple or complex as you choose to make it. Some adoptive parents buy a ready-made one from a bookstore or online. There are also printable pages that you can find online, occasionally for free, to use by placing them in a 3-ring notebook binder. It isn’t what you use or how you do it that is important, it’s that you do take the time to put together a lifebook that makes all the difference in the world to your child.
A simple and easy way to get started is to gather together the following materials:
Once you have your materials together, start at the beginning – his birth – and build from there, adding pages as he grows into adulthood. Include pages that address his past, as well as the present, and add pages that he has created as well. Getting started is the hardest part. Creating a lifebook for, and with, your child is an act of love, and will create a memory that will last a lifetime.
An adoption lifebook should begin before your adopted child came into your life, at the point of his beginning- with his birth family- and then grow with your child throughout his life. Some important information to include (at least as much as possible) in your child’s lifebook are:
As your child grows older and learns that she was adopted, she will have questions like who am I? Where do I come from? Who are my parents? Why didn’t they want me? Why was I adopted? Until she has answers, these questions will take up much of her thoughts so it is imperative that she have the answers. A lifebook can provide these answers, giving her the valuable sense of self she needs.
What is a Lifebook?
A lifebook is a tangible record of your child’s identity, the answer to who she is. Her lifebook does not have to be fancy. It can be as simple as a photo album containing color copies of her birth certificates, record of adoption and other forms, or a complex, digitally created composition with fancy graphics, images and fonts.
A meaningful lifebook contains pictures, stories and memorabilia, like old plane tickets or her own personal artwork and computer graphics. The lifebook is also your chance, as your daughter’s adoptive parents, to tell her that you respect who she is, her background and where she came from.
At certain stages of her life, she will revisit who she is and why she was adopted. It is during these times that her lifebook will become her touchstone and help her develop her own unique identity.
Make the lifebook for your child just as simple or fancy as you wish. You do not need to have special artistic or computer tech skills. Think about what you want her to learn about her life before you adopted her. This includes her birth parents and birthplace. Gather the items that have this information.
The lifebook can be a simple three ring binder or a photo album with either page protector sleeves or acid free pages that will not discolor the photos and documents you insert. It can be a completely digital creation that you store on a CD or DVD for your child to use and read during those times when she has questions.
Think about what you want to call her lifebook. Give this important book a title that says it belongs to your daughter. Include her name as a part of the title.
Her lifebook is not complete on the day you bring her home. It is a living document, so keep adding to it as your family has new experiences. As she gets older, allow her to participate in creating pages for her lifebook. After all, you both are the authors.
Lifebook as a Tool
Whether you adopted your child through an adoption agency, another country or from foster care, she needs the information in her lifebook so she can establish who she is. Social workers and adoption workers should bring up this subject while you are preparing for adoption.
Think about the questions you have and that she is likely to have as she gets older. Write them down. As you get the answers, write these down and put the pages into her lifebook. Do the same for your child. When she has questions, write them down and look for the answers.
Therapists often use lifebooks as they help their young clients adjust to their new life. Face it, it is not easy for them to close the door on their old lives as they face a whole new life. The same is true of your child. She will have memories of her old life, so make it easier for her to ask her questions and get the answers she needs. Tell your adoptive daughter that her lifebook is her own story. As she gets to know her past and her new life, she will be better equipped to write the beginning chapters for her future.