History and background is sometimes a sore subject with adopted children, as they may feel out of place or unsure of how their current life fits in with where they came from as they grow old enough to begin questioning these things. A life story book gives you a tool for recordkeeping as well as a place to tell the stories that will hopefully answer adoptee questions as they arise. In many cases, a life story book transforms into a beautiful collaborative work that the adoptee can also contribute to.
Life Story Book’s Purpose:
The purpose of a life story book is simple — it is meant to help your child establish a sense of self. The book is a powerful tool when an adoptee is feeling vulnerable, and can also help avoid these feelings by having information about the child’s life open and readily available for them to read at any time. Because this book is meant to be a practical resource for you and your child to share together, but most importantly for your child to have free access to, it is important for the book to be durable in case of damage. Laminated pages and having extra copies on hand are both great options for ensuring the life of the book.
A life story book should always be growing — when it starts, you may focus on the adoptee’s history, but you should always be adding to the story as the child grows. Celebrate important days, like the day their adoption is finalized, birthdays, and milestones like crawling, walking and starting school. Also add some more mundane things — a piece of artwork they colored, or a recounting of a funny conversation they had. A life story book is ever-growing as the child grows. However, be wary of crossing the line into an intricate scrapbook, as that makes it seem less accessible to the child.
As you begin work on the history portion of the life story book, you may encounter a common problem: how to discuss the birth family. A life story book should always, without question, be truthful. Its entire purpose is to give the adoptee a reference they can rely on when they are feeling uncertain about their past, so to lie in the book would be defeating that purpose and undermining any self-esteem it might have helped build or bolster.
Factual information is essential, but so too is age-appropriate ways of relaying that information. Be tactful, and remember that you can expand upon the book as the child ages and asks more questions that you feel comfortable answering in more detail.
Life Story Book Resources:
If you’re ready to start working on your child’s life story book, a great place to start is your local craft store, where you can find three-ring binders or scrapbooks with blank pages, and page protectors or laminate sheets to protect your book and make it safe to handle constantly.
The IFAPA offers a wide range of life story book page templates that you can use along with ideas about what pages might be useful.