How to Create a Lifebook for an Adopted Child

By Lynn Doxon
Adopted children have many questions about their life history.

When a child is born into a family, stories of their early days, weeks and years are plentiful, starting with the story of their mother's pregnancy and their birth. For adopted and foster children, those stories are often lacking. A Lifebook is a book, in scrapbook or story form, that tells those stories as accurately and positively as possible.

Choose a format for your child's Lifebook. A scrapbook can be understood by very young children and while the pictures will trigger memories in older children, important details may be lost over time if they are not written down. An ABC book can be fun for a toddler and can include many important adoption facts, but the story may not be in chronological order and the child will outgrow the simplicity of the book. A chapter book with pictures will be more work but it will also present a more complete life story.

Compile pictures of the child, events in their lives, people who have played an important part in their life so far, a copy of their birth certificate, first passport for internationally adopted children and adoption documents. Organize these chronologically or alphabetically.

Include information about the birth parents and your child's life before adoption. If you do not know anything about the birth parents, simply say you don't know. Provide information about your child's birth country if she was adopted internationally.

Give the reason the child was relinquished and how you chose to adopt this child. Be as positive and upbeat as possible. Make the explanation appropriate for a 10- or 11-year-old child. You can paraphrase when reading to a younger child. Stay focused on the child's story, not your story.

Document important milestones, the people who have been there for them along the way and things that have happened to them. Remind them of connections and similarities to their adoptive family even if they do not look like you. Continue to add to the Lifebook as they grow. Awards, programs from plays or presentations and newspaper articles about teams or clubs they might belong to will all add to the record of their life.

Tip

Creating a Lifebook will reduce magical thinking and fantasy.

Genetic testing, now available at a reasonable cost, may be helpful for sorting out identity when your child reaches the teen years.

About the Author

Lynn Doxon has a Ph.D. in horticulture, is a retired cooperative extension specialist and teaches courses in urban farming. She is the author of three books: "The Alcohol Fuel Handbook," "High Desert Yards and Gardens" and "Rainbows from Heaven." Doxon wrote the Yard and Garden column for the "Albuquerque Journal" and numerous magazine and newspaper articles and cooperative extension service guides.