Monday, August 20, 2012

For Adopted Toddlers: The ABC Lifebook

Posted by Angie at 7:00 AM
Let's talk lifebooks!  You know, "the kid-friendly book that tells her whole story in words and pictures—it tells about her birth, her country, what adoption is, information about her birth parents and the reason for leaving them, foster parent information, information about your family and how she joined your family, etc." (from Do They Have Salsa in China).

I hate to admit this, but our social worker never even mentioned a lifebook.  Since our meetings with her, I discovered the idea online and have fallen head-over-heels in LOVE with the idea.  I think creating one gives parents a chance to imagine questions a child is going to ask and figure out age-appropriate answers.  I think having one is an awesome way to instigate meaningful conversations with your child.  Reading through this type of book will not only help an adoptive child feel comfortable with his or her story, but also give that child practice talking through it, so they, in turn, know how to answer difficult questions appropriately to classmates and friends.  Sold yet?

So there are ALL sorts of kinds of lifebooks out there.  The best advice I saw?  Don't over think it.  Every page and every word does not need to be perfect.  The husband and I chatted about it and we going to go ahead and make two lifebooks.  One we will gear towards an elementary-school-aged Levi, and my husband is in charge of that one.  This is what he will be using as his model

I took on the "toddler" aged lifebook.  Essentially, what I did was a personalized ABC book for Levi, made on my favorite photo website, Shutterfly (honestly, not paid or perked by them, I just love their stuff).

Here are some of my pages:
"A is for ALWAYS!  We will ALWAYS love LEVI!"  This is probably the most important idea I want to emphasize in this book, so that's where I began.  See the gray rectangle to the left?  That's all set and formatted for me to just drop a family picture in once we have one!

  "B is for BIRTHDAY!  April 30, 2012."  This day is an important part of Levi's identity, even though we weren't there for it.  I'm sure this was a day of very mixed emotions for his birth mother/first mother, and it will likely bring about mixed emotions for Levi as he grows up.  But as a toddler, we won't be getting in to all of that!  Instead, what Levi gets is a fact (the day he was born), with an exclamation point (it's exciting), and pictures of him as a week old baby.  We are introducing the idea of a "birth day" and planting the seed for future discussions.

"E is for EXCITED, we were so EXCITED to meet Levi!"  With a blank square for a picture of when we meet Levi.  "F is for FOREVER FAMILY!"  We will probably use another picture of when we meet Levi, on our "Family Day," the day we become a family in person.  Again, this introduces the idea that we weren't always with Levi, physically (we have to "meet") but despite that, we are a family "forever." :-)

"M is for MOMMY!"  "N is for NANNIES who took good care of Levi"

"O is for OTHER babies you lived with in Taiwan."  I just caught that I used "you" instead of the third person "Levi" that I used in the rest of the book.  Need to fix that ;-)  But if I hadn't caught it, it would not be a big deal.  Remember, don't over think it!

"Q is for QUESTIONS, which are always ok!"  This is an important page for me.  I never want Levi to feel like he can't ask us "tough" questions (or easy ones, of course), about his adoption.  Again, planting the seed for that here!

"U is for USA, which is where we live!"  "V is for VISITORS who came to see Levi!"  Just an example of completely blank pages, formatted and ready to go.  You know, so when I am sleep-deprived and exhausted, all I have to do is drop in the pictures to finish this book and click "order."

The last page reads "Mommy and Daddy will ALWAYS love Levi, don't ever forget, as you read your alphabet!"  This ties back in to the main theme of the book (mommy and daddy will always love you) and rhymes, so points there!

What I like about the ABC-style book is that it gives me a chance to introduce "adoption lingo" in a short, easy to manage, simple way.  It's simplistic, and for a young toddler, that's exactly what I think we will need.  For example, on page "R" I wrote "R is for REFERRAL, when we first saw Levi's face!" along with the first (crying) picture we saw of him.  Will a toddler have any idea what a referral is?  No.  But the word is introduced so that when he is ready to talk more specifically about adoption (with the book my husband is making), it's there.

This book really made me think about how we might explain adoption to a toddler-aged Levi.  We have a picture of his first mother in there, the letter for her first name, and right now it reads "HER-NAME-WHICH-WE-AREN'T-SHARING-HERE, Levi's tummy mommy in Taiwan."  The term "birth mother" requires that you understand birth (which we will not be explaining to a toddler, ha).  We like "first" mother vs "forever" mother (me), but that also might be confusing/scary?  So I settled on "tummy" mommy for now, with the idea of explaining "you grew in her tummy."  But again, nothing is set in stone...I can keep tweaking up until I order the book, and if things change after that, not a big deal!

You might be can I come up with something for every letter of the alphabet?  Here you go!

A = Adoption Day, All About You, Always
B = Birthday, Birth Mother, Birth Family, Brother, Baby, Boy
C = Celebrate, Cherished, Chosen, Caregivers
D = Daddy, Daughter
E = Excited
F = Family, Father, Forever, Foster Family, First
G = Grandfather, Grandmother, Grandparents, Gotcha Day
H = Home, Heritage, Hope, Happiness
I =  I love you, Irresistible
J = Joy
K = Kisses
L = Loved, Lullaby
M = Miracle, Mom, Memories, Map (of birth country)
N = Nursery, New
O = Orphanage, Official (Adoption Finalization), Our Dream Come True
P = Parents, Passport, Plane Ride
Q = Quiet Time, Quilt, Questions
R = Referral, Ready, Room, Remember
S = Siblings, Sister, Son, Smiles, Special
T = Together, Toys, Travel, Thankful
U = USA, Us
V =  Visit, Visitors, Visa
W = Wishes, Waiting, Welcome Home
X  = X Marks the Spot (location on a map), XO (kiss/hug)
Y = You
Z = Zodiac Sign, ZZZZZZ (sleeping)

{list from here}  And obviously, feel free to tweak for your own adoption story!  H, for us, is His Hands, the name of Levi's orphanage.  T is Taiwan for us.  You get the idea!

If you are a waiting mama, this is something you can get started on now!  It will be easier to make without a little one running around.  Format your pages on your favorite photo book site, a word document, or even hand write it out on sheets of paper (which would be adorable!  my handwriting is terrible, unfortunately).  Then, all you have to do is add in the pictures.

If you have already adopted, it's not too late!  Keep it simple and toss it together.  It only took me a couple of hours.

If you are past the toddler age, check out the link above for the elementary-school version!  Once my husband has that done, maybe I'll convince him to write a post ;-)

Above all, just remember, it's worth it!  Adoptions involve pain and loss.  For us, this will be an important tool to open that conversation and begin the healing.

Much love,
Blessed Mama


Amy said...

LOVE this idea! Pinning it now :) Thank you for sharing the idea.

Jessica said...

Love this!!! A fun way to introduce your child's adoption story to them. I am going to have to make one.

Courtney Aston said...


Sarah H. said...

LOVE LOVE LOVE this. I've been stressing the whole idea of a life book. Wanting it to be perfect. Thank you for reminding me that it doesn't have to be (although I think yours is pretty darn perfect)! I LOVE the idea of different books based on age and I'm totally going to make the ABC book for my little Levi! <3

taryn beachler said...

I love the ABC idea! I've been wanting to make one that is very durable so that our son can chew on it and look through it on his own as a young child, so I was hoping that it was possible to order personalized board books- and it is!

I heard some good advice to make 2 copies as well, keeping one safe and giving him free reign with the other, so that it is okay for your child to be super rough on the book and look through it whenever they want to, not just on special occasions

Future Mama on August 21, 2012 at 9:39 PM said...

These are such great tips Taryn! Thank you so much for sharing.

Future Mama on August 21, 2012 at 9:39 PM said...

Aw, you are so sweet Sarah. I know whatever you make for your Levi is going to be AWESOME!!

Future Mama on August 21, 2012 at 9:40 PM said...

Thanks Courtney!!

Future Mama on August 21, 2012 at 9:40 PM said...

Glad you think it's fun too ;-)

Future Mama on August 21, 2012 at 9:40 PM said...

Aw, thanks Amy!!

adopted mom of 3 said...

Thank you so much for this post. I love it! I need to get started immediately. You're list has made it so much less daunting.

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