Scrapbooks are a good choice for many families since you can personalize the content better than a traditional baby book. You’ll also be able to add pages throughout your child’s life as he or she has new questions or more information becomes age-appropriate. Here are some tips:
- Put the book together ASAP after your child arrives, or even during your adoption journey. Label photos so that even if you wait to make your child’s scrapbook, you’ll still capture the details while they’re fresh.
- Avoid telling the story from your child’s perspective so you don’t project feelings onto him or her. Though the pages of your scrapbook may never change, your child will likely perceive them differently as he or she grows up.
- Write down your feelings throughout the adoption process to share with your child how anticipated he or she was. After your child arrives, jot things as detailed as morning routines or as deep as your reflections about being a parent. You can even keep a notebook in the diaper bag to take quick notes.
- Take notes about your child’s birth parents, after you receive the adoption opportunity and at the hospital. Ask as many questions as possible, things you think your child may want to know one day, in case you don’t have the opportunity later.
- If your adoption is more open, dedicate a section of the scrapbook to your child’s birth family. They may be interested in making the pages themselves. Have them include details about themselves, similar to the Family Favorites section of your Adoptive Family Print Profile.
- Every time you send letters/pictures to your child’s birth parents, put the same things into the scrapbook as well. It will help your child see that the relationship was left open and show the milestones his or her birth parents hear about.
- Try to include pictures of your child’s birth family. It can be valuable to see photos of someone with whom you share genes, especially going into the teen years. No pictures? Use a small mirror, and ask your child to imagine adults who look like him or her.
- Acknowledge your child’s heritage/culture if you’re familiar with it. Of course, this is important in transracial adoptions, but parents of the same race as their children sometimes forget to do this as well.
- Relinquishment is tough to explain. Talk about how your child’s birth mother had grown-up problems and wasn’t able to care for your child. Talk about tough decisions in life, and explain that she made one in choosing you to raise her baby. Acknowledge that your child’s birth mom was sad she couldn’t raise her child, but happy that you were there to be mommy and daddy. Avoid saying she loved your child so much that she gave him or her away because your child may worry that you’ll have to give them away, too. Make sure he or she knows they are loved by both sets of parents.
- Remember that the more your child knows, the more uncertainty is reduced and they can formulate an identity, especially in adolescence. It’s ok to keep things age-appropriate and simple and then add later as your child grows in understanding and questions grow more sophisticated.
- Here are some other things to include in your child’s adoption scrapbook: his or her birthday, court day or finalization and when you brought your child home, your first day or night together, how the birth parents found you, why you wanted to adopt, where your child’s name came from, etc.
- Use mementos and copies of documents to help ground the story, such as footprints showing how small your child was, an adoption decree or birth certificate (to show the permanence of the adoption), a map with the distance you traveled to your child, etc.
- Make a color copy of your scrapbook so that your child can carry his or her copy around, and you won’t worry about damaging the original.
- Look at the scrapbook together regularly until your child can read it themselves. Allow him or her to share it with others, but don’t force it.
If you haven’t made an adoption scrapbook and can’t believe that you’re already sending him or her off to school, don’t worry. You still have time! Children will grow more interested in their adoptions with age, and an adoption scrapbook still has an important role in your child’s life. Consider making a scrapbook together that tells the story from your son or daughter’s point of view. For more tips on making a scrapbook with other children, check out this article from Adoptive Families.
Lifebooks are a variation on scrapbooks and another good way for you and your child to share an adoption story. In a lifebook, you’ll write out your child’s story and then have it bound into a storybook. You’ll want to consider a lot of the same things as with a scrapbook but will probably use less photos and tailor the story more to a specific age-level. Short on pictures? Use illustrations. Do your best to accentuate the positives without creating fiction, and stick to major events to keep things action-packed. Here’s an article from Adoptive Families with advice on lifebook publishers.
Birth Mother Scrapbooks
Adopted children and families aren’t the only ones who benefit from adoption scrapbooking. Birth mothers can also find it healing to collect memories and mementos. From your changing body and pregnancy to choosing the adoptive family to the hospital stay, there will be plenty of opportunities to take pictures and reflect on your adoption journey. Many birth mothers also enjoy scrapbooking the pictures and letters they receive from the adoptive family or chronicling any visits with their child. Here are some ideas for scrapbooking from birth mother Alison.
Don’t wait to start a scrapbook or lifebook because you’re worried about creating a masterpiece. Anything you create will be meaningful, so get started!