Beth O'Malley's Foster & Adoption Lifebooks

Lifebook Exercises for Children

girl doing artworkboy smelling flowerKids learn best when they see, smell, feel and do. That is why the lifebook process works — it transforms the life story from a hit-or-miss auditory experience into a visual and sensory one. Kids experience the process of making a lifebook and get to be active participants.

Some of things I know about lifebooks are because I do social work. Other times it’s my adult adoptee perspective informing me. When my child (adopted) hit school age, I found the Mom I am noticed many “new” life story opportunities that didn’t jump out at me before.

Let's start with, "getting born."

Why is the "Getting Born" topic so important"

painted handprintsMy adoptee instincts tell me that being connected to the birth experience is primal. It ties into that I-am-really-part-of-the-human-race feeling.

Sometimes as an adoptee I feel terminally unique as though I’m not part of ... My feelings frozen and I cut off from my own birth and baby-hood. Can I help my daughter to feel more connected? What about your child? Or kids in foster care?

People missing their birth-family stories require extra help to get in touch with their beginnings. Adoptees and children living in foster care also need reinforcement of basic birth ideas even when the actual facts are missing.

Even answering these questions helps because your child may wonder:

Ask your child if they have any questions or thoughts about their own birth.

Spoon-feed information in bite-size pieces

messy baby faceRemember feeding your baby/toddler? Don’t put too much information on the spoon or you’ll just make a mess. Put too little on and your baby isn’t satisfied. It’s the same with information. Give it according to the size/age of the “mouth” you’re feeding.

Make it fun. Let them play with the information and get messy with it. Remember those songs about how the food is coming in as a plane or a train? Just because your child is older YOU can still be fun and silly and bring a spirit of play to serious and important subjects.


6 Lifebook Activities to Reconnect with Baby Self

These ideas are designed to help you allow your child(ren) to reconnect with their beginnings and experience more positive feelings about themselves and their early life.

1. Visit a Maternity Ward

If you know the birth hospital(s) your child/ren were born at and live close enough for a visit, consider yourself lucky. What an amazing opportunity to help any child or teen connect to their birth. International adoption? Try getting a photo from the internet where or near your child’s birth place.

Identify any local maternity ward that allows visitors to just peek into the nursery. Get permission beforehand as many maternity wards are super restrictive (due to baby kidnappings, etc.). The last thing you want is your child feeling rejected by a maternity ward.

If you can’t get into a maternity ward take a trip to a hospital and go as close to the baby ward as you can. Take a photo along the way. Go to the gift shop and buy a “Welcome Baby” balloon for your child. Take a picture of the child with the balloon.

Girl in baby carrierBaby in baby carrier2. Make a Photo Collage

Use ‘baby photos’ (or as young as you have) and current pictures. Have your child holding one of their original outfits. Snap.

3. Celebrate Missed Birthdays
Schedule a party. Is a first birthday party missing? Any number of early birthdays? Pick one age and go with an appropriate theme. Get a cake, candles, hats, and noise makers. Get a balloon that says “It’s a Boy/Girl” and invite family and close friends. Have them bring little gifts. Or, make it a private family affair. Take pictures.

4. Role Play with Dolls
Step out side the traditional play box of feeding the baby doll or putting her to sleep. Consider putting the doll inside your shirt and talk about having baby inside. Maybe you’re the birth mother? Maybe your child wants to pretend to be the birth parent...

5. Practice Funny Baby Faces
Newborn babies make funny faces. Sneezing. Opening one eye. General goofiness. Look at silly newborn faces online or at the bookstore. Have your child practice making funny newborn baby faces and take pictures.

6. It’s All Happening at the Zoo

Lion and babyVisit the new baby animals. Take advantage of making natural connections for younger children as you watch the baby animals.

“Wow those babies grew inside the mama pig before they were born. The same thing happened when you were inside of the lady who made you” and call that lady by name (if you know it) or your first mother, birth-mother or whatever words you use.

circle of family facesDon't be surprised if your child asks about suckling, birth-parent(s) and has feelings (happiness, sadness, curiosity, etc.) when thinking of these topics.

Remind your child ALL humans get born. This can be as important and primal as all the work you do on birth-family, baby self, secure family and cultural connections.

Remember, we all need to feel a part of the biggest family of all — the human family!


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