On the last track, we discussed Suggestions Seven, Eight and Nine. These have included Not Imposing Value Judgments on the Information, Giving the Child Control of the Story, the "Summary Story" Technique and Remembering that the Child Probably Knows More than You Think.
Do you have a parent whose child has had a confusing past, moving from one home to another? How does the parent help the child cope?
On this track, we will discuss the Life-book Technique. This will include Recreating a Life History, Giving Information About the Birth Family, Giving Reasons for Placement, Providing Photos, Recording the Child’s Feelings and Giving the Child Information About Development. As you listen, think of your client. Might he or she benefit from trying this technique?
A Life-book records a child’s family and placement history. It is a tool that gathers information about a child’s growth and development, feelings, ideas, hopes and dreams for the future. I have found that the Life-book Technique can be useful for many adopted children, whether placed as infants or older children, and I have also found it helpful at all stages of child development. The Life-book record can be a vital resource in helping a child to understand the past and prepare for the future. Constructing a Life Book together can also help bring the adoptive family closer.
6 Benefits of Creating a Life Book
#1 - Recreating Life History
The first benefit is that the Life-books recreate life history. This can be important, as many adopted children have had very confusing lives. Adopted children have often been in and out of foster care and shuffled between family members. Each child’s reaction to the separation from the birth family presents its own set of unique individual responses.
These painful feelings weave a common thread throughout the lives of older adopted children. For children whose memories of former relationships are only vague in their minds, themes frequently recur during the healing process. Have you found, as I have, that an accurate record of the past can help adopted children look forward to the future?
#2 - Giving Information About the Birth Family
Second, Life-books give information about the birth family. Many foster and adopted children do not have a lot of information about their birth families, and they may not have any positive information at all. What did their parents look like? What talents did they have? What about their extended families? In fact, some kids have no information at all. Even though the adoptive parents may have no information about the child, they do have information about where the child came from, for example, a foster family might provide information via a caseworker, if not appropriate to contact the foster family directly.
The reason why I feel researching to alleviate a lack of information is vital is because, I have found that youngsters who have no information make it up, and usually fantasies are negative, such as believing that the birth parents found the child so horrible that they gave him or her up. Some children only have negative information about their parents from which to construct their own identities. Would you agree that children can benefit from both positive and negative details about their birth families?
#3 - Giving Reasons for Placement
Third, in addition to recreating life history and giving information about the birth family, Life-books give reasons for placement. I have found that children frequently have mistaken ideas about why they have been removed from their homes. Many times, the children believe that it was their fault they were removed from their homes. This leads to feelings of guilt, and sometimes children will try to punish themselves. For this reason, children can benefit from accurate and honest information about why they are in care.
#4 - Providing Photos
Fourth, Life-books can provide photos. Even when information is given in written form, have you found, as I have, that children generally want to know what their families look like, if pictures are available? Life-books can provide this comfort. In addition, photographs also record adoptive family events such as holidays, birthdays, and other special times. I have found that children may need pictures of themselves to trace the changes that have taken place.
#5 - Recording the Child’s Feelings
Fifth, in addition to giving reasons for placement and providing photos, Life-books can also record the child’s feelings. Often, children are not given a chance to voice their feelings about their lives and being in out-of-home care. The Life-book, in some ways, is a diary or log that children can use to keep a record of their personal thoughts or feelings.
#6 - Giving the Child Information About Development
Sixth, in addition to providing photos, if available, of birth parents, and recording the child’s feelings, Life-books can give the child information about development. Life-books can give recordings of the children’s important milestones, like their first teeth, their first steps, their first words, along with records of all the other special things they’ve done.
As a way to organize information, the Life-book can be a helpful tool for foster parents, adoptive parents, caseworkers, and therapists who assist children struggling to cope with being away from their biological parents, biological siblings, and original homes.
Do you have an adoptive or foster parent whose child might benefit from a Life-book? Might he or she benefit from hearing this track?
On this track, we have discussed The Life-book Technique. This has included Recreating Life History, Giving Information About the Birth Family, Giving Reasons for Placement, Providing Photos, Recording the Child’s Feelings and Giving the Child Information About Development.
On the next track, we will discuss Sharing About Abandonment. This will include Preschool Age, Early Elementary Age, From a Single Mother, From a Large Family, Middle School Age, Preteen and the "Homeland Tour" Technique.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Barnett, E. R., Cleary, S. E., Butcher, R. L., & Jankowski, M. K. (2019). Children’s behavioral health needs and satisfaction and commitment of foster and adoptive parents: Do trauma-informed services make a difference? Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 11(1), 73–81.
Cioffi, C. C., Griffin, A. M., Natsuaki, M. N., Shaw, D. S., Reiss, D., Ganiban, J. M., Neiderhiser, J. M., & Leve, L. D. (2021). The role of negative emotionality in the development of child executive function and language abilities from toddlerhood to first grade: An adoption study. Developmental Psychology, 57(3), 347–360.
Brodzinsky, D. M. (2011). Children's understanding of adoption: Developmental and clinical implications. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 42(2), 200–207.
Jaffari-Bimmel, N., Juffer, F., van IJzendoorn, M. H., Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J., & Mooijaart, A. (2006). Social development from infancy to adolescence: Longitudinal and concurrent factors in an adoption sample. Developmental Psychology, 42(6), 1143–1153.
Palacios, J., Adroher, S., Brodzinsky, D. M., Grotevant, H. D., Johnson, D. E., Juffer, F., Martínez-Mora, L., Muhamedrahimov, R. J., Selwyn, J., Simmonds, J., & Tarren-Sweeney, M. (2019). Adoption in the service of child protection: An international interdisciplinary perspective. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 25(2), 57–72.
van IJzendoorn, M. H., Juffer, F., & Poelhuis, C. W. K. (2005). Adoption and Cognitive Development: A Meta-Analytic Comparison of Adopted and Nonadopted Children's IQ and School Performance. Psychological Bulletin, 131(2), 301–316.
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