Note: See below for info about a photo book giveaway from Barista Kids and Shutterfly!
Many things about adoption have changed over the years, and one of the biggest is the way in which we tell children about their adoption. Long gone is “the talk” with a teen (or even adult!) to let them in on a long-withheld secret. Today’s adoptive families are encouraged to start the process of talking about adoption early and do it often, making it part of the child’s life story from the start.
Now that my son is nearly 3, I was wondering what the next steps were in talking to him about his adoption story. In The Whole Life Adoption Book, by Jayne E. Schooler and Thomas C. Atwood, the authors make this observation for pre-school age children: “They love to hear their adoption story and often ask to have it repeated as a favorite bedtime story. By the age of 3 or 4, many adopted children can repeat the story verbatim as it was told for them.”
A bedtime story! That is the kind of psychologically supportive task I can get behind, and it got me thinking about how to best make my son’s adoption story work for bedtime.
The answer: Make it into a book.
Since he was born, we’ve been uploading photos of our son to Shutterfly and making photo books a couple times a year as gifts for his grandparents. (Three years in, his folder on the site has almost 1,500 pictures.) So I turned to the service to help me tell his adoption story with a real storybook.
And clearly I’m not the first to have this idea. In the Photo Books section of Shutterfly, the catalog of “Baby” themes includes templates called “An Adoption Story” and “Year You Were Born.” There’s a system called Custom Path that helps you drop photos and text into the book, using as much automation or hands-on control as you want. I chose the “Adoption Story” setup, and in a couple of hours I had a top-notch storybook that fit on our son’s shelves with the rest of his favorite books.
There are lots of different ways for adoptive families to make and use a book like this, but here’s the key thing I decided at the start: mostly photos, few words. In fact, the only words I have are at the beginning, under a photo of the three of us asking “How did we become a family?” and at the end, under that same photo, saying “And now we’re a family forever!”
In the pages in between, I gave myself a lot of leeway. Starting with a spread of backstory (Mommy and Daddy getting married, buying a house, and wanting to have a baby boy), the rest goes chronologically from the day we got the call matching us to his birth mother through to a week or so after we brought him home. There are photos showing the hospital, the hotel, the plane ride, and other major milestone moments in his adoption.
By leaving the words off of the pages, my wife and I have been free to experiment with how to tell the tale and make changes that help the story be the one our son wants (and needs) to hear.
Very quickly, the book indeed became a favorite at bedtime. My son now has the story down pat—the other day, when I accidentally said “hospital” instead of “hotel,” he corrected me—and we all say the ending refrain, “And now we’re a family forever!”, together.
By making his story into a book that sits alongside Harold and the Purple Crayon and Knuffle Bunny, our son has an enjoyable, low-pressure way to start hearing about the adoption agency and his birth mother, and to have a real stake in an important part of his life that he doesn’t remember. This photo book will have to replaced by more sophisticated ways of making him understand his adoption story, but for now it’s helping to create a foundation in his mind that the way we became a family is a fun tale with a happy ending.
Barista Kids and Shutterfly are giving away a free 20-page photo book to one of our readers!
Just tell us in comments what story would you tell in your Photo Book to enter.
Contest starts Tuesday, January 15, 2013 at 8 am EST and ends Friday, January 18, 2013 at 11:59 pm EST. One person who leaves a comment by Friday, January 18, 2013 at 11:59 pm EST will be chosen at random to receive a free Photo Book by Shutterfly.
- Add, move and resize pictures and text anywhere
- Extensive collection of new backgrounds, layouts and embellishments
- 1-25 pictures per page (up to 1000)
- Five sizes starting from $12.99
You MUST leave a comment here to be entered and you may only comment once to get an entry, but if you want another entry and up your chances of winning, here are a couple of ways:
- Follow us on Twitter and tweet about the giveaway. Make sure to include @baristakids in your tweet.
- Subscribe to our newsletter here and send us a message telling us you did with your email address.