This appeared in the December 24, 2002 edition of the eMagazine AdoptionWeek...

Lifebooks Create Memories Where There Were None Before

What is your earliest childhood memory? Think really hard, and don’t continue reading until you have something in mind…

For me, I thought it was when I was three years old. I went on a camping trip with my parents in Kentucky and fell in the campfire. Fortunately, my quick-thinking daddy caught my arm before I had suffered any burns.

Back to your earliest memory…Do you actually remember being there? If you’re like many of the people I’ve asked, you don’t actually remember your "earliest childhood memory". Rather, the image etched in your mind is courtesy of a story or photo presented to you and therefore you feel like you were there. Incidentally, my first actual childhood memory (where it is truly my memory and not that of a story or photo that described the event) is of a birthday party my parents threw for me when I was five years old. Now, do you have a different answer to my original question?

With biological children, baby books are often used to preserve your memories of everything surrounding the child’s birth and subsequent milestones. Rolls upon rolls of film are developed and shared with excited family members. However, with internationally adopted children, there is almost never a baby book, only occasionally any photos, and rarely an opportunity to hear personal anecdotes. As your child grows, his "earliest childhood memory" is likely of you!

For the adopted child, it is important to have access to a lifebook containing the images (when available) and story of the life a child has before joining the adoptive family. The lifebook is child-centered and therefore generally starts at the child’s birth and continues with pages about:

The lifebook usually ends with placement in the new home. It can also include pages about legal documents or court appearances, referral pictures and medical information, and other events or milestones occurring prior to joining the adopting family. The list is endless!

Creating a lifebook may seem like a daunting task, especially when there is not an abundance of information about your child’s life before becoming a part of your family, but it is actually easy and fun. There are numerous books and web sites available with information to get you started, tips for handling the unknown or any sensitive parts of a child’s pre-adoption history, and (if the child is old enough) suggestions for ways to include your child in the creation of the lifebook.

If you take the time to do this, your child will thank you many, many times. A lifebook helps fill in the missing pieces, creating "childhood memories" where there were none before.



Written by Jennifer Demar, adoptive parent of two and owner of, an online store specializing in adoption scrapbooking supplies and multi-cultural products perfect for lifebooks.