If you have ever been involved with foster care, you are probably aware of the mandate to create a life book for the child. This book is intended to give a child who may not grow up with the same family a way to have a record of his or her life and to give the child a sense of connection and continuity. Most people start this type of project with a baby book but let it wither and die from neglect. Investing the time and energy to give your child a life book can be a great way to remind your child of your love and involvement in his or her life. Having a plan to keep the book going once it is started is the key.
Avoid being haphazard.
The death of any ongoing project is the lack of a plan. Scrapbooks, life books, and other contemporaneous records depend on a method and doable plan to keep them accurate and complete. You need to set a day and time each week keep this book maintained. Even if you continue to acquire materials, they have to get into the book correctly to make sense. If too much time elapses between the collection and entry times, the book will lose its time line. Items will be lost, or details will be forgotten.
Keep a file and a diary.
A good life book should have the elements of both a diary and a scrapbook. In order to accomplish this goal, you have to keep two sets of records that feed into the life book. Take the time each day or so to record interesting things that were said or done by your child. A few sentences will suffice most of the time.
Make sure that the date and time are entered with the material. You can edit it later when you put it into the more permanent record of the life book. Start a file for pictures, articles, your child’s creations from school and play, and anything else that can augment the written record.
Pictures will give life to your words. Most people cannot look at a picture without having their minds fill in a multitude of details surrounding the limited scope of a snapshot. Record the date, time, and any other thoughts on the back of the picture immediately. Transfer these into the text of the life book where you place the picture.
Maintain a growth and development chart.
Make the life book in sections. The main section will be the scrapbook/diary record of your child’s life experiences. In a smaller but important section of the life book, start a chart maintaining a timeline of your child’s biological, psychological, and educational development. Record his or her height and weight at regular intervals. Include advances in mental acuity, self awareness, and emotional growth.
Note educational milestones as they are achieved.
In this section you will put things like reading progress, vocabulary advances, and even advances in reasoning and math skills. On each of the three big areas, it is better to put a little too much than to omit something that could seem important later.
Build a family tree.
Since this is your child, you should be able to provide a decent family tree. With each generation, it gets harder to look backwards into the family history. Do a little research with older and distant family members to fill in as many blanks as you can. Giving your child a strong sense of family is important to build a good strong self-identity. This part of the record could prove very valuable if the book survives to your great-great-great grandchildren.
Consider adding video and sound bites.
In this generation of the smart phone, tablet computer, and digital technology, sound and video are easy to get. Take advantage of this. Save the material in several places on various media types. This way, it will probably survive technological advances that often leave older media forms as obsolete. Even storing them online in a secure location is a good idea. Reference these items with how to find them in the text of the life book. You might even consider creating a digital copy of the entire book.
Record the good and the bad, but emphasize the good.
Skinned knees and missing teeth are a part of growing up. Crying, discipline, and anger are parts of life. Do not overlook all of these just to make the life book seem nice and innocuous. On the other hand, try not to overemphasize the negative side of growing up. Use these events like seasoning in food. It gives a subtle difference to the taste but does not overwhelm the entrée.
Get friends and family involved.
Doing this alone will create an incomplete life book. While you may think that you hear and see everything about your child, you miss a lot. Interview your family, your child’s friends and their parents, teachers and others to gain details. Once these people know about your project and your intent to make it complete, they will start to funnel things to you.
If possible, make a second copy as you go along.
This means two of everything except perhaps the digital records. If you have multiple children, this will give you a library of your family. It will also provide you with the means to recall the joys and pains of parenthood. These will be important helps to your memories once your family is raised with families of their own. You can share them with your grandkids and others who may show an interest.