Tools: Narratives


As we are fully aware of, knowing where we come from influences the lens of how we view our futures and ourselves. So important, and yet many children who have been adopted don’t know or have access to their full story—that which preceded their adoption into their families.

Many children who have been adopted arrive with a history of “hard truths,” difficult circumstances and facts that need to be shared with them in age-appropriate language before they enter adolescence when the processing of what it means to have been adopted becomes more complex.

If a child joins their family after adolescence, those facts still need to be explored and discussed. Emotions and, possibly, behaviors will be tied to those truths or to the beliefs the child has about those truths.

Lifebooks are a great tool that can be use to address some to many aspects of the child’s story. Journaling is another tool, and provides a method by which the child can process what she knows about her personal story and feelings related to it.

Narratives are an additional tool parents can use with their child. Narratives are stories, read, shared or created “on the spot.” Their goal is connection. Narratives serve to:

  • Jointly interweave your child’s story and yours, fully welcoming and claiming them into the family, helping them to feel connected,
  • Teach your child that their unique story has its place within your intergenerational family history,
  • Help to develop attunement—the understanding of and response to verbal and non-verbal cues, a highly intensive state of emotional connection—and attachment,
  • Help to create a foundation for your child within their adoptive family, and
  • Provide opportunity for communication, are springboards for discussion and foster intimacy. (My kids are often in my lap or snuggled right next to me when we read or tell stories.)

Parents: Have you used narratives with your child? What do you do to encourage your child’s engagement, share their thoughts and feelings, while you read or tell the story?  How have the narratives changed as your child moves through her developmental milestones?

~ Photo by Jill Clardy

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