Thursday, April 21, 2011

building continuity: the three-photo story

Since we got home with Z (8 weeks on Monday!) I have been slowly working my way through the book "Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child" by Patty Cogen. So far I have found it to be a hugely helpful resource and I highly recommend it to other adoptive and soon-to-be-adoptive families.

One of the suggestions we have implemented from the book is called a Three-Photo Story. In the course of her work with international adoptees, Cogen found that developing an integrated sense of self was often a challenge for them. The instability of their early lives sometimes caused children to remain in an alert state even years after their adoption, wondering when the next transition would happen and they would lose everything all over again. The Three-Photo Story is a way to help children establish a coherent time-line of their lives and make sense of what has happened to them, fostering a sense of security and self-confidence.

So, what is a Three-Photo Story? I'm glad you asked! It is three pictures printed on the same sheet side-by-side. Picture 1 is the earliest picture you have of your child, or a picture with his or her first caregiver. Picture 2 is of your child's transition from his or her most recent caregiver into your care (i.e. a photo of you, your spouse, your child, and the caregiver on the day you took custody of your child). Picture 3 is of your child with his whole adoptive family.

We put this together for Z about a month ago, printed up lots of copies, and stashed them in some of his usual haunts (his toy basket, his bookshelf, the coffee table, etc). It has been so interesting to watch his reactions to the pictures over the last month. The first time he saw it, he kissed everyone in the pictures. The first time he said his own name was while looking at it. He can now point to each person and correctly label them. Sometimes he crumples it up and throws it away. Sometimes he asks for it and carries it around the house with him. Sometimes he'll sit on my lap and let me tell him his story while I point to the pictures. Sometimes I show it to him and he pushes it away.

All of these reactions gives us glimpses into how Z is processing the events of his own life. We plan to keep them around for many years, updating Picture 3 as needed. Hopefully they will provide a touch-point for him as he continues to process and grows into the person God made him to be.


  1. ok-I've been an adoptive mom for 3+ years and have never heard of that. I think it's a great idea. I might try making our 3photo story pages this weekend!

    thanks for sharing!

  2. You are such a good Mommy Haley Ballast!

  3. Oh my goodness, this is such a fantastic idea! I haven't made it through much of that book yet so if you hadn't credited Cogen, I would have just thought you were a genius! Thanks so much for sharing. I am so glad to hear it is helping Z process the events of his life. Love you guys!

  4. your blog is extremely educational. thanks for saving us so much time in book reading and for sharing the good stuff.

  5. Thank you SO SO SO much for the jewelry order! You are awesome! We appreciate your support so much!