January Relationships: Honoring the Whole Family

January is a time when folks traditionally take stock of where they are and may even make some resolutions for a new diet, more time exercising, or commitments to spending quality time with family. For families experiencing transracial adoption, January can offer a time to think about the year ahead and together as a family, continue the expansive journey of purposefully navigating family and differences together.

January Pro-Tip to Foster Conversations About Transracial Adoptions

At Transracial Journeys we send our families conversation cues each month, from our Transracial Journeys card deck, given to all our families at Family Camp 2021. The card deck contains three cards for each month, designed for the children to ask their parents. Below are the questions for December. Before letting your child get started, prepare by reading the parent pro-tip, from the Parent Guide, each month.

January Pro-Tip for Parents: Do some pre-planning so that you have time to process some of the harder anniversaries or days on the calendar before discussing with children. Have some ideas to share for new dates to mark on the calendar so your children can react and be inspired to think about what they’d like to add as well.

CARD ONE: IDENTITY
• Each family member thinks about a few dates they want to add to the calendar - from a whimsical day like “national doughnut day” to Birth Mother’s Day (the Sat before Mother’s Day) to the anniversary of the death of a loved one. Each
one of these days can be placed on the calendar with ample time to prepare!

CARD TWO: RELATIONSHIPS
• Work together to decide the best way to honor both the fun days and make room to honor and prepare for the harder ones.

CARD THREE: EMBRACING AND FACING DIFFERENCES OF RACE AND CULTURE
• What are some unlucky things about adoption?

This post is from our January, 2022, e-newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, please subscribe.


Recommendations for Giving Books this Holiday Season

 - by Avril McInally, member of the TRJ Board since 2016

On a personal note, I’d like to share a story about a book my daughter, Mary, enjoyed when she was a wee girl. When I discovered the board book “Shades of Black” by Sandra Pinkney, I bought a copy (I should have bought two so I could share one with her White best friend). Mary and I read it many times and until it became tattered and too young for her. The last line in the book read “I am black, I am unique.” Mary often read that sentence aloud. It sounded like “I am black, I am yougique.” Reading this book is a happy reminiscence for us, but it also takes me back to a time when I hardly saw any reflections of our children in books. If they did appear, they were often secondary characters.

Recommended Books

In memory of this experience, I created an annotated bibliography for our children that came in your care packages just before camp this summer. As I think about all the characters in the books I recommended, I am thankful that we have a much wider representation of families, of children and of their many different intersectionalities. It’s not so difficult for our children to open up books today and see a reflection of themselves, but this was hard to find when my children were young.

If you are purchasing gifts this season, I would like to recommend to you that you use this bibliography as a tool to share our children’s experiences and let others have the experience where characters representing them are secondary in these books, for once. Let them experience a little of what it is to be a young, Black human being by reading about it from a young Black person’s perspective. Share this window into our children’s world with White children as well as Black ones, and support wonderful authors and illustrators who are people of color as well as LGBTQIA2S+.

This post is from our December, 2021, e-newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, please subscribe.


December – Reflections: Making and Breaking Traditions 

The December holidays give us an opportunity to think about traditions tied to different cultures and religions. Regardless of what you and your family honor and celebrate, we can be inspired to take a closer look at what traditions mean to us and how we can expand our thinking and actions.

December Pro-Tip to Foster Conversations About Transracial Adoptions

At Transracial Journeys we send out cues for conversations each month. Our Transracial Journeys card deck contains 3 cards for each month that the children use to ask their parents questions. Below are the questions for December. Before getting started, read the parent pro-tip each month.

December Pro-Tip for Parents: Resist the urge to hold tight onto traditions that may be holding you back from fully embracing new ideas that may better honor your child’s culture. Also think about simplifying or modifying some of the traditions you now honor to make room for new ones.

CARD ONE: IDENTITY
• As a kid, did you celebrate any December holidays?
• If so, which ones?

CARD TWO: RELATIONSHIPS
• Were there things that you would do year after year as a family during the month of December or
maybe other months of the year?

CARD THREE: EMBRACING AND FACING DIFFERENCES OF RACE AND CULTURE
• What are some new traditions or holidays you’d like to learn more about and/or try?

This post is from our December, 2021, e-newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, please subscribe.


‘Tis the Season to Reminiscence

What does it mean to reminisce?  I have difficulty spelling the word, never mind fully understanding it.  After a quick search, I found a few accessible definitions. These included a story told about a past event remembered by the narrator, and the enjoyable recollection of past events.

However, for our families in particular, reminiscing isn’t always a rosy experience. Sometimes, it can be a thorny one. Digging deeper for more meaning, I found the term differently-defined  in a Merriam Webster dictionary.  Hold on to your hats!

  • Apprehension of a Platonic idea as if it had been known in a previous existence
  • Recall to mind of a long-forgotten experience or fact
  • A remembered experience
  • Something so like another as to be regarded as unconscious repetition, imitation or survival

Often, we search for warmth and meaningfulness in our memories and reminiscences, especially during the holiday season,  but they’re often laden with events that can activate thoughts of loss. “Reminiscing together, and sharing feelings and memories about the people who are not present brings everyone closer,” writes Madeleine Krebs, LCSW-C, but that isn’t always necessarily the case. She states that it is important that parents “understand the complex feelings around the many losses that adopted children have experienced.”  Krebs goes on to write, “I remember the teen who had never had a Christmas tree and did not know what to do when invited to help trim it… and another child whose birth family was often homeless and had no money to buy food or gifts, who felt guilty and overwhelmed by what she received from her new family.”

Celebration Can Magnify Grief

Recalling past events can bring forth happy memories as well as difficult ones.  “Know that the joy of celebration can actually magnify our grief,” writes adoption professional Elise Lowe. Lowe describes how to recognize behaviors in our children that may stem from this emotion. Those include: angry outbursts, being withdrawn, anxiety, irritability or having trouble sleeping. These things can happen when difficult memories are being revisited, or when we are reminiscing, but we can help our children cope.  Lowe says we can respond to these behaviors with sensitivity, support and compassion, and  notes that being empathetic builds attachment.

Consider Ways to Offer Support

What else can we do? In the rush of holidays December brings, it’s important to slow down and pay attention to our kids, share our feelings and honor theirs. For children that may have memories of holidays past, ask them about their traditions, says Krebs. We can also consider the following.

  1. Don’t erase those who look different from the rest of the family. Adult transracial adoptee Rebekah Hutson, asks that we make our transracial families multicultural and points out that this is especially important during holidays and anniversaries.  “Just imagine looking around your family… Family, the people who are supposed to ride for you, and seeing all the love, laughter, and support for certain people, and then complete erasure of others who look different.” “Don’t just include us in your family, treat us like family; become part of our family.”  Trauma can be lessened when you keep your child connected to their culture.
  2. Be aware of and prepared for sensory overload. There are loads of stimuli during the holidays and they can be overwhelming. Simply switching on the tv and seeing all the movies and commercials related to happy families and unrealistic expectations can overload our circuits.  For kids with trauma in their background, consider maintaining an environment that’s predictable and consistent in order to soothe their nervous systems.
  3. If your child remembers their biological family, ask them how holidays were celebrated. Work together to incorporate some of those traditions into the season. If you have an open relationship with your child’s family of origin, consider nurturing this relationship even more at this time of year. Krebs outlines that our children can write letters or emails, draw pictures and send cards or make phone calls.  You could plan a holiday celebration to hold on a visit with biological family members too.
  4. Social worker, Krebs describes some accessible activities in her article “The Holidays - an opportunity for loving healing”.  They include adding some old, favorite holiday foods to the menu, or “lighting candles in memory of ALL loved ones not present.” She mentions one family she worked with that “made a paper chain containing all the names of both birth and adoptive family members and hung it in the doorway for all visitors to see.”
  5. Seek out holiday songs from your child’s culture. Listen to them and try singing them too.
  6. Be on alert for any actions or behaviors from friends or extended family that may harm or isolate your adopted child. If this does happen, talk to your child about the problem as well as talk to the  people who have   harmed your child. Always stand up for the rights of your child, be clear with others and be your child’s protector and advocate.
  7. Be culturally expansive about holiday traditions. Have everyone  share something they like about the holiday as well as talk about their favorite traditions.  Decide to incorporate some of these old favorite traditions from all members of the family, and turn this into your own, new tradition.

This post is from our December, 2021, newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, please subscribe.


Nourishment: Food and Family at the Table

The following post is from our November, 2021, newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, please subscribe.

November brings us one of the more complicated historical holidays (Thanksgiving) and for many in the United States, one of the more family and food-centric holidays. Whether you are a family that marks Thanksgiving or chooses not to in a traditional way, this month we are thinking about the family table and what might be true when there are differences of race and culture with transracial adoption. November also brings National Adoption Awareness Month, (NAAM) which can be challenging for some adopted persons. (read "Adoption: A Three-Sided Coin")  This month prompts on your activity deck include questions for both areas of discussion.

November Pro-Tip to Foster Conversations About Transracial Adoptions

At Transracial Journeys we send out cues for conversations each month. Our Transracial Journeys card deck contains 3 cards for each month that the children use to ask their parents questions. Below are the questions for November. Before getting started, read the parent pro-tip each month.

November Pro-Tip for Parents: Talking about family and complicated history can activate deep-seated emotions and feelings. Make sure you have the support you need to process your feelings before and after the conversations you may have with your children.

November Transracial Adoption Conversations

CARD ONE: IDENTITY
The Family Table: Describe your family table when you were growing up.  What was the food like?  Who was around the table? What were the best parts of family dinner-time? What were some of the harder parts?
NAAM: When did you first learn of NAAM?

CARD TWO: RELATIONSHIPS
The Family Table: Who were the people sitting around your family table?
NAAM: What does NAAM mean to you?

CARD THREE: EMBRACING AND FACING DIFFERENCES OF RACE AND CULTURE
The Family Table: Were there ever people of different races around your family table?
NAAM: How can we find our own unique ways to honor and mark NAAM?