The Luck Code

It’s March! The spring equinox/first day of spring is on March 20 and March is Women’s History Month. It’s also St. Patrick’s Day on March 17 - a day when “everyone is Irish” and, more than any other time of the year, “luck” is in the air.

For families formed by adoption, there’s a type of “code talk” surrounding the concept of luck. If I had a dollar for every time a stranger told my child how lucky she was to have been adopted or how wonderful I am to have rescued a child from the system… Well, I don’t have to explain this conversation to you, my beloved, village of families formed by transracial adoption because you know the lingo.

Having lived a life on the receiving end of these messages, April writes:

"If I was lucky enough to be rescued from whatever situation I was in with my first family, I should be happy, grounded, have no issues whatsoever, and of course, I should never ever question my identity related to adoption. And heaven forbid, I should never search for my family of origin."

 

"These individuals (sometimes close friends) had no earthly idea that in fact, an adopted person loses something even when they are adopted by an amazing new family. I am not sure they meant harm."

What can help is to hold some space for having a conversation with your family about this month’s prompts. These conversation starters on our cards will really help when it comes to others’ reactions to our children and families, as well as the ensuing comments of luck and saviorism that may also be aired. As April says,

“these are intricate and complicated realities and thinking about them and talking about them will help ease what often lies under the surface."

This post is from our March, 2022, newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, as well as information about our annual Transracial Journeys Family Camp and our monthly Zoom call to provide support for our transracial adoption parents please subscribe.


Preparation: Transracial Adoption: Be Ready!

Have you had strangers ask inappropriate questions of you and your family? “Is she/he/them yours?” - “Where are they from?” - “Your child is SO lucky”. These invasive questions are part of being a family that does not match and where differences of race are obvious to the world around you. It is important to be prepared for these intrusions.

March 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 February. Before letting your child get started, prepare by reading the parent pro-tip, from the Parent Guide, each month.

March Pro-Tip for Parents: Make sure you have thought about specific times when moments of intrusion or inquiry have happened to your family. Think about the conversations you have had with friends and extended family when they were reflecting on how they feel or think you and your children should feel about adoption. These are intricate and complicated realities and thinking about them and talking about them will help ease what often lives under the surface.

CARD ONE: IDENTITY
• Do you feel lucky to be my parent?
• Do you think I should feel lucky to be your child?

CARD TWO: RELATIONSHIPS
• How do you explain our family to friends and family? How about to strangers that ask about us?

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

This post is from our March, 2022, e-newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, please subscribe.  You will get invitations to our Parent Meet-Up each month, a virtual meeting to act as a transracial adoption support group - sharing issues, ideas and strategies for creating a culture of communication and curiosity in your home, as well as monthly card prompt to keep the conversations about race, adoption, family, love and relationships front and center all year long.  And lastly, you'll always be made aware of important dates for Transracial Journeys Family Camp - registration is open now!


Who Do You Love?

In February, we honor Black History and it’s also the month lean into love.  In April’s February card for identity, she opens the door for children to ask parents: “What is one thing you love about yourself?” and “What is one thing you love about me?”  Let’s break those questions down a bit more….

Whether you sit down with your children or not, ask yourself, what do I love about my child? Write down your answer. I know there’s loads to love about our kids. I bet your list is really long. Once you’ve written down some things, come back to this article.

Black History and love come into play for families specifically like ours, families that are Black and White. In your list, did you write anything about loving your child’s Black culture, their Black heritage, skin or hair? How are you expressing your love of your child’s racial identity?

Our Relationship With Black History, Black Friends and Racial Identity

Black History and love come into play for families specifically like ours, families that are Black and White. In your list, did you write anything about loving your child’s Black culture, their Black heritage or even their Blackness? How are you expressing your love of your child’s racial identity?

A friend once asked how to help his child form friendships with other Black children. I asked him, do you have any Black friends yourself? Does your child see you loving Black people in addition to them?  This dad had no Black friends, so it wasn’t any wonder that his child didn’t have any either. How can our kids be or achieve something they’re rarely exposed to?

Ask yourself, do I just love my Black child or do I go further and have relationships with people that are Black? In working to build these relationships, we’re not only availing ourselves of the joys of new friendship but we’re also showing our children we don’t just love one Black person, but many. And remember, children are often noticing and internalizing things even when they don’t always have the words to articulate how they feel about things.

Sometimes, walking this path can be lonely. My Black child didn’t want to participate much in reading about Black history or literature. My Black child didn’t want to attend marches with me for Tamir Rice. Tamir was shot and killed by police outside the very city recreation center we attended for swim meets and family art classes. My Black child didn’t want to attend Black museum exhibits with me much either.

Some White friends and family members thought I was crazy for raising my kids in the middle of the city. It was alienating for me and I didn’t have the support of Transracial Journeys families because some of this happened before our small transracial adoption support network existed. I walked, I cried, I attended, I viewed, and I listened for years often alone. If either of my children came along with me to these events, it was more often my White daughter.

I didn’t realize until recently that doing these things was an act of love and support for my Black child and her racial identity. All along this journey, she was really watching me with big eyes. I know now that doing all of these things not only contributed to the growth of my child’s racial identity, but as she grew, it set down more of an ease to have conversations about race that were initiated often by her. I know it made her feel much more certain of my love for her because I worked for relationship and community with other people like her.

If I could go back in time and ask advice from “future Avril”, I’d love to have heard,

 “love your child, love her culture, love her family of origin… just love her people and in turn, you love your child and your child will have a better chance to truly love themselves””...

This post is from our February, 2022, newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, as well as information about our annual Transracial Journeys Family Camp and our monthly Zoom call to provide support for our transracial adoption parents please subscribe.


February Intersections: Love and Black History Month

With St. Valentine’s Day and Black History Month, this short month brings so many foundational elements of transracial adoption to explore.

February 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 February. Before letting your child get started, prepare by reading the parent pro-tip, from the Parent Guide, each month.

February Pro-Tip for Parents: Be extremely honest with yourselves about what may be a real lack of knowledge and experience with differences of race/class/culture prior to parenting transracially. As you think about this, also think about ways you are addressing and will continue to address this lack.

CARD ONE: IDENTITY
• What is one thing you love about yourself?
• What is one thing you love about me?

CARD TWO: RELATIONSHIPS
• Who was the first person you loved?

CARD THREE: EMBRACING AND FACING DIFFERENCES OF RACE AND CULTURE
• What makes us different?
• What makes us similar?
• What are some new ways we can honor and celebrate Black Excellence, Joy, Resilience?

This post is from our February, 2022, e-newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, please subscribe.  You will get invitations to our Parent Meet-Up each month, a virtual meeting to act as a transracial adoption support group - sharing issues, ideas and strategies for creating a culture of communication and curiosity in your home, as well as monthly card prompt to keep the conversations about race, adoption, family, love and relationships front and center all year long.  And lastly, you'll always be made aware of important dates for Transracial Journeys Family Camp - registration is open now!


The New Year and Hard Relationships

It’s a new year, and January generally comes to us with the mindset of making New Year’s resolutions and thinking about the year ahead. These resolutions are generally about things and not about our relationships (our connectedness) with others or with ourselves.

Teaching Our Children Healthy Relationships

Our behavior and thoughts about our relationships with others can range from warm and loving to anxiety provoking or even scary. In working on our relationships, think about love as an action. Consider activating love, relationships and doing the work to extend yourself in order to nurture yourselves and your children. It’s not easy, but showing our children how to do this when they are still children, and in our care, is a healthy concept to teach.

With this in mind, and because adoption is rooted in complexity, it is important that we, as adults and parents, work on processing our relationships and our connection to difficult things, concepts, and circumstances. Doing this will not only benefit us as individuals, but our children and extended families too!

Our Relationship With the Calendar

One of the first relationships you can lean into in January is your relationship to the calendar. In your TRJ card deck, April asks you to chart out some dates and anniversaries for the year with your children. Think about your relationships to these events (both celebrations and Transracial Adoption Conversation Cardschallenges) and how you might prepare for them. Share your strategies with your children, have them share their ideas and their “asks” for support or celebration with you and then co-create your year. Don’t worry about getting the whole year planned, you can go at a pace that works for you and your family.

Read more about January conversation cues, including Pro-Tip for Parents, in this month's Calendar and Card Deck post: "January Relationships: Honoring the Whole Family."

Co-Creating your Family Calendar

For families that received the TRJ June in April calendar, we intentionally left it blank with no holidays or events. Instead, we gave you a list of possibilities on one of the first pages so you can fill in exactly what you’d like as a family. If you don’t have one of our calendars and you’d like one, send us a note to info@transracialjourneys.org and we’ll get you one. You can also do a similar exercise with ANY calendar you have and read our monthly emails for your conversation stimulants. Reclaim your calendar together and use it as a center of gravity for transformation!

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


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?