Mental Illness Awareness Week and Masks of Perfection

author: Avril McInally

This year, Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) runs from October 2 to October 8. In April’s deck of cards for October, she asks, “Do you think people wear masks that we can’t see?” This question resounded and rested heavily on those of us attending a recent Transracial Journeys’ Board Meeting. You could have heard a pin drop after one of our board members solemnly spoke of an associate’s child who had just committed suicide.

To bring this closer to home, this child was a transracial adoptee. They were the kind of young adult who seemingly had every opportunity at their fingertips. A child whose parents beamed over their accomplishments and a child who never did anything but please those same parents exceedingly, as well as the society in which they circulated.

“Adoption is often forgotten when speaking about trauma, leading to a form of disenfranchised grief, which is grief that is not typically acknowledged or validated by society. Both the trauma and the unrecognized grief may contribute to significant mental health issues.”

What sort of mask was this child hiding behind? Were there any outlets or therapies for their grief?

When working with this month’s cards, pay close attention to the relationship card and what it asks. Then, ask yourselves if our children wear masks to please us? Consider having a dialog in which we encourage our children to drop their masks in order to share their anxieties, experiences and fears with us. They need to know that they don’t have to wear the masks of perfection or excellence to be safe with us.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has themed this year’s MIAW “What I Wish I Had Known”. You can visit their website for an itinerary of their accessible programs and perhaps, in participating in this program or having honest and safe talks with our kids about the masks we wear, we’ll not have to ask ourselves what we wish we had known.

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


Book Corner – Mental Health Month

For Children Ages 2-5

B is for Breathe:
The ABCs of Coping with Fussy and Frustrating Feelings
(Kids Healthy Coping Skills series)
By Dr. Melissa Munro Boyd

What can kids do to cope when they have big feelings? Some might find it helpful to create art. Others might want a hug, or to listen to music, or go for a nature walk. B is for Breathe contains all of these ideas and many more – one for each letter of the alphabet. Reading this book would be a wonderful way to start a conversation with a child about healthy ways to deal with their emotions.

Books for Young Transracial Adoptees

For Children in Grades 2-7

Stuntboy, in the Meantime
By Jason Reynolds
Illustrated by Raul the Third

Stuntboy, aka Portico, lives in a castle, aka an apartment building, with his mom, dad and grandma, but not for long, as his parents are separating. Stuntboy tries to use his superhero power to maneuver his way through the “frets,” which he gets whenever his parents argue. To cope, he often goes down the hall to his best friend Zola’s apartment, where he learns to breathe, meditate and watch their favorite TV show together. Written in the style of a graphic novel, Stuntboy is an entertaining title for all – and a meaningful and helpful book for kids who are struggling with anxiety.

This book is almost a graphic novel, but is cataloged as a novel.

book recommendations for transracial adoptive parents

Book Recommendations for Families Created in Transracial Adoption

Our Transracial Journeys families regularly seek out books to share with their children and to read for themselves, as white parents of black children. We are fortunate to have a resource in the Transracial Journey's Board of Direcors Secretary, Avril McInally. With a Master of Library Science from Kent State University and over 35 years as a public librarian, Avril and her colleague, Vicki Richards, collaborate to curate phenomenal book recommendations for our children and parents.   The Book Corner is a regular feature in our Transracial Journeys monthly newsletters. If you would like to receive monthly book recommendations via email, please subscribe.


Using Transracial Journeys Conversation Cards

In our post, Where Did the Calendar Come From?, we discuss how the calendar is the perfect tool for celebrating certain moments while preparing for tougher ones. For honoring each person in the family who is connected to your child and to you. And to ensure you're making time each month to talk with intention about adoption and differences of race, culture, and class.

In this post we discuss how best to incorporate the calendar and your Transracial Journeys Conversation Cards into your monthly routine. 

Transracial Journeys Conversation Cards

Unless otherwise specified, the questions on each card are designed for the children to ask the adults/grown-ups. Here is a suggested weekly breakdown for using the cards each month.

Week 1: Parents prepare and reflect. 

  • Read the parent tips for the month.  
  • Using the activity deck, review the month’s theme and prompts
  • Check-in with any emotions that come up for you and discuss with your partner, a trusted friend, or loved one
  • Be intentional when thinking about the best time to create the family ritual

Week 2: Pick card 1.  Child reads/leads discussion
Week 3: Pick card 2.  Child reads/leads discussion
Week 4: Pick card 3.  Child reads/leads discussion and close out the month with any insights, challenges and new ideas  for the next month.

Parents/Grown-ups: Read these tips before you jump in with the young people entrusted to you:

  • Explore the calendar and deck on your own and think about the prompts/questions - maybe even write a few things down
  • Have conversations with other trusted grown-ups first and anticipate any questions that may come from the children/young people
  • Be sure you are centered and ready before diving into the conversations
  • If you already have these kinds of conversations with children/young people, challenge yourself to take it to the next level 
  • Explain to children their role and how they will be able to ask questions to you as their parent

Tips

  • Notice how you felt before, during, and after the conversations
  • Notice any conversations that come up within a couple of days after you have your family “calendar time” and maybe even send yourself a calendar reminder to check in with your kids in a few days - “I was just thinking about how (insert feeling here) it felt to talk to you about (insert topic here) and wondered how you were feeling?
  • If your kids want to skip a month or a week, give grace but you, as parents/grown-ups, should still make the effort to explore the questions/prompts without them
  • If you are inspired, ask follow-up questions to keep the conversation going

One-Page Parent Guide for Using the TRJ Activity Deck Cards

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


Book Corner: The Last White Man

The Last White Man

Written by Mohsin Hamid
Adult

 

The latest short novel (almost a folktale) from New York Times bestselling author Mohsin Hamid, posits an allegorical world in which every human being becomes brown-skinned. If you have enjoyed Jose Saramago’s “Blindness” or Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis”, this story is for you.

Book Recommendations for Families Formed in Transracial Adoption

Our Transracial Journeys families regularly seek out books to share with their children and to read for themselves. We are fortunate to have a resource in our Transracial Journey's Secretary on Board of Direcors, Avril McInally. With a Master of Library Science from Kent State University and over 35 years as a public librarian, Avril and her colleagues collaborate to curate phenomenal book recommendations for our children and parents.   The Book Corner is a regular feature in our Transracial Journeys monthly newsletters. If you would like to receive monthly book recommendations via email, please subscribe.


September is for Curiosity and Reclaiming the Calendar

In September we focus on curiosity and our family's relationship to dates and special days.

The calendar is the perfect tool to:
• Celebrate the special moments and prepare for the harder ones.
• Honor every person in the family who is connected to your child and to you.
• Ensure you are making time each month to talk with intention about adoption and differences of race, culture, and class.

September 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 and available for purchase. The card deck contains three cards for each month, designed for the children to ask their parents. Below are the questions for September. Before letting your child get started, prepare by reading the parent pro-tip, from the Parent Guide, each month.

September Pro-Tip for Parents: It’s a good idea to add the birthday of your child’s family of origin. If you do not know the dates make an effort to find out and if that is not possible, pick a day where you will honor them in some way and start to institutionalize that on your calendars every year. This will make space to honor those that came before you and while birth parents may not be physically present every day they remain attached to your child and your family in spirit. Make plans to have special treats on these days to celebrate the people that are connected to your children and to you.

Get more guidance on how to use these cards to encourage conversations with your child(ren) while preparing for your own thoughts and emotions related to each topic in our post: Where Did the Calendar Come From?

CARD ONE: IDENTITY (child asking adult)
• When you were a kid what was your favorite and least favorite month of the year and why?

CARD TWO: RELATIONSHIPS (child asking adult)
• What special days do you put on the calendar every year so you don’t forget?

CARD THREE: EMBRACING AND FACING DIFFERENCES OF RACE AND CULTURE (child asking adult)
• What are some new holidays and activities we have added or can add to our calendar to celebrate the cultures that are unique to our family?

This post is from our September 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!


August is for Growth: Always Learning and Growing

It’s back to school time, but not just for kids! Parents can and should stay curious and committed to learning and growing especially when they are parenting children of another race. There will always be so much to learn! Having intentional and planned conversations about adoption and race will give everyone in the family an opportunity to get in touch with their thoughts and feelings and will augment the conversations you are already having.

August 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 and available for purchase. The card deck contains three cards for each month, designed for the children to ask their parents. Below are the questions for August. Before letting your child get started, prepare by reading the parent pro-tip, from the Parent Guide, each month.

August Pro-Tip for Parents: As the conversation about adoption and differences of race expands at home, be sure you are talking with teachers and educational professionals to make sure they are also creating space to learn and grow in what they know about differences of family structure and differences of race and culture.

CARD ONE: IDENTITY (child asking adult)
Close your eyes and think of being a kid at school: What is the first word that comes to mind?
• Can you describe what your school was like?
- How big was it?
- How many other kids were there?
• What was your favorite subject?

CARD TWO: RELATIONSHIPS (child asking adult)
• Who were some of your favorite teachers and why?
• Were there any kids or teachers who looked like me in your school?
• Were there any kids or teachers that were a different race than you?

CARD THREE: EMBRACING AND FACING DIFFERENCES OF RACE AND CULTURE (child asking adult)
• Did you ever see black or brown students being treated differently?
• How do you think your experiences in school were different from mine?
• What can you do better to prepare me for what I might face at school?

This post is from our August 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!


Zack Fried: Recognizing Challenges of Transracial Adoption Today

Transracial Journeys is pleased to introduce Zack Fried as one of the featured presenters for Family Camp 2022, August 4-7th. Zack Fried is a transracial adoptee, who thoroughly enjoys discussing his adoption story with those within the adoption community, as well as those learning more about the adoption community. Zack's presentation will be focused on helping us to understand the importance of recognizing the challenges of transracial adoption today.

 

 

More About Zack

 Zack facilitates a support group for adoptees over the age of 18 called Adoptee Circle of Experience (A.C.E.). Zack has 9 siblings, including 5 who were adopted, and has always felt that real and personal adoption experiences can often be the most authentic inspiration for others who are touched by adoption. 

Zack has worked in the field of adoption for almost a decade and a half, and is Adoption STAR’s Associate Director. Zack is extremely grateful to not only have personal life experience in the realm of adoption, but that this personal passion is also a professional one. Zack feels one can never meet too many individuals who are touched by adoption!

More About Transracial Journeys

Transracial Journeys is a social and educational organization designed to provide practical tools and support for families experiencing transracial adoption.  Our goals include:

  • Building community and promoting racial justice and equity
  • Developing healthy racial identity for all members of the family
  • Encouraging greater cultural competence for parents
  • Fostering a deeper understanding of core issues of adoption

To learn more about our flagship event, Transracial Journeys Family Camp, go to our Family Camp page and check out our schedule of events. If you would like to be notified as future camp details become available, please make sure to sign-up for our monthly newsletter by using the subscribe feature on the bottom of this page..


Black Excellence: Todd Kennedy

Todd Kennedy is our camp counselor and athletic director extraordinaire.  Our children have come to love taking tumbling classes with Mr. Todd over the past several years, and he’s looking forward to seeing his kids and welcoming new families to camp this summer.

Mr. Todd has a special ministry with youth and has taught tumbling to over 9,000 kids in Cleveland, East Cleveland and Cleveland Heights.  He started tumbling at the age of eleven and grew up learning on grass, streets and old mattresses.  He went on to become an acro-gymnast and a power tumbler.  He has dedicated his life and his career to forming loving and inclusive communities via his tumbling program.

Of camp, Mr. Todd has said,

“I did not know I had other family members outside my family until I joined Transracial Journeys.”

We love you, Mr. T!

 

Mr. Todd

Mr. Todd being “spotted” by camp counselors Maggie and Mary at Bellwether Farm.


June, a Month of Celebrations

- by Avril McInally, Transracial Journeys Secretary

Hello June! Hello Summer! Hello to a plethora of days on the calendar to honor, acknowledge, and/or celebrate. Take your pick from this list, folx!

● June 1 | Global Day of Parents.
● June 5 | World Environment Day.
● June 12 | Pulse Night of Remembrance.
● June 19 | Juneteenth.
● June 19 | Fathers’ Day.
● June 27 | National PTSD Awareness Day.
● June 26 | LGBT Equality Day.
● June 28 | Stonewall Riots Anniversary.
● June 29 | International Hug Holiday.

There’s a lot to think about in the month of June. There are so many holidays to choose from that we could find moments to reflect almost every day. Just as we search for the ripest strawberries to pick from our June strawberry patches, we have the opportunity to hand-pick these moments for our families.

Choosing to Host Juneteenth Instead of July 4th

Juneteenth became a federal holiday last year. So, in 2021, I decided to ditch hosting any Independence Day festivities. I chose to acknowledge the holiday that honors my child’s cultural legacy. I chose to show her that her race and culture matter. For me, hosting Juneteenth instead of July 4th prioritizes the energy and the funds I dedicate to these historic holidays.

Kwanzaa Celebration in August?

Ultimately, as a parent, I was the one to decide how we celebrate as a family. In choosing which parades we attended or participated in and/or which holidays we celebrate was a reflection of how I showed up and supported my children’s identities and our multicultural family. In light of this, Transracial Journeys will be reimagining the calendar a bit as we celebrate Kwanzaa at camp this summer. What better way is there to celebrate this year’s camp theme of “Commitment, Community, Culture and Celebration”?

Global Day of Parents and Happy Fathers' Day!

May and June are near and dear to our hearts as most of us are parents ourselves and if not, you probably have a parent or two to celebrate. Getting back to the list of June holidays, the Global Day of Parents was made an international holiday by the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) in 2012. The UN worked to recognize and honor parents who work tirelessly to raise and support children in a holiday which:

“recognizes that the family has the primary responsibility for the nurturing and protection of children."... "For the full and harmonious development of their personality, children should grow up in a family environment and in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding.”

Hats off to you, dear parents and most especially this month, hats off to all of the dads who are doing all of this hard work. Happy Fathers’ Day!

 

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


June Fathers’ Day: Claiming Family Realities

Fathers’ Day came a bit later than Mothers’ Day and there are many of the same things to think about and reflect on as we come to this day and the men that are part of our lives as fathers and father figures. (See our post last month about Mothers' Day for some additional thoughts around the complexities that adoptive parents can face.)

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

June Pro-Tip for Parents: As with May it is important to spend some time reflecting on how you hold Fathers’ Day for yourself and how you might be better equipped to hold your child/children as they experience their own version of the holiday. Best to have planned time for conversation with trusted loved ones and/or community members before, during, and after your family conversations.

CARD ONE: IDENTITY
• How do you identify with Fathers’ Day?
• What are the different feelings you have about Fathers’ Day?

CARD TWO: RELATIONSHIPS
• How would you describe your relationship with your father/fathers/father figures?

CARD THREE: EMBRACING AND FACING DIFFERENCES OF RACE AND CULTURE
• What are some things that fathers of different races might have in common and what are some things that may be different?

This post is from our June, 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!