Create Gates and Doors for Your Family with the Calendar

Happy New Year and happy January! With the dawning of each new year, many of us make pacts or contracts with ourselves to either do or not do something, so we make New Year’s resolutions. The Roman god Janus, for whom the month of January is named, comes to mind. He is depicted as a man with two faces, one face looks forward and the other looks back.

This two-headed depiction of an old, Roman god may resonate with those of us living in families experiencing multiple dualities ourselves. Families like ours, formed by transracial adoption, experience dualities of identity in which there are several intersectionalities. Race, gender expression, religious beliefs, class, disability and adoption are but a few of these intersectionalities.

Janus was also the guardian of gates and doors. He presided over the temple of peace, where the doors were opened only during wartime. It was a place of safety, where new beginnings and resolutions could be forged.” How you manage your gates and doors this year to promote your own temple of peace may take some planning, some resolve or some resolution.

Parenting with the calendar

April gives some great tips for January and nurturing this type of intentionality in her deck of cards: Read January Relationships: Honoring the Whole Family

  • “Think about culturally diverse holidays that can be added [to your calendar] and make a plan to learn about these new holidays together as a family.”
  • “Work together to decide the best way to honor both the fun days and make room to honor and prepare for the harder ones.”

Parenting with the Calendar: Gateways and Doorways

As parents, we manage gateways and doorways constantly. Think about the calendar year ahead, and write down some gateways or doorways you may want to nurture opening, guard and keep closed or crack open a little? How do we purposefully navigate our dualities? Like Janus, how can we look back and how can we look forward? How can we honor, celebrate and mourn as families where we have been and where we are going? Using our calendars to light the way can be a start.

For more ideas about governing your calendar read our previous post, The New Year and Hard Relationships.

This post is from our January, 2023, e-newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, please subscribe.


Book Corner – January 2023

Token Black Girl:
A Memoir

By Danielle Prescod

Danielle’s Black parents raised her to be “colorblind.” They rarely talked about race, and Danielle sensed it was not a comfortable topic. Attending predominantly white schools, and avidly consuming the same whitewashed movies, magazines, TV shows, and books as her friends, Danielle was confused and conflicted about her identity. She convinced her mother to take her for chemical hair treatments starting in elementary school, and later developed disordered eating in an effort to “integrate imperceptibly into the world of [her] white friends.”

Danielle became obsessed with fashion and popular culture, and chose a career in the beauty and fashion industry. Working her way up from intern to editor, she was driven to be “skinny” and project an image that didn’t reflect her true self. After spending years starving herself and burying her thoughts and feelings, Danielle looked inward and began taking a close look at how her childhood experiences and career in a white dominated industry had affected her. Unflinching and illuminating, Token Black Girl is a thought-provoking look at a young woman’s experience of identity formation and eventual self-acceptance.

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.


Book Corner – December 2022

BOARD BOOKS

Happy All-Idays:

By Cindy Jin, illustrated by Rob Sayegh Jr.

“We all celebrate the season in our own special way.
Let’s look at how families prepare for each holiday.”

With a double-page spread for each holiday, this inclusive book shows families enjoying Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, and Chrismukkah.  Ending with Season’s Greetings and Happy New Year, Happy All-Idays is a celebration for everyone.

Merrytale:
A Christmas Adventure

By Christopher Franceschelli, illustrated by Allison Black

On Christmas Eve two brown children are invited on an enchanting adventure.  They ride on a dog sled through the forest and across the ice to Santa’s workshop, where they meet a diverse group of elves who are baking, making toys, singing, wrapping, and more.  Children will love lifting the flaps, turning the shaped pages, and finding all the magical details in this fun book.

S is for Santa:
A Christmas Alphabet

By Greg Paprocki

From A is for Angel and B is for Baking, to Y is for Yummy and Z is for Zephyr (a toy train), this book is an alphabet of holiday fun.  The illustrations have an old-timey feel, but are delightfully populated with people of every hue.  A joyful depiction of Caroling, Ice Skating, Mistletoe, Volunteering, and more.

PICTURE BOOKS

The Christmas Book Flood

By Emily Kilgore, illustrated by Kitty Moss

This beautifully illustrated book is based on a real tradition in Iceland.  Each year people give books as gifts on Christmas Eve, and the recipients spend the night reading.  They snuggle under blankets, eat chocolate bars, and drink hot cocoa.  The lovely art in this book depicts all kinds of people searching for just the right books for their loved ones, gifting them, and reading together. The wonderful tradition of Book Flood is starting to spread around the world.  Reading this book together would be a great way to introduce it to your family and friends!

The Christmas Pine

By Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Victoria Sandoy

This lovely book also celebrates a wonderful tradition.  Every year Norway sends a spectacular Christmas tree to England as a symbol of peace and friendship.  Each year a poem is written to welcome the tree to London.  The Christmas Pine is the poem that was written for the 202o tree.  The touching text and illustrations show the tree’s journey from the forest to the ocean to Trafalgar Square.  There are happy diverse groups of people on both ends of the journey. A sweet book for family sharing around the Christmas tree.

The Hanukkah Hunt (Ruby Celebrates!)

By Laura Gehl, illustrated by Olga and Aleksey Ivanov

Avital is sad because her mom will be far away during Hanukkah.  Cousin Ruby plans a treasure hunt to cheer Avital up.  Each night of Hanukkah there is a rhyming clue, which leads to a fun surprise.  The final clue leads to the best surprise of all – Mom is back in time to celebrate the last day of the holiday.  This story of a loving multi-racial family is followed by an explanation of Hanukkah and directions for playing Dreidel. 

NONFICTION

My Family Celebrates Kwanzaa

By Lisa Bullard, illustrated by Constanza Basaluzzo

Kevin and his mom get the table ready for Kwanzaa, and then the celebration begins.  They light a candle each night, talk about the Seven Principles, and have a party.  Readers will learn about Kwanzaa as they enjoy the holiday with Kevin and his family.

Kwanzaa, How to Celebrate it in Your Home

by Kathleen Minnick-Taylor, illustrated by Charles Taylor II

Kwanzaa is an African American cultural holiday that began in 1966.  This book is an accessible and handy guide to celebrating the seven principles of the holiday.  For those of us who attended camp in 2022, this is the guide we used to celebrate Kwanzaa at our dinner times.

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.


Nourishment: Reflecting on Thanksgiving, Adoption and the Family Table

author: Avril McInally

Our November theme is all about family and nourishment but not simply about food and what we eat, but how we nourish our understanding of the uniqueness of our families and in service of the children we are entrusted to care for and love.

This month we center on both Thanksgiving and National Adoption Awareness Month (NAAM)! This year NAAM’s theme is “Small Steps Open Doors”. One step we can take as adoptive parents is to participate in the online training available from the National Training and Development Curriculum for Foster and Adoptive Parents. This curriculum,

“is now available and free to States, counties, Territories, Tribal Nations, and private agencies. The curriculum encompasses more than 38 themes that include contributions from adults who have experienced foster care and address topics such as parenting in racially and culturally diverse families, trauma informed parenting, and maintaining a child’s connections.”

Thanksgiving and NAAM

At the intersection of Thanksgiving and National Adoption Day, which is held annually on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, while we traditionally center on the joy we also need to make space for the challenges that come to our literal and figurative table. Days commemorating adoption, as well as the history of Thanksgiving, can be challenging for those of us who have been adopted as well as for indigenous people in the United States. We, as families formed by transracial adoption, have a unique and lived perspective of coping with related challenges in this nation. As we continue to move through the more complex layers of our modern lives, we can ask ourselves an important question - how can we celebrate or commemorate Thanksgiving and NAAM? Related post: Adoption: A Three-Sided Coin

Deciding What Holidays to Celebrate

In the past, we’ve shared thoughts about Juneteenth and Independence Day, and how different families decide to celebrate one holiday over the other. What we choose to put on our calendars and how we choose to celebrate or give a moment’s grace to our anniversaries is personal to each one of our families. This year, we encourage all families to work on threading the strands of National Adoption Day and Thanksgiving together at the Thanksgiving meal. Let’s give thanks for family, honor the adopted children entrusted to us, and continue to process the history of Thanksgiving and how it plays out in our lives today. As children advance and grow, we can encourage conversations and connections to adoption and differences of race. Regardless of how old children are, there is an opportunity to explore the important elements of identity and connection.

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


November: Nourishment and the Family

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

Thanksgiving can be one of the more complicated historical holidays, and for many in the United States, one of the more family and food-centric holidays. Whether you are a family that chooses not to mark Thanksgiving in a traditional way, or your family goes all out with a big Thanksgiving celebration, 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. 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?


Book Corner – November 2022

For Children Ages 2-5

I Am Thankful:
A Thanksgiving Book for Kids
By Sheri Wall, illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown

This sweet rhyming story follows three families as they prepare for Thanksgiving. Everyone is cooking and baking. One family visits a pumpkin patch, another donates to the food bank. Some travel on a plane to be together, and a child talks to a far-away father on the phone. Readers will see different ways to get ready and celebrate, including looking at old photos together, doing a puzzle with a big brother, and decorating the table. On the big day everyone enjoys delicious food, and most important, time with people they love. I Am Thankful is a joyful story, with lots of ideas to inspire new traditions. There are plenty of wonderful things to do inside – including a section of Thanksgiving projects for kids.

Book Recommendations for Transracial Families

For Children Ages 4-8

Our Little Kitchen
By Jillian Tamaki
Illustrated by …

A diverse group of adults and children come together to prepare a community meal. Bursting with energy, the book is a lively celebration of sharing “what we’ve got, what we’ve grown.” Including a recipe for yummy vegetable soup, Our Little Kitchen is a fun read for anytime – and a great choice to inspire gratitude and caring.

Book Recommendations for Transracial Families

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.


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.