Creating New Traditions to Reflect Our Families and Celebrate Their Identities

author: Avril McInally

For most of us, holidays can be a little overwhelming. Do we have all the candles we need for our Menorah or for our kinara? Have we gotten our holiday lights and decorations up? How are we managing our budgets? Is the house tidy and clean enough for our house guests? Do we have enough food? Speaking of food, what about those special recipes we need to prepare? Do we have all of the proper ingredients? And the gifts? Did we purchase enough gifts to make sure no one is left out or one child gets more than another? These are the scenarios for most families at Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or Yule, yet what of our families? Our families manage these aforementioned holiday traditions of hosting, eating and gifting as well as creating space for our adopted children, their race, the family they were born into, their culture, their religion and more! Read our previous post: ‘Tis the Season to Reminiscence

Because our families rest at the hub of multiple aspects of identity, we visit the idea or concept of intersectionality. Some intersectionalities that help to describe our families include race, gender, sexuality, adoption, age and religion. We have several aspects of intersectionality to honor, celebrate, foster and sometimes protect too. There’s a little more “juggling” for us to do to manage these precious aspects of our children’s or family’s identities. One way to celebrate “us” is to create new traditions that reflect our families and celebrate their identities. Read our post about the conversation cards this month December - Reflections: Making and Breaking Traditions 

Traditions are a way for families to connect and memorialize important life events. To adoptive families, creating traditions is more than a way to bond, but it can also be a great way to commemorate each family member’s roots. By incorporating activities that celebrate birth culture, adopted children can develop a strong sense of identity.

This year, I’m going to work on creating a holiday card for our family with my family. I’ll make a list of our intersectionalities with my adult daughters. Black, White, Adopted, Not Adopted, Atheist, Immigrant, American, Cisgender, Female, Male….. You get the picture. Then, we’ll draw a Venn diagram of our family’s identity and decorate it. Heck yeah, “This is Us”! This is who we are with some holly on top! This could be a new holiday tradition for us. If you start this tradition now with young children, you can save your cards every year and watch how your list morphs or matures.

In addition to creating and honoring traditions, it’s important to make time to honor our extended family of adoption as we gather to eat a special meal, to light a candle, to build a fire on one of the longest nights of the year or simply when we tuck our children into bed at night. Remember it’s important to honor and/or acknowledge the family members absent from your home. It’s the “most wonderful time of the year,” yet at the height of festivities and anniversaries, our children may be experiencing loss and sadness. Make space for children who are processing these emotions and thoughts and love on ‘em a little more and give them space to talk about their feelings. Let’s build traditions of inclusion, empathy and love!

This post is from our December, 2022, 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, 2022, e-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?


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.


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.


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!


Where Did the Calendar Come From?

- by Avril McInally, Transracial Journeys Secretary

When humankind started cultivating and harvesting our own food, we began using calendars. We’ve utilized many different types: Mayan, Egyptian, Advent, solar, Julian and Gregorian to name just a few.

Early on, we also used calendars as tools to chart the stars or mark natural occurrences like the annual flooding caused by the River Nile. More recently, we’ve used calendars to manage deadlines, schedule activities and remember important anniversaries. What does your calendar look like and how does it come to life? Is it a busy, burgeoning document you carry around with slips of paper falling out, does it hang on a wall and feature a theme of flowers or seasons, or does it exist in “the cloud” only to be accessed by a smartphone or tablet?

Calendars and Parenting

It’s the end of summer and we’re sending our children back to school (online, in person, or home school). Our calendars are beginning to look a little different now as they’re filling up with deadlines, assignments, exams and quizzes, parent teacher conferences, and sports or cultural events. As we busily fill in our commitments, anniversaries and engagements for the next few months, which special days are we marking that are specifically important not just to us but also to our children? Which holidays can we add to celebrate the cultures unique to our families? As you mark down the birthdays of everyone living in your home, will you include the birthdays of those who do not live under your roof that may live in our hearts and minds?

Tools for Reclaiming the Calendar With Your Family

The Egyptians prepared for their annual flood. How will you build up your own scaffolding to overcome hectic or traumatic times? As you plan for the year ahead, remember to build in time to process emotions, to rest after busy times, and to have fun! However you work your engagements, anniversaries and holidays into your calendar, don’t forget to also build in the supports you need to make it through the rough times. Just as our children have big ears, they also have big eyes. The calendar may not only be viewed as a tool to managing your schedule, but it can also be a tool through which your children see you taking the care to include things that are important to them.  Below are more tools and ideas for reclaiming the calendar with your family.

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 you
  • Ensure you are making time each month to talk with intention about adoption and differences of race, culture, and class.

Read more about using your Transracial Journeys Conversation Cards.

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


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..


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!