April Beginnings: What’s in a Name?

Your name is central and significant to who you are and, in essence, can be the keystone of identity. When your child is adopted, there’s another world, another narrative, and perhaps another name that accompanies them along with their “who am I?” journey. The way in which we build a strong and healthy identity often begins with our names as one of our central building blocks.

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

April Pro-Tip for Parents: : Becoming more fully aware of the deeper elements of adoption related to names will prepare you to authentically hold the realities of identity formation experiences. Diving into these delicate topics may evoke strong emotions. Have confidence in yourself to take steps on this journey. As part of the TRJ community, you have the support, love, and guidance of this community to commit to moving toward complexities in service of a healthier, fuller experience of adoption for your child/children, your family, and for YOU!

CARD ONE: IDENTITY
• How do you feel about your name? Love it? Dislike it? Have never really thought about it?
• Did you ever change your name?

CARD TWO: RELATIONSHIPS
• How did you choose my name?
• Do you know if I had a different name before I was adopted?
• Did you discuss my name with anyone in my family of origin?

CARD THREE: EMBRACING AND FACING DIFFERENCES OF RACE AND CULTURE
• Does my name have cultural significance?

This post is from our April, 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!


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!


‘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?


Adoption: A Three-Sided Coin

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

It’s November. I’m processing the lengthening darkness of our days and basking more in the sun as it makes its daily, silvery appearances briefer and briefer. This processing is followed by the slight confusion brought upon by daylight savings. Does that extra hour really work for me and my schedule when I set my clock back on Sunday? Ahh, I get an extra hour of sleep in the morning - glorious! Crap, less daylight hours to move around my urban village freely as I don’t walk outside alone at night. Do I really need to change the clock on the stove and in my car, or can I just live with that one hour time difference until spring? The old phrase “there are two sides to every coin” comes to mind.

November is National Adoption Awareness Month (NAAM)

The heads and tails of our anniversaries, conversations, or experiences aren’t always easy to process. If we could have a special coin for the experience of adoption, it would have three sides, a side for each member of the extended family of adoption. Historically, the media we have consumed around adoption has been one-sided and voiced from the perspective of and generally, in high appreciation of the adoptive parent. I’m thinking about this perspective now especially, as this is National Adoption Awareness Month (NAAM), and the narrative is out in full force.

Implications of "Rescue Language" for Adopted Persons

Much of the messaging surrounding adoption is and has been focused on the goodness of the adoptive parent(s) because we’ve supposedly done a heroic thing in adopting a child. Some of the commentary goes so far to speak about how we’ve rescued our children. Who and what were our adopted children rescued from, who are the good and bad members of the extended family of adoption, and what does the use of this language imply? How might this message rest with parents of origin and with adopted persons? What if the others had a louder, more empowered voice not just during this month, but throughout the year? What words could we use to describe the lived experience of adoption in lieu of the “rescue language”?

Making Room for Perspectives of Transracial Adoptees

The language and narrative of adoption has, in general, been uncomfortable and/ or harmful to our children and to their families of origin. Nicole Chung a transracially adopted person and author of the book “All You Can Ever Know” writes, “We must listen to transracial adoptees and make room for their perspectives, including the ones that make us uncomfortable - because when it comes to the wellbeing of adopted people and their families, the truth will serve far better than even the most comforting of lies.”

It’s time to flip the script from an adoptive parent focus and focus the conversation on the narrative of the adoptee. Someday soon, we can flip the script even further to focus on families of origin. Please watch this Flip the Script video made for NAAM and listen to the voices of several adult adoptees. Consider including some of their valuable suggestions into your own family’s script and go ahead… flip it!

Experiencing Thanksgiving When Multiple Worlds Combine

It’s November and Thanksgiving is nearly here. Former foster youth and founder of Think of Us (a research and development lab for child welfare), Sixto Cancel, brings forward his experience of Thanksgiving and how multiple worlds come together in an interview with April. For him, bringing these multiple worlds together can be emotional. Sixto asks for us to be ok with the ups and downs that happen when families are recombined, and April wonders what Thanksgiving is like for members of her family of origin.

Before stepping into the holiday season, let’s ask ourselves to be ok with the ups, the downs and the beautiful collisions of our own multiple worlds. There’s a lot on the table for us to internalize and digest literally and otherwise. Let’s, belly up to the smorgasbord, undo that pesky top button on our jeans, take a deep breath, and recognize the beauty of our multiple worlds. One last thing, before you make the potato salad take a peek at Chadwick Boseman’s what not to do recipe on an old SNL Black Jeopardy sketch.