Book Corner-November 2023

Our Little Kitchen

By Jillian Tamaki
Ages 4-8

This is a beautifully-illustrated, warm and cozy read with a focus on preparing food with love and with a group of diverse children and adults. Highly recommended not just for Thanksgiving but for any part of the year when you want to pull comfort from the words you read along with the pictures you see.

Jillian Tamaki is an award winning, Canadian author who shows how to build community, love and nurture around the preparation of food in a fun and whimsical manner.As the characters ask the following questions, you could ask the same of the children you’re reading the book with:

● Is your body warm?
● Is your belly full?
● Would you like seconds?

Book Recommendation for Transracial Adoptive Families

Book Recommendations for Families Created in Transracial Adoption

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Beyond Words: Sustaining Strong and Healthy Families

by TRJ Executive Director April Dinwoodie

Generosity and good heartedness are core values in the family system I was adopted into.  Throughout the year and especially during at the holiday season,  you’ll hear members of my family saying, "There is always room at our holiday table." It's a sentiment that suggests inclusivity and kindness and it feels good to open hearts and home to folks that may need a seat at your family table. 

With this spirit and with amazing cooks in the mix, on any given Sunday or holiday, there is a mix of family and friends, old and new, around our dining table. Laughter, love, and abundance fill the space and it’s hard not to feel blessed to have been enveloped into this warmth. At the same time, there were members of my family of origin that hung at the edges. As extended family and friends gathered round our table, I could not help but wonder where my extended family of origin were where? What were their holiday cultural traditions? And what was it like to look around a table and see genetic mirrors and physical resemblances?

Adoption is often characterized as a beautiful and transformative journey that brings families together. It is often accompanied by the sentiment, "There is always room at our table," reflecting the openness and love adoptive parents have for the children entrusted to them through adoption. However, when these words are spoken while family of origin are not welcomed, it raises important questions about the true meaning of inclusivity within the adoption experience.

The Importance of Family of Origin Inclusion:

Family of origin is an intrinsic part of identity and heritage for all human beings. Excluding family of origin from the adoptive family's table sends a message that their role and connection are not valued or acknowledged. It is essential to recognize that an adopted person’s story is not complete without healthy connections to the family that came before adoption. Excluding them not only denies the child their full history but can also create feelings of loss, confusion, and a sense of divided loyalty.

Adoption requires parents to center on true inclusivity and shift from merely extending words of welcome to actively fostering connections with family of origin. Here's how adoptive parents can challenge the status quo and create a more inclusive environment:

See Family of Origin as Your Family too:

I often hear adoptive parents speaking about an adopted person’s family of origins as “their family” when in reality, it’s really “our family.” Even with the complexities of family separation, abuse and neglect, there are ways to be in relationship with even the idea of family of origin with open, truthful, and age-appropriate conversation. In order to fully embrace family of origin, parents must first internalize their feelings connected to the kin of the child. This is big human work and with supports as needed, community to validate the difficulties, and with the best interests of children at the center, these important connections are possible.

Building Bridges, Not Barriers:

View the family of origin as potential partners and positive influences in the child's life. If healthy relationships are not possible, there are other complications with the contact and previous abuse and neglect, you may have to work hard to make sure there is at the very least a conversational connection to family of origin. By integrating the appropriate level of discussion and action surrounding family adoptive parents demonstrate a commitment to inclusivity and recognize the value of the child's entire support network and the importance of healthy identity.

Celebrate Shared Moments:

For more practiced families, incorporation of the family of origin into significant events and milestones in the child's life can be transformational. Birthdays, graduations, and holidays can be celebrated together, creating an inclusive environment where a child does not feel they have to choose which family they want to celebrate with. If there is not an opening for connections to family of origin, you can engage in active dialogue about the family that is not always present to acknowledge and honor the child's roots, traditions, and cultural heritage.

Create Opportunities for Conversation:

Take the lead in fostering a supportive environment where children feel comfortable discussing and exploring their feelings about family connections. Encourage open conversations about adoption and provide resources that help them understand and navigate your unique family dynamics. By acknowledging and validating emotions, parents can help their children develop a healthy sense of self and identity. The November conversation cards help set the tone and guide discussions.

Remember, as adoptive parents, when you say, "There is always room at our table," are you truly open to any and all pulling up a chair? Inclusion goes beyond words; it requires active efforts to build bridges, promote open communication, and celebrate shared moments. By recognizing the importance of family of origin, adoptive parents can create a more culturally appropriate and nurturing environment for children. Only by embracing the full spectrum of a child's identity and heritage can we truly honor the spirit of adoption and create a more inclusive, loving, and supportive family dynamic.

I sought out my family of origin and am in connection with many family members on my maternal side but we have yet to all sit down at the holiday table together. My hope is that your children get connected to origins in whatever way possible with you by their side with open hearts and minds.

This post is from our November, 2023, 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.

November Nourishment: Sustaining Strong and Healthy Families

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 Journeys Cards

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?

The Family Table: Who were the people sitting around your family table?
NAAM: What does NAAM mean to you?

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?

This post is from our November, 2023, newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, 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.