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.


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.


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?


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.


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!


Family Camp 2022 Highlights

Thank you to all our families that attended Transracial Journeys Family Camp 2022, “Commitment, Community, Courage and Culture”

This year, fifteen new families came to camp for the first time. They were hosted by the board and given an introduction to our community at our first ever New Family Orientation. We hosted a bibliotherapeutic book sale, we toasted marshmallows for smores and had a great talent show. Some of us fished and some of us tumbled with Mr. Todd. A lot of us tie-dyed our camp t-shirts. And one thing is beyond certain, we could not have done anything without our amazing camp counselors!

Our parents attended sessions curated by Executive Director, April Dinwoodie, and facilitated by transracially-adopted presenters Zack Fried and Hannah Jackson Matthews. They each discussed our families’ unique challenges in navigating racism. Avril Sargeant, LPCC focused her seminar on resilience. Megan and Jeffrey Bain discussed their connections to their children’s family of origin. 

We recognize our parents, our children and our Transracial Journeys community for making Family Camp 2022 so special.  We appreciate each of them contributing to an environment of joy, connection and transformation that happened at our Family Camp this summer.


For sharing any photos on Instagram, please photo credit by adding in the caption, "Photo Credit: @Adam_Michaels and @jade_hambrick." On Facebook please credit facebook.com/adammichaels87.
 

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 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!