Part 2 with Dr. Chaitra Wirta-Leiker and IAMAdoptee contributing editor, Emma
Click here to read Part I
Q: How does this current health pandemic have the potential to exacerbate a lack of or strengthen our sense of community and belonging?
Chaitra: I feel like this is kind of the same as all of the other situations with adoptees where we have the potential to either find division among us because we’re not accepting other people having different experiences than us, or we can be really validating of each other’s experiences and be encouraging and recognize that everyone’s adoption experience is unique and everyone’s experience of this pandemic is unique. So [we need to practice] just being supportive of one another and of the differences that may be present in those lived experiences and not putting one down or one-upping each other. So I think it’s similar, something we’ve all been through, this is just a wider scale or something that’s a little bit more pressing.
Because so many adoptees recognize that this is something that’s potentially activating for us or playing to our strengths, I see that there are several adoption professionals who are offering online support groups, either free or low cost. I think that’s a great way to build that sense of belonging too. There are a lot of free blogs and videos that are available from adoptees that I think will really just validate everyone’s experiences and help them feel understood and normalize what they’re going through.
And for us, too, to recognize what’s happening right now on a global scale really relates to adoption and our personal experiences. The emotions and experiences may feel really familiar, so just being able to use that to recognize what we’re going through right now as the whole world is going through this, that as adoptees we have a lot of strength and resilience that we’ve utilized before as a coping strategy when there’ve been experiences of loss or lack of control. We’ve been through that our whole lives, and we know how to cope with those things for the most part. Being able to continue that into this situation can help us make sense of it and recognize that it’s temporary and that we’re able to get through it. It helps us to remember which coping strategies have worked well for us in the past. Just knowing that because we’re all being affected, I think sometimes there’s division between which areas people are adopted from or which areas they live in now, but this is something that we’re all experiencing, international adoptees that are from all places and live in all places, so being able to see that our community has widened in a way, as far as the similar lived experiences [is important].
Then I think another important piece is that we really need to come together to fight a lot of the racism that is happening, a lot of the anti-Asian propaganda that’s out there related to COVID-19. Really being able to support one another with that and recognize that it’s something very specific to our East Asian adoptee population and being able to acknowledge that that experience is something that’s really prominent for a lot of them right now [is important].
When it comes to our own [non-adoptee] communities, that essentially is everything that we’ve already been doing, like to be able to acknowledge who we feel close to, who we trust, and be able to connect with those people in creative ways. And being able to acknowledge the anti-Asian racism that’s coming up and being supportive of [the fact that] it’s not paranoia. If somebody doesn’t want to go out or doesn’t feel safe going out, or worry about how they’ll be received within their community, that any support that can be offered by people they trust to go out for them or to go with them, I think that’s something that’s going to be important too.
• Be supportive of other adoptees’ experiences. It’s especially important during these times to recognize and validate others’ experiences and be inclusive.
• Seek support from the adoptee community by finding free or low-cost resources such as support groups and blogs.
• This situation and the emotions that come with it may be very similar to those felt surrounding adoption. Recognize the similarities and use the coping strategies you may have used before.
• Come together as an adoptee community to fight against anti-Asian racism that has surged as a result of the framing of COVID.
Dr. Chaitra Wirta-Leiker provides support from her unique “trifecta perspective” as a licensed psychologist, transracial adoptee, and adoptive parent specializing in adoption, trauma, attachment, and racial identity work through her private practice in Denver, Colorado. She is a frequent speaker and trainer at adoption agencies, camps and conferences throughout the U.S., and is the author of “The Adoptee Self-Reflection Journal,” as well as the creator of the National Adoptee-Therapist Directory. Learn more about the services and educational resources she offers at www.growbeyondwords.com.
Emma, Contributor, is an editor for IAMAdoptee. She enjoys art, music, sports, traveling, and bubble tea. She was adopted from Hunan province in 1995. Emma has returned to China a few times and has been attempting to learn Mandarin for many years.