COVID-19: Use Psychology Tools to Cope

By Marcia Eckerd, Ph.D.

Families everywhere are dealing with heightened stress related to the COVID-19 pandemic, with no signs that it will lessen anytime soon as we try to navigate new and ongoing challenges. All children—but especially those with learning challenges such as LD, ADHD, and NLD—are likely to be thrown by an unprecedented number of new situations and probable changes as family and schools adapt to a new reality. Stressed-out parents will have to find extra reserves to understand and support their children who may act out more often or more intensely than usual. Positive psychology has much to offer as we navigate the day-to-day challenges and the ambiguities ahead.

Coping Strategies

Following are a handful of ideas that can be implemented by people of all ages, regardless of the circumstances.

  • If you or your child is stuck on negative thoughts, interrupting the pattern can help. Try deep breathing, walking outside, or changing activities. Substitute thoughts of helplessness or frustration with thoughts of what is working well, whether it’s having loved ones around or enjoying even simple and momentary pleasures. A thought such as, “I can make it through this; so many are in the same boat” can be affirming.
  • While many children and adults resist writing things down, a gratitude journal helps. Take a moment to be grateful, writing down even a single gratitude each day. I’m grateful that I have the chance to write this, and that I have my coffee to help.
  • It’s time for that meditation practice I keep recommending. Meditation is scientifically proven to actually make the brain more resilient. Headspace and Calm are good apps for older children; Wellbeyond and Enchanted Meditations for Children are also good. There are literally thousands of meditations online, so find one your child (and you) actually like. This is for the whole family.
  • Mindfulness techniques can bring your child and you back from worry about the future to the present. There are many articles available online to help you get started, including 12 Simple Ways to Teach Mindfulness to Kids on the Psychology Today Website.
  • Make a list of things that interest your child. Opportunities to follow through abound online—everything from developing creative art skills to touring museums and national parks. This can be a time to grow.
  • Be a problem solver rather than a complainer. Reframe difficulties as problems to be solved, and explore logical alternatives. Look outward for resources. Prioritize. At times like this, perfectionism isn’t going to work; the solution doesn’t have to be perfect to be useful.

Marcia Eckerd is an evaluator, consultant, and therapist who specializes in working with children with NLD and autism-spectrum disorders.

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