Coping Skills in a Time of the COVID-19 Virus For Adults and Kids
The COVID-19 issue is giving us huge systemic anxiety! By losing hours from our job, fearing we will be unable to pay the mortgage, having limited money to buy food, or not able to buy things like toilet paper and eggs because the items we want are mostly gone due to panic buying. It is an epidemic issue affecting not only one country, but really the world.
Part of alleviating the anxiety is by being proactive in cleaning your surroundings, keeping appropriate social distancing from people, and covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing. And for many, not only are you are dealing with anxiety, you might also be a parent or care-giving grandparent at the same time. Heightened anxiety alert !!! Having a child in your care also means being in the front lines of every battlefield in an effort to help protect your child.
In this tough time, here are some suggestions on how to cope:
- Go to a private area and do some mindfulness practices like breathing exercises, writing in your journal about what you’re grateful for, and focus your mind on what you have control over and what you don’t.
- Exercise at home! There are home exercises classes or videos available online that could help you utilize objects at your home. This will keep your workout fun and challenging. For some who might prefer a lighter exercise, laying out your yoga mat (or just a blanket) and doing some light stretching and breathing is also another option.
- This one is very IMPORTANT! Even though the news is the best way to keep updated about COVID-19 current events, having the news running all day at home does not help give space between you and your anxiety about the issue. Limit watching the news, for yourself and your children, instead catch up on some feel-good shows that you’ve always wanted to watch.
- Spring is here! How about some gardening? Imagine the beautiful flowers that will grow in your garden. Use it as your guided imagery to ease the anxiety while planting your favorite flowers, or other plants.
- Art is one of the best therapy interventions, and it does not matter whether you are a beginner or not. Creating art is a great way to express what you feel about the current situation or creating something beautiful out of it. It can be fancy painting or crayons on markers. You might find an art project your whole family would enjoy doing together.
- Refresh! This is a time to refresh our minds with the things you learned in therapy or in favorite books. Each of us has our own coping mechanisms that we’ve discovered either through our past experiences or with the help of a therapist or teacher. See how you can utilize what you’ve learned, and see if it might be something you can teach your family. Do you hear your therapist’s or teacher’s voice?
These suggestions are not to avoid or deny the seriousness of the issue. It is about learning how to create a positive psychological distance about the problem we have limited control. Children depend on their parents and other adults to know what is safe and to protect them from anything dangerous. Seeing their parents in a calm state of mind helps alleviate the idea that the outside world is in current panic mode and that very bad things will happen to them and their family. They may not hear you talk about it as much, but they can sense your fears.
Now that we have our adult toolbox, how about for the kiddos? It is not like we can deny the seriousness of the situation. They know why they can’t go to the park when there’s no school but how can you create positive psychological distance from the issue?
Here are some tips to help reduce children’s anxiety about COVID-19:
- Playtime! Just because they can’t go to school or perhaps not play out in the park does not mean they can’t play at home. It is time to bring out those board and card games. Bring the Wii sports games back to life, if possible. Getting in a few sports game exercise sessions could be fun. What if you don’t have board games at home? Charades, hangman, and tic tac toe are family games that never get old.
- If your child suffers from OCD or anxiety, have the family create a game of coping skills. One idea is what to do to prevent from getting COVID-19 by drawing it out. Whoever draws best for each round gets a point! Allow all family members involved when creating the rules around the game. You can also intertwine this with games mentioned earlier like hangman, heads up and charades.
- Bibliotherapy, that is, using books with meaning to help, is one of the good ways to alleviate anxiety. Applying the lesson of the story with the current issue in ways that will help engage in positive talking points. You might focus on how to take back control and talk about how the community is doing their part. Example of questions can be like: What did (character) do to be brave? If you have the (character)’s superpower, how would you use it? How did the people feel when the bad thing was happening? What did they do to feel safer?
- Create a story. Kids are good at using their imaginations. Allow them to create the story on how the virus got here and how to prevent the virus from spreading. Better yet, they can also be the scientist that can save humanity. Be creative in helping your child find their inner strength that is waiting to come out.
- Update. If children ask about new changes regarding COVID-19, BE REALISTIC! Explain how everyone is still doing their part to prevent the spread of the virus, list the various ways your own community is doing to take action and that even though some people are sick, there are also people who are recovering well.
- Allow the children to engage in cleaning as this helps engage in taking positive control. Allow them to clean their room and offer help when needed.
- Reach out to your child’s therapist, or consider seeking counseling help either now or once things calm down. Therapists are happy to help in giving you some coping skills to alleviate your child’s anxiety. If possible, you might see if your child could talk with their therapist over the phone if they are not available in person to help remind them to do their coping skills that were previously practiced in the session. Example: Art therapy, music therapy, breathing techniques, etc.
Let’s work together to create positive psychological distance from the issue through self-care and mindfulness.
We can all get through this together.
Submitted by Grechell Siy, AMFT
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