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Stay Strong: A Message from News-O-Matic’s Child Psychologist

In the March 19 edition of News-O-Matic, our child psychologist wrote a letter to young readers about the coronavirus. Below, we share her advice to “stay strong” during these challenging times.

Hello everyone,

All over the world, students are finding that some things are very different. You have probably heard there is a virus spreading, and getting back to normal will take some time. You may have asked, “How long will this last?” No one has the answer yet. Many people are working hard to get things back to normal.

Meanwhile, many children are feeling upset. They want to know how to help themselves. Talking to someone helps a lot, even if that person doesn’t have all the answers. If you want to talk to someone your age, explore the options with an adult, such as making a video call to a friend.

There are many ways to help yourself if you get upset. You first need to be aware of your emotions. There are two ways to tell if you are getting upset. The first is to notice how emotions are being felt in your body, such as a feeling in your stomach. The second is to see how emotions affect what is going on in your mind — such as thinking, “I want everything to go back to normal right away!”

There are tools you can use when you’re upset. You may not know how to express those emotions in a way that makes you feel better. Some kids have told me that when their emotions are too big, they feel like they may explode. When your emotions are too big, you can make them smaller — and keep them smaller — with two types of tools.

Think of a toolbox with two drawers. One drawer has tools to help you STAY in control of those big emotions. The other drawer has tools to keep you STRONG by lowering those emotions. Say to yourself: STAY STRONG!

These are the STAY tools to help you quickly get control of the big emotions:

S: Soothe your emotions by using your senses. Take a drink of cold water, breathe in a strong scent such as lemon juice, or take a deep breath and hold it.

T: Tense and relax your muscles. First, tense up by making believe you’re a raw strand of spaghetti. Then think of a strand of spaghetti after it’s cooked. Relax your body as if you’re that strand of spaghetti.

A: Activate your body to move. Run quickly in place, for example. Stretch your muscles or do yoga. News-O-Matic will have a full story about this!

Y: Yell, but in a way that is controlled. Try yelling into your pillow or your mattress. A soft, controlled yell is a safe way to reset your emotions.

These are the STRONG tools you can use to keep your emotions lowered:

S: Stop thinking about it. Say “no” or “stop” in your mind. Think about something else, such as the beach or a snowy day, and imagine it in your mind. Look around your room and name everything in it. Play a car game, such as listing items in a store from A to Z.

T: Take your mind off your problems by thinking how to help someone else. Help an adult cook. Read to a relative on the phone. Color a picture or write a letter to someone in the military.

R: Revisit a happy memory in your mind. Walk through the memory very slowly, carefully remembering all of the details. It could be a party, talking with a friend, or a sports game.

O: Online your activities. When you can’t do something in person, hit the internet to try something different. Set goals and start new hobbies. Learn another language. Take “virtual trips” to museums.

N: Notice the things in your life that haven’t changed. Those could be your family and friends. You can still do many activities together, such as cooking or watching movies. Make a list of what you still have, and read it over.

G: Get away from it all by finding a private space. Read a book, listen to music, or watch funny animal videos.

I hope you all STAY STRONG. I will be doing the same. And if you have any questions for me, please send them through the News-O-Matic News Room. I want to hear from you!

Warmly,

Dr. Phyllis Ohr


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