Managing Your Emotions During the Coronavirus Crisis

By Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D.

If you are a parent of a child with ADHD and feel like you are hanging on by a thread, you are not alone. As the coronavirus pandemic stretches on, emotions are running high and patience is running low. I’m hearing from many parents who are feeling guilty about having a short fuse with their child, especially since they recognize that having ADHD makes it harder for their child to cope with school closures and home confinement.

If you are a parent who is losing patience quickly or responding to your child with angry outbursts that mirror their own negative emotions and behavior, resist the urge to become frustrated or angry with yourself. Instead, consider that your short fuse may be more of a reflection of your own unmet needs than a reflection of your parenting.

Image Credit: @mombrain.therapist

For parents of kids with ADHD, there are three things that will help you manage your emotions better during the current crisis:

  1. Lower your expectations. We are in a crisis and no one is able to bring their ‘best self’ to the table right now – this includes you, your partner, and your children. So, make sure your expectations aren’t as high as they would be during ‘normal’ times. Adjust them to account for the stress everyone is experiencing, and go easy on yourself when your parenting isn’t perfect.
  2. Focus on getting at least some of your own needs met. Take a minute to look at the image above and reflect on the areas where you may have unmet needs. If you are like many parents, almost all of these needs are not being met as you focus instead on simply getting through each day. It is not going to be possible to meet your own needs the way that you normally would right now, but this doesn’t mean that you should neglect your own needs altogether. Neglecting your needs will leave you fully depleted and make it impossible to stay calm and connected when your child needs you. If you have unmet needs, finding creative and simple ways to get at least one or two of these needs met is the best thing you can do for your family right now.
  3. Create structure. Kids with ADHD need structure in order to manage their own behavior and emotions, and parents need this structure as well. For your own emotional well-being, work on creating a routine at home that works for you and your child. You can view my latest webinar to learn how to create an ADHD-friendly routine for your family.

Staying emotionally healthy during the coronavirus crisis isn’t easy, but even small steps can help. If you are feeling overwhelmed, start by taking five minutes out of your day to do something just for yourself – even if that means simply sitting outside or listening to one of your favorite songs. If you are feeling overwhelmed by stress or anxiety, reach out to a therapist for help or contact the National Disaster Distress Helpline at 800-985-5990, or text HOME to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor at Crisis Text Line (a non-profit organization).


Mary Rooney, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco. Dr Rooney is a researcher and clinician specializing in the evaluation and treatment of ADHD and co-occurring behavioral, anxiety, and mood disorders. A strong advocate for those with attention and behavior problems, Dr. Rooney is committed to developing and providing comprehensive, cutting edge treatments tailored to meet the unique needs of each child and adolescent. Dr. Rooney's clinical interventions and research avenues emphasize working closely with parents and teachers to create supportive, structured home and school environments that enable children and adolescents to reach their full potential. In addition, Dr. Rooney serves as a consultant and ADHD expert to Huntington Learning Centers.


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