The coronavirus pandemic has caught many American families in a vice.
Many parents are struggling to work from home and meet the needs of kids who are out of school and chafing under what some consider house arrest.
"It can be easy to fall into the trap of self-blame when children are fighting, and workdays aren't going as planned," said Kathryn Boger, director of the Anxiety Mastery Program at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts.
Boger urged parents to go easy on themselves. Head off self-punishing thoughts and repeat mini-mantras throughout the day, she suggested, such as "This is not the time for perfection" and "I'm doing the best I can in a really tough situation".
Focusing on the present
It's also important to accept what you can and can't control, Boger said.
Things you can do include: limiting your family's exposure to the news; making lists of needed food supplies and medications; updating contact information for your health care providers, work colleagues, family members and friends; staying in regular contact with those close to you to support one another.
Focusing on the present will also help, she said.
"When our brains are anxious, they tend to live in the future, worrying about what's to come," Boger said.
Regular talks with kids
Practice bringing your brain back to the present moment throughout the day. Focus on one thing in the current moment, such as the feeling of your feet on the ground and the suds on your hands as you wash dishes, the smell of the food in your kitchen, or the sound of your child's voice, she suggested.
Make sure everyone gets plenty of sleep, eats healthy meals, maintains good hygiene, gets regular exercise and has regular interaction with others in the family. Breathing exercises and mindfulness are also helpful, she said in a hospital news release.
Have regular talks with your kids about the pandemic. Tell them experts are working hard to resolve the crisis and that you'll share important information with them. Ask children what they've heard about the coronavirus. Encourage them to share their feelings, and let children know that it's normal to feel the way they feel, Boger said.