Burned out by parenting? Here’s how to overcome it
Pressures from the pandemic have compounded parents’ stress levels. Recognizing when burnout hits and addressing it can do wonders for you and your family.
All parents get exhausted from time to time, but when parenting stress severely and repeatedly overwhelms a person’s resources to cope, burnout can occur. It’s an important subject to address now because the COVID-19 pandemic has added challenges on top of the regular juggling required by work and family life, which already can be taxing.
Almost 44% of parents report they have seen their lives change in major ways since the pandemic started, according to a national survey from Pew Research Center. New challenges might include disruptions in school and caregiving schedules, a need to help children with schooling at home, job and income loss, food insecurity and illness.
Under such trying circumstances, feeling overwhelmed is completely normal. But if that develops into burnout, the first step is recognizing it so you can do something about it.
Parental burnout differs from depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders, but it often coexists with these conditions. Symptoms can include feelings of exhaustion, loss of enjoyment in parenting and emotional detachment from one’s children. These feelings may result in negativity or anger toward the child.
When burned out, people may feel they are not the parent they once were or want to be.
Similar to job burnout, parental burnout can include a higher likelihood of substance abuse and sleep problems, increased conflict with a spouse or significant other, and suicidal ideation. And similar to parental depression, burnout adversely affects children, too. It has been shown to lead to mental health and behavioral problems in children, as well as neglect and violence.
If you are experiencing burnout, or if someone you love is, know there are tactics that have been shown to alleviate the problem. These include:
- Become aware of your level of burnout. If it interferes with your functioning and interacting with your children and/or partner, it is time to get help. Every parent needs some help from time to time. It is a strength to recognize when you do, not a weakness. Reach out to your health care provider, an employee assistance program or a mental health counselor. Counseling is usually targeted toward restoring a parent’s balance between stressors and resources.
- Join a parent support group that provides an open environment and an opportunity to discuss parenting challenges and really be heard.
- Find a little time every day for self-care and engage in an activity that reduces stress or brings you joy.
- Enroll in programs to build resilience, such as cognitive-behavioral skills development, positive reframing, mindfulness, yoga and practicing gratitude.
- Engage in corporate wellness programs that address parental stress and offer educational programs on positive parenting practices.
- Stay hopeful. You will recover from parental burnout and begin to enjoy your role as a parent again.