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Dr Barb - Parental Burnout

Parental Burnout

What is burnout in general?

Most people have experienced burnout at some time in their lives. When we hear someone say they feel burned out, we can resonate with feelings of being swamped, exhausted, drained, or having difficulty keeping up with life tasks. Yet not everyone has all the same symptoms. Psychologically, we might experience a depressed mood, increased anxiety, difficulty concentrating, or low motivation. Unaddressed, the symptoms may create a snowball effect, getting larger and larger.

What are some different types of burnout?

  • Overload Burnout
    In your pursuit of success, do you risk your health and personal life?
  • Underchallenged Burnout
    Do you feel unappreciated, bored, limited growth potential, avoid responsibilities?
  • Neglect Burnout
    Do you feel like an imposter and doubt your skills, competence and talents?
    Do you feel helpless and unsupported?

How does burnout relate to parenting?

Summer school break may have been exciting…at first. Then come those words out of your children’s mouths ‘I’m bored.” Your children have most of the latest technological games. They have arts and crafts. They attended camp. You took them swimming. You took them hiking. You took them bowling. You took them to the movies. You took them on vacation. You arranged play dates. You chauffeured them here and there. The kids may have had a break, but did you?

Now come all the parental demands of back-to-school. Routines, lunches, homework, school supplies, after-school activities, more chauffeuring. It sounds overwhelming.

Burnout relates to parenting in a very distinctive manner. Parents are unable to leave this role—no opportunity to a change in this type of career. No returns. No refunds. They do not get paid vacations. Parental burnout may be evident with well-behaved children, challenging children, multiple children, only children, adopted children, stepchildren, working parents, stay-at-home parents, etc.

As you feel burned out, you may feel frustrated, irritable, generally crabby. A worrisome possibility is if parents who feel burned out become violent or neglectful toward children, even if this is not the type of parenting, they believe in. It takes courage to recognize the need for psychological help.

What can you do about parental burnout?

We already determined you can’t give them back! Yet your personal needs have been neglected. You can model how healthy adults take good care of themselves:

  • Let go of the notion that you need to be your children’s full-time entertainer.
  • Balance children’s activities with some adult activities and adult friends.
  • Reach out for support, whether an occasional babysitter, adult companion, or a professional therapist you can discuss concerns with.
  • Allow your children the opportunity to problem solve and discover their own interests (besides couch potato activities).
  • Especially if you are a working parent, when summer or weekend bedtimes are later, you might consider some earlier bedroom curfews, so you can relax with alone time. The children can quietly stay up in their rooms while you have adult quiet time.
  • Make time to exercise. This is so important for your body and psychological well-being.
  • Have your children be responsible for chores. Love and Logic’s 4 Steps to Responsibility offers excellent ideas to garner compliance.
  • Plan relaxing cuddle time with your children, i.e. story time or movies and popcorn.
  • Bring a good dose of love, laughter and hugs into your daily lives.