Parental Burnout: Four Tips for Parents
Summer is usually a time for camps, trips to the pool, sleepovers, and listening to the joyful sounds of kids giggling outside while playing. But this year is different. This year, most camps are closed. Pools aren’t open, and sleepovers aren’t permitted. Making matters even more challenging for working families: daycares aren’t open.
Back in April, parents were reporting burnout. Three months later, it appears to be worse. But what is parental burnout, and is that the issue at hand, or are we just stressed out?
Parental burnout is a psychological phenomenon. To be diagnosed with parental burnout, you must have four symptoms. These symptoms include
- exhaustion to the point that you are unable to get out of bed,
- emotional detachment from the child,
- taking no pleasure in parenting,
- a marked change in behavior in you
Parents can feel exhausted, stressed, and easily overwhelmed and not have parental burnout.
These times are like no other, and it is vital to recognize that parents are being pushed to limits like never before. A Harris Poll conducted on behalf of the American Psychological Association back in early May found that 46 percent of parents with kids under age 18 reported high-stress levels. A second survey in early June found that 78 percent of Americans say the coronavirus pandemic is a significant stress source. Additionally, most parents (71%) say they are worried about the impact coronavirus has had on their child’s development, and 60 percent say they have no idea how they are going to keep their child occupied through the summer. On a positive note, 82 percent are grateful for the extra time they have had with their child.
Self-care for parents
Parents need to recognize how their health and well-being are critically important to their children’s health and well-being. Just as airlines tell parents to put on their masks before helping others, parents need to take care of their mental and physical health. It isn’t selfish to take care of yourself. If you don’t, you will begin to lack empathy, something critically important to properly raising children.
Parents can do four things to alleviate some of the stress they feel: eating healthy, getting enough sleep, exercising, and continuing social connections. Meditation and yoga are excellent ways to combat stress and practice mindfulness. Parents should also recognize the physical symptoms of anxiety, including teeth grinding, elevated heart rate, and muscle tension.
Our recommendations for parents include:
- Take a walk early in the morning and in the evening. If working from home, create a “commute time” and go for a walk before starting dinner prep.
- Laugh. Now is the time for funny movies, videos, and play. Keep things lighthearted.
- Connect with friends. Invite them to join you on your walk by giving them a call while you are walking. The distance we are all feeling from one another can be reduced by not losing contact with others.
- Cook together. This extra time is perfect for teaching kids the basics of food prep. Create healthy menus that include food everyone will enjoy and invite the family to join in the preparation of it.
- Ask for help. If you are struggling, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Many parents are feeling overwhelmed, and often this is because they are doing too much. Share in the responsibilities whenever possible. Chores are essential for teaching kids responsibility.
- Get eight hours of sleep each night. Ensure you are getting enough sleep to function correctly. For adults, this means around eight hours of sleep a day.
Your kids deserve to see the very best of you. While life can be messy, and the turn of recent events have certainly made it such, you can persevere. We are here if you need to talk. Your health impacts your child’s health, and your pediatric team wants the best for everyone in your home.