Parents have always struggled with parental burnout, but the pandemic has more recently brought it into sharper focus. Now, on top of balancing busy family lives and busy work lives, we need to do it predominantly within our homes…while not having the same access to our support networks…during a significant world-wide health crisis…
Granted, things have improved from where we were about 2 years ago, but it’s important to continue to address parental burnout! Parental burnout can be defined as too much stress without adequate resources to cope with it. Research is already coming out about how the pandemic has impacted parental burnout. For instance, a study in Australia found that working parents who were also the primary caregiver for children were four times more likely to suffer from burnout. Another study found that parents who feel burned out are more likely to utilize coercive or punitive parenting practices.
Here are some ways to recognize parental burnout-
- Overwhelming exhaustion: Maybe that’s physically exhausted (hello, parents with younger children!) or emotionally exhausted (I see you, parents with teenagers!)
- Emotional distancing from one’s children to preserve energy
- Noticeable loss of fulfillment in parenting (“I just can’t stand to be around them!”)
As with other forms of burnout, these stages build on each other. Meaning, the exhaustion sticks around as you’re dealing with the other impacts!
So who experiences the “most” parental burnout? Research shows that individualistic countries (like the US, in general) seem to show higher rates. Also, people who are already experiencing a lot of stressors- single parents, parents of special needs children, etc.- have a higher risk. Parents who also experience racial trauma or whom come from traumatic childhoods also have a greater risk for parental burnout.
What to do about parental burnout:
- Talk about it! This is a really common experience for a lot of parents…talking about it can help relieve some of the stress!
- Reevaluate your stress! Work to change HOW you perceive your stress. While this won’t take away the stress, it can help alleviate some of the pressure
- Make small changes!
- Grow your parenting skills! Look into seminars or find a therapist (ahem, BZA Behavioral Health…)
- Stop saying “SHOULD”!
- Take microbreaks!
- Find meaning! Focus in on the experiences that you and your children are sharing, and remind yourself of your children’s positive qualities
The impact of parental burnout
Abramson (October 2021)
American Psychological Association (Vol 52, No 7)