stressed dad with crying baby

How to Cope with Parental Burnout

Caring for kids can be exhausting and stressful. It’s easy to succumb to parental burnout. Whether you are a working parent or stay home with your kids, it is hard to juggle everything we have to do in a day.

You are not failing if you feel tired. You are not a bad parent if you need a break. The expectations of parents today is exceedingly high. You are doing your best. If you chose to read this article, you clearly care about your mental state and how it affects both you and your children.

Causes of Parental Burnout

We live in a fast paced society. As parents, we are often encouraged to have our kids involved in multiple activities, be active in the community, cook healthy meals, keep a clean and organized home, and so much more.

Between school, extracurricular activities, chores, and work, free time can be hard to come by.

If your child is highly sensitive, spirited, high needs, has developmental delays or health issues, it is even easier to get to the point of parental burnout.

Between navigating behavioral issues, attending to your child’s special needs, and attending numerous medical and therapy appointments on a regular basis, you probably feel completely exhausted at times.

Being a parent to any child is challenging, but some kids are more difficult to parent than others. We all know those people who have “easy” babies and kids (you may be rolling your eyes just reading those words), but I don’t think this is how most people view their children.

You are not a bad parent if you feel that your child is especially difficult. If you feel this way, then maybe they are!

This does not make them a “bad kid”. We are all different and some personalities, temperaments, and circumstances are more challenging to parent.

stressed dad with crying baby

Acknowledge You Are Experiencing Parental Burnout

Awareness is always the first step. If you are not even sure why you are snapping at your toddler or unable to fall asleep because you are obsessing over your to-do list, you won’t be able to change it.

  • First, you need to acknowledge that you are burnt out and accept that this is normal and understandable. Try not to feel guilty about this and remember that everyone feels this way at times.
  • Notice how your state of burnout is influencing your behavior. Are you losing your patience easily? Are you fighting with your partner over who is doing more? Are you having trouble focusing at work? Notice the areas of your life that are being affected.

Ask for Help

We all have different levels of support in our lives so for some this is easier than others. If you have a partner, let them know how you are feeling (without placing blame). Let them know how they can help (and be specific!).

If you have other family close by, such as your child’s grandparent or aunt or uncle, ask them to watch your children for an hour or two here and there so you can take a nap or go for a walk.

If family is not an option, try asking a friend you trust for help. If they have children of their own, you could agree to watch each other’s children once a month, allowing each of you to get a break regularly.

grandma with child, coloring

Find Peace in the Moment

Of course, taking a break is not always an option. So what do you do if you are struggling and there are no other adults around to help? It is still possible to find peace in the moment.

Ways to cope with parental burnout in the moment may include:

  • Taking deep breaths. It’s common for people to hold their breathe or take shallow breaths when they are feeling stressed. Notice your breathing and try to breathe more deeply, taking equal time to breathe in and out.
  • Release the tension in your body. We all hold tension in different areas, but some of the most common are in the jaw and shoulders. Make sure you unclench your jaw and lower your shoulders.
  • Enjoy your favorite drink or snack. If your kids do well in the car, take them on a short drive so you can enjoy it while sitting down.
  • Put on headphones and turn on your favorite music or a podcast.
  • Lastly, there’s always screen time…We all know that screen time for kids should be minimized. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that children under 18 months should have no screen time, minimal at 18-24 months and only with the caregiver participating, and no more than 1 hour a day for kids over age 2. With that said, we all have days where we desperately need a break and have no one around to help out. Keep it to a minimum, but if your kid enjoys watching a 30 min show, this time may allow you enough of a break to be able to make it to bedtime without having a breakdown!
mom drinking coffee

Quiet Time

If your children are older and no longer nap, it is still beneficial for everyone to schedule 1 hour of quiet time into their day. It will give you a break and also allow them to rest their body and mind a bit.

Set up a comfortable space for them that includes pillows, a blanket, stuffed animals, books, puzzles, music, or whatever else they may enjoy while relaxing.

Make sure you fill their cup first by spending quality time together. This will probably make the separation from you easier.

happy mom with young girl

Parenting truly is the hardest job there is. Try not to be hard on yourself and give yourself a break when you can. It is great for your kids to see you caring for yourself, even in little ways. And it will make you a better parent who is more patient and present!

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