Parental Burnout: What it is and How to Manage it
Parenting a teenager is like running a marathon. You entered this marathon with no formal training for this specific course (ie, your child, their personality, and the changing terrain). It’s a learn as you go exercise, and pretty much everyone encounters some difficult obstacles along the way. If you’re at a spot where you’re about ready to throw in the towel, I’m hoping to encourage you to take breaks until you get a ‘second wind’.
Symptoms of Parental Burnout:
Parenting can be rough. If you’re doing your job “well”, you probably aren’t so popular all the time. While I’m calling it normal to have a passing fantasy about going to a deserted island far, far away from the family – you may have parental burnout if you have many of these symptoms over a period of time:
You feel chronically…
· physically exhausted
· sick/ ill
You react by…
· giving in/ being consistently inconsistent
· crying at the drop of a hat
· physical violence toward your child/ children
You have less…
· personal stability
· zest for life
Self-Help for Parental Burnout:
CREATE BALANCE AND HEALTHY HABITS
- Say NO to demands on your time/ energy that aren’t the bare necessities at this time. Practice saying “Maybe” or “I’ll have to get back to you on that one” if you are used to saying yes and later feeling overloaded.
- Seek to be a “good enough” parent rather than supermom or superdad
- Schedule time for yourself on a regular basis, even when you’re not feeling stressed, because prevention is the goal for which balance and self-care is key (running errands and taking care of work does not count as the only time you can take for yourself)
- Engage in a relaxing hobby on your own or with a friend
- Get restful sleep – if you aren’t sleeping well, research online for tips to try out
- Exercise on a regular basis – yoga has been known to be especially helpful for stress reduction.
- Meditate or pray to clear your mind or remind yourself of your spiritual connection
- Do whatever [healthy thing] that lifts your spirits! Treat yourself!
- Remember: Children benefit from parents who take time to take care of themselves and recharge their batteries. It’s both good role modeling as well as a way for you to then feel more even-tempered interacting with them because you’re taking time to recharge.
FIND (AND ASK FOR) SUPPORT
- Call on friends, grandparents, and/or babysitters so that you get some respite
- If you have a co-parent, ask for support from them. If you are feeling burned out, it is crucial for you (and your child/ children) that you back down a bit to recover. Parenting is not a 50/50 split between partners, so allow for ebb and flow of times where you are doing more and times where your co-parent is doing more. If you’re hitting a wall with your teen, sometimes having the other parent step in can be more effective.
- If you don’t have co-parenting support, think outside the box and see whether an aunt, uncle, friend, grandparent, or mentor might fill a supportive role. Maybe your child can spend the weekend at their BFF’s house, and then vice versa another time.
- Make time for your personal life. Make date nights with your spouse or partner – make time on a regular basis to nurture your relationship. If you’re single, make time to do fun things with friends or allow yourself the option to date.
CHANGE YOUR FOCUS
- Focus on your own behavior, not your teen’s. Look at how you can manage your own feelings that get triggered by your teen. Even if your teen doesn’t change anything, your approach can change a lot.
- Look for the things your teen is doing well, and praise them for that. Reflect on what’s improved compared to two months ago, and use those things to motivate you and them. Celebrate the small successes. Similar to weight loss or saving money, changes in your family don’t tend to happen overnight but rather happen because of commitment, strategizing, and overcoming setbacks.
- Consider your teen’s natural personality and tendencies. While there are some things they can do to stretch and change, it’s not helpful to put expectations on them to be a completely different person. For example, your academically challenged teen may never be completely self-motivated to do their homework or studying.
- Try not to compare yourself to other parents whom you perceive as doing a ‘better job’. Everyone has their strengths, and how things look on the outside may not accurately reflect how things are really functioning. It is a human tendency to compare our ‘inside world’ to others’ ‘outside world’ wherein we project all sorts of things onto others that simply aren’t true. This is similar to why I term Facebook “Fake-book”.
SEEK HELP/ OUTSIDE EDUCATION
- As your child grows and changes, what’s effective as a parent changes as well. It can be helpful to get ‘new tools in your toolbox’ by reading parenting books, books on teens, or attending relevant parent education classes, workshops, or lectures. *** Reading my blog or email newsletter (hint, hint) can be another way to expand your toolbox, as I keep up on and write about teen issues and tips for parents. ***
- Learn to communicate more effectively with your teen. Use active listening and reflect back to them what they’re saying. Be clear in your expectations so there are less ‘grey areas’ for them to misinterpret and later bring conflict.
- Hire out: If paying someone to mow the lawn or help keep the house clean will cut down on your stress and family conflict, it may be money well spent.
- Seek therapeutic outside help: Bring your teen to counseling or come in for family counseling. Above and beyond any self-help parenting book you can find, counseling will be specifically tailored advice for what may work better with your family. Unresolved personal issues are a big contributor to burnout, so seeking counseling support for yourself can help you better come in to harmony.