While parenthood can be one of the most rewarding roles, it can also feel emotionally overwhelming at times. This is especially true for adoptive and foster parents who are helping their child transition into their new home. In this blog post, we will define parental burnout, discuss the causes, and talk about how to prevent parental burnout from occurring. Read on to learn more about parental burnout and how to navigate this phenomenon in your own life.
What Is Parental Burnout?
Simply put, parenting burnout is when a caregiver experiences emotional exhaustion, and is feeling mentally and physically drained with nothing left to give. This occurs when a parent is consumed by their child’s needs, therefore increasing their stress level and neglecting their own needs, leaving them exhausted in multiple areas of their lives.
In an adoptive family, parental burnout has a significant probability of occurring as parents may have more obstacles to face when it comes to merging families, reassuring the adopted child, and generally making the transition and life after as easy and comfortable as possible. When it comes to preventing parental burnout, it is important to first understand the causes and signs associated with this type of fatigue.
Causes of Parental Burnout
As a parent, your child’s needs are at the forefront of your day-to-day life. From bathing to feeding and everything in between, taking care of your little ones can undoubtedly become exhausting. These feelings do not make you a bad parent. Here are the most common causes of parental burnout:
- Trying to be a “perfect parent”
- A lack of external support (nanny, daycare, extended family)
- Financial hardship
- A hectic working schedule
- Single parenting
- Too many extracurricular activities scheduled
- Supplementary needs for children
Each of these factors play a significant role in how much energy is put into caring for your child. While some may play a larger role than others, they can undoubtedly all add up and leave you exhausted.
As far as symptoms go, they vary for each individual. However, the following are the most common symptoms of parental burnout:
- Lack of sleep
- Crying spells
- Lack of clear thoughts (mental clutter)
- Job burnout (for a working parent)
- Emotional Distancing
- Parental Ineffectiveness
- Escape ideation
It is important to note that symptoms may overlap and change over time. If you are noticing any of the symptoms mentioned above, consider the following steps to prevent parental burnout and take control over the situation at hand.
6 Steps to Preventing Parental Burnout
The best way to prevent parental burnout is to take small steps in the right direction. Parental burnout is not a situation that can be fixed overnight, but the following six steps will pave the way for more emotional space and availability.
1. Take time for yourself
When parental burnout occurs, it is a clear sign that your needs as a parent are being neglected. For most parents, it is not always possible to take time for yourself, especially when you are a parent of more than one child. However, even taking 5-10 minutes for yourself per day will make a significant difference in your day-to-day life.
Some possible times for relaxation and self-care are after the kids go to bed, early in the morning, or in the middle of the day on your lunch break. 5-minute meditations, stretching routines, or simply 5 minutes of peace and quiet are good places to start. Looking for other quick self-care options? Here are 75 self care activities that take 5 minutes or less .
2. Ask for help
Another key step to preventing parental burnout is to ask for help. Naturally, people tend to want to complete tasks independently, especially parents with individualistic cultures. However, in doing so, we can significantly drain our emotional, mental, and physical capacity, leaving us emotionally exhausted.
Asking for help can come in the form of asking a parent who lives nearby to carpool to school together a few times a week, or even a family member to help out every now and then with the kids. You would be surprised by how many people would lend a hand.
3. Be self-compassionate
When you feel emotionally exhausted, the last thing you want to do is be hard on yourself. Recognizing that you are doing the best you can and patting yourself on the back for the steps you take is crucial in preventing parental burnout. Become your own support system and watch the parental burnout diminish.
4. Have an accountability partner
Whether it’s a spouse, family member, close friend, or neighbor, having someone keep you accountable for putting your needs first will significantly help your progress in preventing parental burnout. A quick once-a-week check-in from an outside source can be enough to keep you on track with your personal goals as a parent.
5. Rearrange your child’s schedule and activities
Lastly, consider rearranging your child’s schedule and activities. Summer family activities can stretch your plate very thin, so be careful not to over-schedule. You can also create healthy and manageable daily routines for kids. Sometimes things add up so quickly that you don’t even realize how hectic your child’s schedule is getting until you look at the day-filled calendar. When this occurs, sit down and prioritize your child’s schedule and perhaps cut one to two activities where possible. With a more open schedule for your child, you are also taking the stress off of your shoulders.
6. Support your child’s mental well being
Lastly, if your child is in need of more attention and is acting out, you can teach them self care for kids. Mental health services can also be a impactful option. Children’s Bureau provides children ages 0-21 with mental health tools and services that they need to thrive in all aspects of their life. With an incredible team and the best resources, Children’s Bureau provides individualized services, especially for those children who have transitioned out of foster care .
Reducing Burnout and Increasing Presence
Parenting is a lifelong journey that you have the opportunity to navigate. By incorporating the above mentioned steps to prevent parental burnout, you are not only taking care of yourself but taking better care of your children simultaneously.
Reviewed By: Jose A. Ramos Jr., Director of Prevention
Jose A. Ramos Jr., MSW, is the Director of Primary Prevention at Children’s Bureau. He has worked with Children’s Bureau since 1994 and has over 30-years of experience working in the Child Welfare field. He has a master’s degree in social work from the University of Long Beach and is earning his MBA. Jose is also Secretary of the National Association of Social Workers.
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