According to a recent survey of 1,000 moms and dads, 86% of U.S. parents said they’re finding it harder to stay positive on a daily basis compared with before the pandemic, marking a 21% increase from October 2020. This can lead to Parent Burnout.
Parenting Expert Patrick Quinn at Brainly, the world’s largest online learning and homework help community, has ten tips to help reduce your chances of experiencing Parent Burnout. Here are the tips along with Quinn’s comments:
1. Take care of your three pillars of physical wellness: nutrition, sleep, and exercise. “These are unprecedented times, and as parents, our number one goal is caring for our children and seeing them through the other side,” says Quinn, who’s also the father of three school-age children and a former educator. Not making time to adequately care for yourself increases the risk of burnout, and while these pillars of physical wellness may seem like a “no brainer,” you’d be surprised how many parents don’t place enough importance on them and their connection to burnout. Experts agree that getting consistent, high-quality sleep improves virtually all aspects of health. In addition, not only is regular daily activity good for our physical health, but it can also give us an emotional boost. Stretched for time? You don’t need to spend hours at the gym to reap these benefits. Mini-workouts and short walks are convenient ways to make exercise a daily habit. Last but not least, making a real effort to eat healthy foods will do wonders for your mood and energy level…far more than feasting on chocolate, chips, and other “comfort” foods.
2. Share your experiences and connect with other parents and friends. “One of my biggest pieces of advice to help parents overcome burnout is to connect with friends. That is something that often goes by the wayside when parents are struggling because when they’re working and raising children, they feel like there’s no time. However, it’s absolutely crucial for parents to connect with friends and share their experiences in order for them to maintain their emotional health,” says Quinn. Research shows that spending time with friends triggers the release of the feel-good hormone oxytocin. Friends can also provide a support system by listening, providing helpful feedback, or commiserating about the challenges of parenting and feelings of pandemic burnout. Most importantly, it breaks the cycle of isolation that often accompanies burnout by opening the door to have your experience normalized, which helps us feel less alone. While social distancing rules may make it difficult to get together in person, FaceTime, Zoom, or even an old-fashioned phone call can still help.
3. Ask your kids questions, instill boundaries, and provide support to each other when needed. “Talk with your children about what they are learning in school and doing on their computers and phones, and decide if any limitations or oversight measures are called for,” says Quinn. For example, with a Brainly Parent Account, you can pair your account with your child’s account to track their learning progress, see their strengths and challenges, and help them with homework. Brainly takes safety very seriously and works with parents and its online community to establish best practices for safeguarding every child’s account. On top of that, Brainly provides privacy controls for every user and recommends that parents adjust those settings based on their specific needs. Plus, any upgrades parents buy for their own account will automatically carry over to their child’s account for free.
4. Make it a priority to spend quality time with your kids and be generous with your affection. While we need to ensure our children are learning, it’s also important that we are monitoring and supporting their mental and emotional health during a time of acute stress and anxiety. What if instead of burning ourselves out, we could make the most of this time home with our children? What if we could cherish the opportunity to all learn, work, create, and play under one roof while finding new ways of doing so at the same time? In addition, Quinn adds: “As much as your sheer quantity of family time might not make extra squeezes or hand-holding automatically appealing, that’s often exactly what kids need to manage big emotions that are simmering under the surface.”
5. Build micro-moments for your own self-inquiry into your routine. When we’re constantly caring for others, it’s difficult to even identify or be aware of what we’re feeling ourselves. Meditation may be not be easy when kids are tugging at you, but even if it’s ten minutes in the morning, try to find some silence to sit with your own feelings and thoughts. A stream of consciousness free-write is a great way to excavate thoughts that are clouding our ability to take action or find clarity. If that’s too daunting, try a journal prompt like “I’m going to forgive myself for…” or “I am inspired daily by…”
6. Cut yourself some slack. You deserve it now more than ever. “The most important thing a parent on the verge of burnout can do is give themselves a break. This is supposed to be hard, and it’s okay to fail at some stuff. In fact, it’s impossible not to,” says Quinn. Just remember, you’re not alone—most parents are struggling, and unfortunately, that’s to be expected given the circumstances. It’s not your fault. Try not to be hard on yourself for every slip-up, missed deadline, pile of laundry, or whatever else feels like a “failure” right now—burning yourself out only makes meeting your family’s basic needs that much harder.
7. Practice realistic self-care. Taking a spa day is not realistic self-care for busy parents. But thankfully, realistic self-care can be as simple as taking five minutes alone on the patio to practice some breathing exercises, taking an extra-long shower or bath, or reading a few pages of your chosen book before bed, to name a few. Finding a way to recharge each day helps you to be able to continue to support your family. Quinn says: “By doing this, you are giving yourself an allocated time to focus on yourself, something you haven’t done for the whole day. Although it sounds simple enough, most parents do not do this. Once they settle down to unwind, another chore or task will pop in their head, and up they get. However, by actively incorporating this into your day, you will begin to appreciate and look forward to it. In fact, you’ll soon notice how these little breaks throughout the day or week will lift your mood and effectively help you be more present with others throughout the day.”
8. Try to preserve your routines to help maintain a sense of normalcy in your life. What we know in crisis and in life is that we thrive off of predictability and knowing what’s going to happen. That’s why it’s important to try and get up at the same time every day and make sure you’re doing things you’d normally do, including taking a shower, getting dressed, and eating breakfast. This applies just as much to kids as it does to parents. Establishing a sense of normalcy gives us at least some level of control at a time when so much feels out of our control. What are the techniques you use to feel better about circumstances that are out of your control?
9. Connect with purpose and practice gratitude. Children are resilient and tend to bounce back from adversity as long as they have the love, support, and reassurance they need from their parents. Practicing gratitude for the small things you are thankful for and focusing on values-based goals, even when you cannot control your surroundings builds resilience. We are the best versions of ourselves when we are happy, inspired, and full. What are the activities that bring you the most joy? “Whether it’s starting a prayer journal with your kiddos, writing down five things you’re thankful for at the beginning or end of every day, or writing thank you cards to first responders … anything you can do together to put things into perspective will go a long way in helping you (and your child) avoid burnout,” says Quinn.
10. Seek professional help if needed. We are living through unprecedented times filled with unprecedented stress, which means you might be having unprecedented difficulty managing your mental health. Quinn says: “A big thing for me is that there’s no ‘wrong’ time to ask for help. If you feel like you could benefit from talking to a mental health professional, you probably could, and I think that’s a very big part of self-care. There are also countless telehealth options available right now, so you won’t even have to leave your house to consult a medical professional.”
While it’s not always avoidable, Parent Burnout and its negative side effects can be mitigated. “Parenting is tough,” says Quinn. He concludes, “Small actions can add up to make a big impact, and these suggestions have already worked wonders for me and my family.” However, at the end of the day, it’s important to remember there is no ONE right parenting decision. Parenting involves doing what feels like the best option at the time, knowing you may have to reevaluate in an hour, a day, or a week—and that’s okay.