There’s no denying that parental burnout is real, especially right now, but kids are just as at risk of feeling burned out as you. While your parenting role has changed majorly since the pandemic started, your child’s world has also been turned upside down. Between virtual school and limited social interaction, kids can feel a lot of stress from this change. Plus, spending full days together under one roof can leave your fam in need of a break.
There might not be a one-size-fits all solution to prevent burnout, but there are some habits you can practice that will help your family feel better as a whole. We talked to two experts and got the lowdown on how you can limit these debilitating feelings your family might be facing.
Burnout could very well have been a problem in your family before the pandemic started, but with a new schedule and heightened stress, it’s even more likely that your entire crew is dealing with it. “Kids are burned out on being around their siblings, they’re tired of having Mom’s meals, and they’re sick of being around people all the time,” says Dr. Sheryl Ziegler, a child psychotherapist, author of Mommy Burnout, and mom of three from Colorado.
Ziegler believes that many parents and their children are dealing with higher levels of burnout since COVID-19 started. The signs of burnout include emotional and physical exhaustion, loss of motivation and passion, negativity, and feeling like you have nothing left to give.
While these symptoms are the same for kids, the way they show up can be different. Ziegler has been seeing that while adults get burned out on work, kids might express that they don’t want to join another school Zoom meeting or have more FaceTime dates with family members. “As much as our kids are a part of a tech generation, even they can feel like enough is enough when it comes to spending time online.”
She also points out that adults are better at verbalizing what they need when it comes to self-care while kids tend to bottle things up and express their stress through irritability. “Sure, plenty of adults can get irritable as well, but they can label why they’re irritated while a child likely has a harder time doing that.”
Talking to Your Child
So how can you help your irritable, tired, and anxious child? Jodi Aman, a family therapist and author of Anxiety…I’m So Done With You, suggests checking in with your child to see how they’re doing with all of this change. “Driving is a great time to talk to kids, especially tweens and teens, because you aren’t really looking at each other and it helps them open up a little bit more,” she explains.
Two of Aman’s go-to questions for sparking a burnout conversation with kids are: “How are you doing with all of this?” and “You seem to be upset lately. Is there anything we could be doing differently?” Once you’ve sparked a conversation, you’ll likely learn more about how your child is feeling and you can brainstorm ways to make things better.
Creating New Habits
You’ve heard it before: Self-care is essential. But now that our lives have shifted and our responsibilities have become greater, it’s even more vital to schedule time for your entire family to practice self-care. Aman suggests that families make time daily for self-soothing rituals like listening to music, walking, taking a bath, drinking tea, or reading. She believes that doing these calming activities throughout the day can make a big impact in your overall mental health.
While there are benefits to giving yourself some solo TLC, Aman says these activities can also be done with someone else in your family. “Some kids are really afraid of the virus, which might make it hard for you to separate yourself from them,” she explains. When you self-soothe in tandem, Aman believes you’re teaching your kids how to care for themselves, without feeding into the loneliness that can be triggering if your child is burned out.
Preventing Future Exhaustion
How can we avoid burnout? Ziegler strongly believes that scheduling quiet time (or the self-soothing practices Aman mentioned) for yourself every single day will keep you from getting into a bad place, and the same goes for your kids. Make an effort to actually schedule it in your calendar or planner so it will be harder for you to pass up. You can also put a sticky note on your laptop that says “Take a break” or “Go for a walk at 3:00” so you have a visual cue that reminds you that you need to commit to caring for yourself.
“Even when the pandemic passes, there will be other stressful situations that we all have to face. We need to adapt to living at higher levels of stress and we need to start teaching our kids how to do the same,” Ziegler says. Implementing these self-care strategies into your family’s life is a great place to start, and these habits will ultimately help you raise more calm and collected kids.