Contrary to the popular myth that parenting is all sunshine and rainbows, there are less talked about issues surrounding parenting. In this article, I am specifically referring to the dispensing end: parental burnout.
What is parental burnout? Parental burnout refers to a state of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion as a result of overwhelming pressure one faces during parenting.
Major signs of parental burnout
Overwhelming physical and mental exhaustion
Parents would feel so drained to the extent of having zero ‘fuel left in their tank’ and refuse to get out of bed to carry on with their daily routine.
Emotional detachment from children
They will experience changes in the ways they interact with their kids, losing the ability to connect with and understand their children. Parents who face burnout struggle to comfort their upset child and face difficulty in spending quality family bonding time with their child.
Abnormal changes in behaviour
A significant difference in the way the parent acts towards the child. Often, there is also a higher risk of neglectful and violent behaviour towards the child.
Losing out on the joys of parenting, the parent is no longer able to perform their usual parenting-related tasks, possibly questioning their role as a parent. There is a loss in the sense of accomplishment and fulfillment in being a parent. These damages interactions between child and parent as there is a reduction in involvement with the child’s development. Finally, the dreadful feeling of guilt and being unproductive sinks in.
Have questions regarding how to start your parenting journey? Here is a guide for first-time parents.
Ways to cope with parental burnout
Avoid putting pressure on yourself to be ever-present
When you are ever-present and always there for your child, the pressure to constantly watch your child will cause you to be drained and get worn out more quickly. Furthermore, your child will not be able to foster independence, learn to solve problems themselves, lacking the confidence to try new things when you are absent. Avoid allowing your child to depend on you for everything. This also helps your child to overcome separation anxiety.
Instead of revolving around your child 24/7, give your child some time to be by themselves and to be with other people like their other family members, peers, and teachers. Perhaps you can occupy your child’s time by getting them to help you with some simple household chores around the house. Let them realise that they can do things by themselves.
If you start to feel overwhelmed with your parenting responsibilities, talk it out.
Partner or family member
You can talk to your significant other or a family member about your need for support or extra help. The support can be in the form of finding a childcare centre or even seeking help from your family members to help babysit occasionally. This helps to take the stress off your shoulders temporarily.
You can also seek support from a therapist. A professional will be able to hear you out and provide you with tips to cope with your exhaustion. For therapy, there are many options available such as couples therapy and group therapy programs. There are also communities and parenting websites that would provide support. There are online and offline support groups run by mental health professionals with other parents who may have faced or are facing similar issues, and you could take in different perspectives on your situation.
Make time for yourself
Value self-care time. Pick up an activity or hobby, whatever helps you to get your mind off feeling the stress of parenting, and stick to it. Even if it is just 30 minutes a day, commit to the activity. Remember that working on yourself and on your own mental and physical health will benefit your child and your family. It is crucial to remember to invest in other parts of yourself individually as an adult and not focus solely on parenting.
The time that you leave for yourself will help you to come back to the 24/7 365 days job of being a parent, more refreshed and in a more positive mood. Avoid over-scheduling yourself. As a working parent, it is common to feel the pressure on both ends, during work, and at home. However, prioritising time for yourself and getting away from the stress once in a while is only realistic for your own emotional health in the long run.
Here are some other parenting styles you can consider adopting.
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