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Parental Burnout is a Real Thing—Here’s What You Can Do to Fix It

Have you ever felt burnt out from the hamster wheel of parenting? I have good news: It’s not just you.

According to a new study, which was organized by PollFish and the Business Performance Innovation Network, looking into how parental burnout might be affecting employee’s productivity levels, 60 percent of 2,000 parents surveyed in the United States admitted they feel burnt out. Specifically, the respondents suffered from exhaustion, a drop in productivity, high levels of stress, and feeling emotionally withdrawn.

Parental Burnout

Parents reported their biggest challenges contributing of burn out are social media distractions, both parents working, and emotional or behavioral dysfunction in the family.

Parenting burn out can leave moms and dads feeling chronically fatigued and cause concentration problems. Worse, it can lead to depression, chronic anxiety, and illness. This can be even more difficult for parents of teenagers who face unique challenges during this period, leading many to constantly feel frustrated, weary and worn out.

While many parents simply struggle with burn out, believing there is nothing they can do but hang in there, there are ways to cope.

Start with a self-assessment of the things that are working for you, and those that are not. After all, we can’t be effective in our role as a parent if our life isn’t working for us.

Next, face this truth: As parents, our lives matter too.

stress management for parents

Once you accept this premise, there are a few small adjustments you can make that can provide significant results:

1) Eliminate Control Battles.

Chronic parent-teen control battles use huge amounts of precious parental energy and yield poor outcomes. Control battles happen when you’re trying to get your adolescent to manage responsibilities and stop destructive behaviors, and your teen puts their efforts into resisting your efforts. After a while, the ‘battle’ takes on a life of its own, and every interaction gets folded into this painful pattern. Here are a few things you can do to end control battles:

  • Be clear, first with yourself and then with your teen, exactly what you want them to do differently. Stay completely positive in your tone, and let the job of changing their behavior belong to your teen, not you.
  • Be patient. Remember all their good qualities and what you love about them—and be sure to communicate that.
  • Let the magic of earned privileges do its job. Stop giving consequences for things done wrong, and instead, give privileges when your teen is managing their responsibilities and being respectful. Within reason of course, but disrespectful tantrums, door slamming, and arguing do not earn privileges.
  • Finally, you’re parenting outside the control battle. You’re being positive, communicating, and offering privileges as soon as they are earned. You’re on their side—the ball’s in their court. They have the power to move forward. If we’re patient, that’s exactly what they’ll do.

2) Make sure you have a regularly enforced tech policy in your home.

Include a place that all handheld devices go when they are off limits. Devices should be unavailable for teens and parents during meals and an hour before bedtime.

3) Get parenting support.

We all need help, and if we don’t get it, we lose perspective and burn out. Spend time with people who know and appreciate you, and stay away from or set limits with anyone whose tendency is to be critical. If you and your partner are at odds over parenting, don’t focus on the problems or solutions first. Start by listening empathically to each other.

4) Make time for “me”.

Remember, you are more than a parent, a spouse, or employee. You’re a whole individual with specific interests, needs, and forms of expression. Sometimes we need to be out with friends, riding our bikes, painting, or reading a book. Me Time is something we need to feel whole. Without it, we burn out.

5) Try to make sure your work environment is flexible to your parenting needs.

These days, many job responsibilities can be done from home. Negotiate that with your supervisor. Employees that are supported by their company remain loyal and get the job done. If your job is only available on site, ask your employer to be flexible to adjust your schedule to accommodate your parenting needs.

Remember, you matter! Without you at your best, you and everyone around you are missing out. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, say what you need from others, and take time for yourself.

You need it, you deserve it, you’re worth it.

Neil Brown, LCSW

Neil D. Brown is a psychotherapist, author, speaker and management consultant based in Santa Cruz, California.  A graduate of the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work, Brown became a student of Structural Family Therapy and Brief Therapy from which he evolved his own highly actionable therapeutic model for helping families transform out of unhealthy family patterns.  He hosts the Healthy Family Connections Podcast and is author of Ending the Parent-Teen Control Battle.