Child therapists Ashley Graber and Maria Evans want parents to know that burnout from parenting—in any circumstance, but especially right now—is universal. And after more than a year of navigating extreme unknowns and school closures, it’s also to be expected that burnout won’t evaporate the moment your children transition back to in-person school.
In this article we’ll share the tools Ashley Graber and Maria Evans use in their practice to help parents address burnout—and what steps to take to prevent burnout from building back up again.
– Corporate Mindfulness Method
– Find Calm: Simple Tools to Help Children Cope in an Unpredictable World
What is parent burnout?
You feel overworked, exhausted, frustrated, and perhaps uninterested in your job or your family in a way that might scare you. You are not alone: It’s a matter not of if but when you will feel this come up. Traditionally, burnout is known as a syndrome that results from extreme workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.
Carve out time for yourself
We recommend what we call the “take ten for me.” We don’t have to take long breaks, but we do want to make those breaks meaningful—think quality versus quantity. Here are the ground rules: no screens and no planning the next meal or meeting. Take ten minutes to reset your nervous system and restore your focus. If you take ten every day consistently, you’ll notice a shift. Consider taking a walk, savoring a cup of coffee on the back porch, or stretching to your favorite playlist. Our brain and nervous system don’t need much to reset if we’re consistent. It’s when we go-go-go until we fall over that it becomes so much harder to bounce back and burnout takes over. And research shows that scheduling these breaks in advance makes us most likely to take them.
Practice letting things go.
We have to consider the guilt that goes in the other direction. Notice when the impulse strikes to open that email right away, recognize that impulse is there, and pause to allow yourself to respond thoughtfully rather than reacting to the situation. If you have trouble slowing down, try taking a few deep breaths.
And if you’re a parent who feels guilty when the house isn’t in order, see if you can give yourself permission to let those beds be unmade and let those dishes pile up in the sink. Practice letting things go.
A big part of what plays into parent guilt is the idea that you’re not there enough for your kids and you’re not there enough for your job, even when you are home every minute. When we learn to recognize and respond to that internal voice inside of us, we become better able to take the quality breaks that are so essential to our well-being.
No directing, no correcting, just connecting.
So what exactly do we mean by quality time? Psychologists have researched this, too. What they’ve learned, in short, is that quality time is nothing special: The quiet, in-between moments of family life do the real work of family bonding—everyday, unstructured activities that require presence. That’s the mindful quality time we are going for. In fact, researchers have found that children value those regular moments more than those scheduled fun outings.
Let the child decide what they want to do and enjoy it with them. Think about doing something to connect with your child that’s not just talking. Try to incorporate touch, snuggle, laughter, or even dancing or singing.
Schedules create predictability, and predictability creates calm in our children’s nervous systems—and in ours, too. At a time when so much is uncertain in the outside world, a regular routine brings comfort and calm to our families. This allows everyone to know what to expect, like wake-up and bedtimes, meals and school, and time to yourself. When we stick to it all seven days of the week, over time, it becomes the norm.
Be sure to schedule in the pieces that are most likely to fall by the wayside, like time for yourself.