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Parental burnout: what is it, causes, and how it affects parents

Taking care of children can be very rewarding but also exhausting. Many fathers and mothers have to be aware of what they do all day and stop doing their suckers, and in times of sanitary crisis with confinements involved, this obligation has been increased.

Spending more time with our children is what every good parent would want, but within limits. Young children can be very demanding and this makes their parents exhausted, tired and even irritable.

Parental burnout is a syndrome that affects many parents, a problem that has exploded with the pandemic and that can involve a lot of psychological and physical suffering. Let's discover the peculiarities of this syndrome.

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What is parental burnout?

Having children is not an easy task. As much as they love them, all parents know that raising and educating their children is not a breeze.

It requires a lot of effort, love, time and energy, all invested until the little ones start take their first steps toward independence during adolescence and fly out of the nest when they are Adults. But until that happens,

tiredness can become the faithful companion of moms and dads...

It is normal to feel a little tired because we have had to help our children with their homework, take them to class, buy their textbooks, prepare their birthdays... Although they bring us happiness and pride, having to be aware of their needs is tiring, exhausting and can burn us easily if we have to do it for too much time. Every father and mother needs a break time from their children, stop putting up with them for a few hours no matter how ugly it sounds to say so.

But fortunately for most parents there are nurseries, schools and institutes. Those wonderful educational centers where our offspring spend their hours being the business of teachers and professors. The teaching profession is very respectable not only for the knowledge they impart to their pupils, but also because they have to handle the demands and needs of children of all ages.

However, there is a group of parents who had to take care of their children for a longer time, almost at all hours. Many boys and girls are unlucky enough to suffer from a serious or chronic illness, medical conditions that require a lot of care. In many of these cases, one of the two parents has to stay home to watch over their sick child., making sure you have everything you need. They are fathers and mothers who can suffer a lot of stress if, in addition to this, they have other obligations.

Parental burnout, also called parental burnout, is a very common syndrome in parents who are exposed to highly stressful situations in which they have to combine the care of their children together with the fulfillment of other obligations, such as work or the care of other people. In its origins, the expression "parental burnout" began to be used in the 1980s to refer to the stress syndrome suffered by parents of children with chronic or serious illnesses and which, by having to act as caregivers, wasted them physically and emotionally.

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Symptoms and risk factors

The symptoms of parental burnout are similar to those suffered by occupational burnout, only with the difference that parents who suffer from this syndrome they cannot "escape" or "rest" from their children with the same ease as a person burned by their work would have. Among these symptoms we find:

  • Exhaustion
  • Sadness
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Episodes of violence
  • Sleep disorders
  • Conflicts with your partner
  • Negligent childcare
  • Feeling of guilt or shame
  • High cortisol levels and more stress

Parental exhaustion can have several origins, which vary according to the type of family, the number of children and the historical moment that the family nucleus may be going through. There are several risk factors that increase the chances of suffering from parental burnout:

  • Single parent family
  • Economic and labor problems
  • Relationship problems
  • Chronic illness or disability of the child
  • Children's behavior problems
  • Low emotional abilities.
  • High perfectionism of the parents.

The characteristics of parental burnout

We can describe parental burnout as a three-dimensional syndrome in which we can identify the following characteristics.

1. Physical and mental exhaustion

Fathers and mothers spend a good part of their time caring for their children. This does not only imply investing a lot of time in caring for the children, but also will, patience, hours of sleep and physical and mental effort.

If to this is added the stress of work problems, having poor sleep hygiene and having the feeling that you do not have time for yourself, frustration becomes a strong physical and mental exhaustion that brings with it potential psychological problems and mood disturbances.

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2. Feeling of incompetence

Parental burnout makes those who suffer it feel that they are failing her children. Feeling exhausted and grumpy from having to take care of them also causes the feeling that not enough is being done or that things are being done wrong.

What's more, the belief that our children should be loved unconditionally is often misunderstood for doing things for them without feeling exhausted. This means that when a father feels exhausted because his son tires him, he is afraid of not doing it well, being a bad father or even not loving him enough.

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3. Emotional distancing from the child

When parents do not have enough resources to manage the care of their children, stress and anxiety appear. These feelings directly related to fatigue can deteriorate your relationship with your children, since they do not want to have them around or do not answer them in a good mood because of their exhaustion.

Children can see in their parents people who are always grumpy, and parents can see their children as a source of discomfort despite wanting the best for them. All this can imply an emotional distancing from the son, who fears that her father will not answer him well.

It is very important to note that Having parental burnout is not synonymous with being a bad parent, far from it. Being exhausted from parenting has nothing to do with parents' love or relationship with their offspring, but is linked to work for having to educate them, take care of them, take them to school, watch that they do their homework, watch their diet, promote their learning, make sure they are healthy... There are many small problems that, accumulated, can become a ball that makes us suffer regardless of how much we love our children.

Stress in parents
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Parental burnout and pandemic

Until not long ago, this syndrome was relatively little known, being manifested among parents with children with disabilities or in families with high dysfunctionality. In families without problems, both parents who worked outside the home and those who did not always have a break from their children. The children went to school and then maybe they stayed home or maybe they went to play with their friends outside. But there was something that changed everything, so many things changed that parental burnout became more general: confinement.

Overnight our lifestyle changed radically. Any adult who did not have an essential profession had to stay at home, either teleworking or staying in work limbo without knowing what was going to happen to his job. The children also had to go home, perhaps with joy the first moments of the pandemic before the cancellation of classes, but over time the burden of not being able to go out or for a walk would affect both them and their fathers.

Confinement measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic have been a real headache for many families. Parents, who had to work from home, also had to act as improvised teachers of their children who, although they received the lesson virtually, doubts about such a math problem and the other one of language were going to stop at the adults of reference more close. All this without being able to rest from each other, because they shared space 24/7.

Breeding is wearisome, but doing it in a context of general crisis such as a pandemic makes it even more so. Teleworking is an added factor to parenting, which due to the cancellation of face-to-face classes during the worst months of the pandemic caused them not only to be added, but also to be given at the same time. How many parents had to be aware that their children attended virtual classes while they had a meeting with their bosses via Skype?

Anxiety, overwhelm, frustration... childcare fatigue did not take long. The only free time was to go shopping and, if you were “lucky”, to be waiting in line at the supermarket for longer without having to put up with your children. Parental burnout soared without the need to have a child with health problems, but simply by having it at home every day. In the case of large families, things were even more stressful, since there were no adults for so many children.

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How to avoid parental burnout?

It is clear that raising a child is never easy, especially when there are situations that increase stress such as the current pandemic. But as with everything in life, prevention is our best ally to avoid suffering a case of parental burnout, quickly detecting the symptoms and tackling the problem as soon as possible. In this regard, the couple is key, since it is the closest person who can detect how their spouse is exhausted due to childcare and can put themselves in their place.

The couple must find moments and spaces that allow one of them to disconnect while the other takes care of the children, taking turns. Thus, they continue to be aware of the little ones, but at the same time one of the adults finds a moment of rest and peace that helps you recharge after a stressful day having to deal with children and other obligations.

It is essential to talk about this problem with other parents, who surely have experienced it on more than one occasion and may have found strategies to reduce your stress. It can also happen that those same parents offer to take care of our children when we have others. chores, doing us a favor that we can repay in the future either by taking care of their own or helping them in that they need.

But we can also reduce our stress while we are with the children. This may seem contrary to what we are trying to achieve, to reduce the stress associated with caring for children, but it is possible say we can all vent at once while having a good time and turning a potentially stressful moment into one pleasurable. A good way is to exercise with the little ones, something that will help us release tension and, in addition, will tire the children, making them not so heavy afterwards.

If the cause of our stress is that our children have behavior problems, in addition to consulting a specialized professional, it is a good idea to introduce rewards for their good behavior. Children sometimes have a hard time behaving well, especially if they see it as an empty obligation of meaning, on the other hand, if we turn it into something that brings a reward later we can make it behave better. Some tasks for which they can be rewarded are doing homework, collaborating at home, not disturbing when parents are at the computer ...

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