Parental Burnout Is Real & Has Negative Effects On The Entire Family

Parental burnout is real, and now there’s scientific research to support it. The residue of stress as a parent is not just a personal matter, it is a matter that impacts the entire family. While parenting is one of the most rewarding responsibilities in life, it can also be extremely stressful, especially when parents lack the resources needed handle alleviating the stressors related to parenting. For those who may not know, parental burnout is when the daily stress of parenting becomes chronic.

As a result of intense exhaustion, parents then begin to feel detached from their children and unsure of their abilities. According to research recently published in Clinical Psychological Science by Moïra Mikolajczak, James J. Gross, Isabelle Roskam, lead researcher Mikolajczak states, “In the current cultural context, there is a lot of pressure on parents, but being a perfect parent is impossible and attempting to be one can lead to exhaustion. Our research suggests that whatever allows parents to recharge their batteries, to avoid exhaustion, is good for children."

The Consequences of Parental Burnout

As a consequence of parental burnout: there’s an increase in parental neglect, harm and even thoughts about escape. Two individual studies, one included mostly French speaking adults in Belgium and another with mostly English speaking parents in the UK both confirmed that parental burnout and parental neglect have a circular relationship. Parental burnout led to increased parental neglect, which led to increased burnout, and so on. Parental violence appeared to be a clear consequence of burnout.

All of these patterns held even when the researchers took participants' tendency toward socially desirable responding into account. Together, the data suggests that parental burnout is likely the cause of escape ideation, parental neglect, and parental violence. "We were a bit surprised by the irony of the results," says Mikolajczak. "If you want to do the right thing too much, you can end up doing the wrong thing. Too much pressure on parents can lead them to exhaustion which can have damaging consequences for the parent and for the children."

The Importance of Self-Care

According to a statement about the research study results, Mikolajczak states, “Parents need to know that self-care is good for the child and that when they feel severely exhausted, they should seek help. Health and child services professionals need to be informed about parental burnout so that they can accurately diagnose it and provide parents with the most appropriate care. And those engaged in policy and public health need to help raise awareness and lift the taboo on parental burnout, which will encourage parents to seek the help they need."

Self-care is not just a good habit to have for the parents, it is refreshing for the kids too. It’s suggested that parents relieve themselves from unnecessary pressure that does not add to the overall quality of their lives. If not already, it’s time for parents to start making a lifestyle of self-care and relaxation for themselves as well as their kids indeed. Having fun and relaxing with your kids is a great form of self-care.

According to PEPS, which stands for Program For Early Parent Support, positive examples of self care include:

  • Exercise, on your own and as a family
  • Sleep (as much as you can), and nap when your child naps
  • Eat right: food affects mood, so try to cut down on sugars and processed foods
  • Get or give a massage
  • Cuddle, kiss, or make love with your partner
  • Take a hot shower, or a long bath (add a little lavender oil to increase relaxation)
  • Have a cup of chamomile tea or warm milk (or hot chocolate with marshmallows!)
  • Go for a long walk outdoors - on your own, or with your child.
  • Spend time with friends
  • Spend time alone each day
  • Prioritize the activities that make you happy
  • Be creative / flexible about social activities you can work around your child’s needs
  • Schedule time each day to talk to another adult
  • Allow yourself to cry
  • Find things that make you laugh
  • Find a way to have a weekly date with your partner
  • Say no to extra responsibilities


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