COVID-19: What Is Parental Burnout and How Can Parents Find Support?
- Research by a UK children’s charity has found that more than 80% of parents are struggling with at least one symptom of burnout as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- More than half of the mothers experienced anxiety.
- The impact of the pandemic on children’s education and mental health are two major concerns.
- Experts explain parental exhaustion and what parents can do to alleviate it.
“I feel like I’m going for a walk and I can’t get off.”
“I just want to leave this house and never come back.”
“I feel like I’m drowning.
These words are all taken from actual conversations a UK helpline had with parents during the pandemic – and they highlight the parental exhaustion many across the world still experience today.
At the start of the pandemic, in March 2020, about 1.4 billion children were out of school. Schools were still closed for 77 million children in September 2021, 18 months later, according to data from UNICEF, the United Nations agency responsible for providing humanitarian and development assistance to children around the world. And parents and caregivers bore the burden of home schooling.
Research by UK children’s charity Action for Children found that most parents struggle with symptoms of burnout.
The UK is one of many countries now out of lockdown, but parents are feeling the aftermath. They juggle childcare and home schooling with work, all the while worrying about their children’s loss of education and mental health, and the fact that life has yet to come back. to “normal”.
One in four people will suffer from mental illness in their lifetime, costing the global economy an estimated $ 6 trillion by 2030.
Poor mental health is the leading cause of disability and poor life in young people aged 10 to 24, contributing up to 45% of the overall disease burden in this age group. Yet globally, young people have the worst access to mental health care for young people in their lifetimes and at all stages of illness (especially during the early stages).
In response, the Forum launched a series of global dialogues to discuss ideas, tools and architecture in which public and private stakeholders can build an ecosystem for health promotion and mental illness management.
One of the top current priorities is to support global efforts for mental health outcomes – promoting key recommendations to meet global mental health targets, such as the WHO Knowledge-Action Portal and the Global Mental Health Countdown
Learn more about our platform’s work to shape the future of health and healthcare and contact us to get involved.
What is parental exhaustion and why is it a problem?
Parental exhaustion was first identified in the 1980s by Belgian researchers Moïra Mikolajczak and Isabelle Roskam as “a prolonged response to overwhelming parental stress”.
They say the condition is characterized by “overwhelming exhaustion from her parenting role, emotional distance from her children and a sense of parental ineffectiveness.”
While it has similarities to burnout, with a job you can put off your notice when it gets too long. In the lockdowns of COVID-19, there has been no relaxation of the work of raising children.
“It’s the burnout that we can’t talk about, which can be very isolating,” clinical psychologist Robyn Koslowitz recently said. said to Los Angeles Times.
Financial worries can add to the pressure of parenthood, which many parents may have experienced more intensely during the pandemic.
At its most extreme, parental exhaustion can lead to the use of alcohol as a form of escape and suicidal ideation, Mikolajczak and Roskam note, which are “more common in parental burnout than in burnout or even depression.”
“This result is not surprising given that you cannot resign from your parenting role or be put on sick leave by your children.”
It can also cause parents to neglect or even be violent towards their children, says Mikolajczak.
“Parents who do these things are often ashamed, so they ruminate on their behavior, and then they wake up the next day more tired and sensitive, which makes negative behavior worse,” she told the American Psychological Association ( APA).
What can parents do?
Seeking help and talking to other parents or a helpline is vital.
GP and mother of two boys Ayla McCamphill-Rose spoke to Talking about parents when her youngest son was struggling with his sanity.
“It was a lifeline to talk to someone who could not only support me with my own sanity, but also give me some very practical and realistic advice that I could work on with my son.”
In October 2021, the APA requested psychologists for advice to parents, which included reassessment of stress. Those who viewed the lockdown in a positive light were less likely to feel exhaustion.
“The degree of parental exhaustion depends on how they view the lockdown,” Roskam said. “For some it was an opportunity to spend some well-deserved time with their children, while others saw it as a nightmare. “
Taking care of yourself is also an essential way of relieving stress. While parents usually don’t have much time for themselves, taking micro-breaks – even just five minutes to catch your breath in a locked bathroom – can help, says the APA.
Dr Amy Imms, founder of The burn-out project, recommends “letting go of other people’s expectations” and “setting aside dedicated time to do things that you find enjoyable”.
“If you can find time for yourself, try not to feel guilty,” she said. First five years.
“Remember that it will make you a better parent and that you can set an example for your child about the importance of self-care.”