How to get around and manage parental burnout in a pandemic? Tips for avoiding the breaking point, in the family and outside.
Covid-19 is putting families to the test and the current scenario only portends a new change in habits for adults and children. The risk around the corner related to the health emergency is psychological and is called parental burnout: that situation in which, just like at work, a person reaches a point of no return and feels crushed by events, without being able to them anymore. handle. The pandemic parental burnout it has even more vivid outlines: there are no borders between the private and public spheres, with parents busy doing smartworking in the same spaces they share with their family. And stress in children, as well as in adults, can be exacerbated in times when the news always returns only bad news. How to be patient parents, who understand the needs of children without putting aside their own? This is a good question, but one that can easily be answered by exploring the reasons for burnout, trying to circumvent it or at least reduce its effects.
Parental burnout in a pandemic, how to manage it
According to a study entitled “Stress in the Time of Covid-19” conducted by Harris Poll for the American Psychological Association, 46% of parents of children under 18 surveyed in the period between April 24 and May 4, 2020 experienced levels of stress. above average which in some cases he found difficult to manage. And a second survey by the APA also related to the period of the first spring lockdown found that 60% of parents no longer knew what to make their children, at the time they were home from school due to the restrictions. Knowing about stress and analyzing its causes is the first step to avoiding it burnout, or this form of nervous breakdown that often also affects parents while they are in contact with their children. If from a professional point of view burnout has been recognized as a sort of emotional crack that prevents concentration and emotion at work, from the parental point of view the premises are the same, only that the consequences also affect the other members of the family, especially younger children.
According to Robin G. Nelson, associate professor at the University of Santa Clara interviewed on the subject by the New York Times, the reason lies in the fact that, anthropologically, families are used to, indeed they need, to share the education of their children with other figures, more qualified than them from the didactic point of view. Teachers and educators in general are fundamental for the growth of children: when these figures fail, as in the periods of distance learning and smartworking of parents, the balance of children’s social responsibility is disproportionate and it all falls on mothers and fathers. We are a community, used to growing in varied social contexts: for this reason, when living in a community is not possible and the only close relationship is with the family unit, one often has the feeling of being suffocated, of not being able to manage one’s own personal and work responsibilities.
Recognize stress to get around it
If already recognizing a period of stress is an antidote to feeling overwhelmed, talking and communicating openly your emotions with your partner about the responsibility of the children is the second step to deal with the situation. The mental load that accumulates in emotionally uncertain periods such as those of Covid-19 does not help to lighten family life: if a mother or father struggles to find the center of their well-being at home, they tend to move away from the home and at the same time feel guilty, because they do not help the family and no longer represent a point of reference.
How to recognize parental burnout?
This type of burnout develops in some people (and parents) as a widespread feeling of stress and fatigue. According to experts, the four signs to keep an eye on to prevent this feeling from escalating and becoming pathological are:
- feeling tired enough to not be able to get out of bed
- feeling of being emotionally unstable towards their children and their needs
- no joy in “parenting” activities
- general change in behavior
Before getting to burnout, the experts interviewed by the New York Times recommend sitting at a table (literally!) With the family and discussing what happens, dividing the expectations and activities of the parent who feels overwhelmed into three broad categories: needs will be identified. non-negotiable, desires and ambitions. Between non-negotiable needs moments of individuality must be included in order to decompress, relax and devote oneself to one’s passions. This applies to all family members and not just to distressed parents. A walk in solitude, an hour a day at home alone, a call to a friend become fundamental moments to avoid reaching the point of no return. However, in cases where stress and burnout arise, the only way to meet your needs without interfering with family ones is to consult a therapist, who will help the parent to overcome the period he is experiencing and to get out of it.
Sources for this article: Stress in the Time of Covid-19, Harris Poll and American Psychological Association; Stress in the Time of COVID-19, American Psychological Association;