Kellie Cathey, LSW
How to Combat the Ever-Present Burn Out of Parenting During a Pandemic
Most years around this time, parents and kids are settling into the new school year and anticipating the excitement of Halloween. Our conversations in sessions are about meeting new friends in class and costume choices for the upcoming weeks of Halloween activities.
This year feels much different. This year feels filled with the ever-present overwhelming feelings of being a parent and a child during a pandemic. Parents are feeling burnt out and kids are feeling discouraged, unmotivated, and lost in how to navigate all the demands expected of them.
Parents with young children especially are continuing to feel the ever present feeling of burn out. The frustration that comes with Zoom, the sadness that comes with less connection, the overwhelm that comes with trying to juggle all the demands expected of them.
This year, I keep reminding parents: all the feelings you are having are a continued expression of an incredibly stressful situation.
One of the most adaptive coping skills that parents can embody to fight an ever-present feeling of burn out is to come back to your humanness. A situation that is asking parents to stretch themselves so thin that they have little left to give.
Before you are a parent, you are a human. Remind yourself (in each moment) that mistakes are welcomed, frustration is expected, and imperfection is a part of figuring it out. We don’t have any of this figured out, mostly because it feels nearly impossible to.
Here are some small tips to come back to your humanness and combat the ever-present burn out of parenting during a pandemic.
Model Healthy Expression of Emotions
You are managing Zoom meetings, working full time, making sure the masks are put on properly, managing the normal mental load of the household and the no-face-touching-nose picking-eye-rubbing crossing guard. It is exhausting and frustrating and so overwhelming. These feelings are a normal a stressful situation.
Modeling your healthy expression of emotions and how you take care of yourself in those moments is exactly what your child needs to see to build resilience and learn how to cope with stressful situations. As your child watches you, they learn that even in stress and big feelings, we can move through them and be okay.
Whatever helps your move through hard feelings, do that often. Show your children what you do when you are feeling frustrated or overwhelmed. If you like movement to get the feelings out, take a moment to stop and stretch. Ask your child to join you so they can learn that movement helps during times of stress. If you like singing songs to help soothe, take a moment to sing with your child to help you and them soothe.
Rebuild Your Support
One of our biggest ways we combat any stressful situation is having a community of people who support us. As humans, we are meant to be in relationship to a community of people who can love us during our hardest times. Because of the pandemic our basic needs for community were not being met in the way we needed.
Being with peers, friends and other families who support you is so important to feel grounded and restored from stress. Start by identifying what you and your supports may need to feel safe with rebuilding in-person connection. Share with one another what those boundaries are and establish some ways to connect that feel safe for you both.
We truly can feel restored from stress and it is much easier to not have to do it alone.
Come Back to Love
Love is the grounding force that holds life together. It is the glue that holds you and your child together. As long as your child feels deeply loved, you are doing enough.
In moments of frustration, come back to your humanness. Give yourself compassion for the ways you are showing up for your child in the ways that you can right now. Breathe into all the ways that you are adapting. Affirm yourself and your child for what is going well. Show moments of appreciation for one another, despite having moments of struggle and overwhelm.
Love is what heals us. No matter the amount of overwhelm, coming back to love restores us.