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How to cope with ‘parental burnout’ as kids return home for the summer

Published: May. 17, 2022 at 7:09 PM CDT
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PEORIA (25 News) - Kids will soon to be out of school for summer break, but many parents working from home won’t be getting a break of their own.

A three-month long study conducted in 2021 and published by professors at The Ohio State University shows 66% of parents say they’re experiencing a condition called ‘parental burnout.’ That’s when stress and exhaustion overwhelm a parent’s ability to cope and function, resulting in feelings of depression, anxiety, and may increase alcohol consumption. Other factors such as the number of children in the home, anxiety in the parent, children with diagnosed ADHD, and parental concern their kids might have an undiagnosed mental disorder were also strongly associated.

A Peoria crisis nursery, the Crittenton Centers, say they’re starting to see the effects firsthand. For them, stress is becoming visible in parents, leading them to encourage more routine in home life.

“I think it’s important to...have some guidelines so children know what to expect. Children really thrive on that consistency,” says Crittenton’s Crisis Nursery Coordinator Michelle Spanbauer. “So even if there’s summer break and there’s not places they can really go, to still have a routine.”

Spanbauer underlines the important of keeping kids preoccupied and involved while at home, to lessen the distraction of full-time working parents.

“It’s just a matter of keeping the children busy,” she says, “and they’re not sure to keep the children busy. They’re finding kids are fighting with each other, especially when parents are trying to work from home.”

To find a resolution, one of the authors of the study says it’s all about self-care, with simple measures like getting outside or taking a walk acting as quick fixes. Solutions also depend on the symptoms you’re feeling, If it’s less impactful, basic prevention like time to yourself can go a long way. For more serious cases, it can mean finding external assistance for help.

“(Look at) what your stressors are and what your resources are, and really try to decrease your stressors and increase your resources,” says the study’s co-author Kate Gawlik, Associate Professor of Clinical Nursing at The Ohio State University

Most importantly, Gawlik emphasizes that the struggle is a group effort.

“A lot of times, just talking through it with somebody can be extremely beneficial,” she says, “and really help with those feelings of burnout.”

Whether it be friends, family, or reaching out to others on social media, there are others you can rely on to help your situation, adds Gawlik.

“You are not alone in feeling burnout, and there are so many parents out there that are feeling this way.”

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