What is parenting burnout, and how can family therapy help?

If only real life was more like Facebook life. Social media is awash with smiling photos and happy shares showing moms and dads with their kids enjoying vacations and celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, and family members’ accomplishments.

Since we tend to take things at face value, we sometimes think everyone but us has a picture-perfect life. When we scroll through our media feeds, we perceive others as being happier and more well-adjusted than we are.

So social media can be bittersweet, especially for parents who are experiencing burnout, since it masks the reality that most parents do grapple with that.

Parental burnout is usually heightened during a child’s early years. But from the start of the COVID pandemic, parental burnout has become intensified and more widespread.

Given the myriad of additional stresses placed on parents over the past year-plus, we want to help you recognize if you’re experiencing parental burnout so you can seek ways to help you and your family cope.

We’ll share some tips you can try yourself. But we’ll also discuss why family therapy can be a great benefit.

A knowledgeable and objective professional is always a viable way to help your family. Just as you would seek the expertise of an insurance agent or a financial advisor for a guide to life insurance to find the best financial plan possible for your loved ones, you can seek counseling to create the best plan to improve you and your family’s well-being.

How to Define Parenting Burnout

Parenting burnout is a normal reaction when the continuing demands and stresses of raising children outweigh its pleasures and rewards. Frankly, what parent hasn’t experienced burnout from the large number of COVID’s repercussions?  

Signs of Parental Burnout

It’s time to pursue coping mechanisms if parenting is causing:

  • Challenges in providing a structured and organized environment
  • Chronic anxiety
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Depression
  • Difficulty maintaining a positive relationship with your children
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Feelings of guilt, shame, and resentment
  • Illness
  • Increased conflict
  • Increase in addictive behaviors
  • Loss of a sense of accomplishment
  • Trouble concentrating

Causes of Parental Burnout

COVID is top of mind these days as a major cause of parental burnout.

Anxiety and depression have been heightened during the pandemic because lockdown took away time to yourself outside of the role of parenting — whether it was out working or enjoying social time, or both. And while dealing with your own work situation, you had the added responsibility of homeschooling your children.

While the pandemic has placed an extraordinary strain on parents, that’s just one of many causes of parental burnout.

Parenting burnout is generally caused by a perceived or real lack of resources as well as a disconnect between societal and parents’ own expectations of parenting and reality.

These two factors come into play in a global study of parental burnout done before COVID, which found that the U.S. parental rate of burnout is among the highest in the world.

The study’s findings pointed to culture playing a predominant role in experiencing burnout, noting the drive in Western cultures to be a high-performing, perfect parent, and having to miraculously manage to accomplish this without the familial and community support normally prevalent in other cultures.   

How to Overcome Parenting Burnout

As you can see, parental burnout can make you feel isolated, but you are far from alone.

There are several ways to cope with parenting burnout. Depending on your comfort level and progress, you can work on them on your own, or embrace the proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” by enlisting friends and family, joining a support group, or signing up for counseling.

Self-Care Tips for Parents

You can’t take care of others unless you first take care of yourself. It’s a well-known adage that should be paid more than lip service. You need time and space to recharge your batteries so you have enough energy to be positive and present for your family.

Your first step is to cover the basics. Get your proper sleep, nutrition, and physical activity. But you should also devote time to practicing exercises and partaking in activities that enhance your well-being — anything from just two minutes of deep breathing techniques to a half hour alone with a good book. 

Self-care should also include self-compassion and self-love. Be patient, forgiving, and kind with yourself. This can help you shed the pressure to be a perfect parent. Be willing to say no to new obligations, and don’t load yourself up with too many tasks. These simple changes can help to reduce stress in your life.

Communication Tips for Parents

If you have young children, children with special needs, or teens in crisis, it can be challenging to find the time for self-care. If you’re in that situation, it’s time to ask for help.

If you don’t reach out and communicate your concerns to those closest to you, they may not even realize to what degree you’re suffering — even your loved ones in your own household.

Start with your partner. Share what you’ve been going through and ask for their help and support to work together to help alleviate the causes of burnout.

Also, reach out to others you’re close to, including friends, other family members, and neighbors. In addition to being someone to talk to, they can even become sources of help through advice from their personal experience or by offering to pitch in to help you.

Joining a support group, whether online or in person, can also help you deal with parenting burnout. Talking with other parents who are in a similar situation and who can understand what you’re going through can bolster you emotionally and mentally.

Family Therapy for Parenting Burnout

If you’re having difficulty figuring out ways to take care of yourself, or you’re finding it difficult to ask for help, then seeking family counseling can be beneficial for you.

Many providers take a holistic approach to therapy, meaning that they can use a variety of ways to give you and your family the tools you need to overcome parental burnout and for the entire family to successfully recover from the ways it has affected each of them.

We hope we’ve helped you gain a better perspective about parenting burnout. And if you are experiencing parenting burnout, we hope we’ve inspired you to pursue ways to reframe your mind and your environment to once again enjoy a close and positive connection with your family. 

Karen Condor writes and researches for the insurance comparison site, She has studied communications and eagerly champions the benefits of counseling after successfully participating in family, marriage, and anxiety counseling.