Parenting Resources

Addressing Burnout in Parenting

Delaney Ruston, MD
August 9, 2022
Woman with hand on her head

When thinking about burnout, we generally connect it to work, feeling like the demands are too high and nothing we do makes a difference. In my field of health care, the burnout rate is extraordinarily high. Burnout is also very common in the teaching profession. So often, in these settings, the culture and leadership of the work environment can add to the problems of burnout. 

So now, let's turn to parenting. Over the years, I have heard from parents experiencing burnout around the job of parenting, particularly when it comes to trying to parent around tech time. And during the summer, this job can become even harder. One dad said to me, “I just have given up when it comes to my daughter and her phone. I am totally burned out.” Another parent said she had given up on trying to do anything about video games in her house with her son because she felt like she had no impact. 

Research and data remind us that if we want to facilitate our children's mental and physical wellbeing, we must stay in the job of parenting. Checking out or burning out is not good for our kids or us. Kids can experience parents’ burnout as rejection, which is associated with many problems. 

Having some degree of weariness around the demands of parenting is quite normal. Today, I share some pearls of wisdom from organizational psychologist Adam Grant’s wonderful podcast episode on job burnout

If you are feeling burned out, what can you do?

Adam Grant says his favorite model for addressing burnout consists of three components: demand, control, and support. Grant says, “There are three ways to prevent emotional exhaustion: reduce the demands of the job, give people more control to handle them, and provide more support to help people cope.”

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Demand

How do we decrease the demands of parenting? We can’t go to a boss and say, “Give me fewer shifts.” However, we can consider aspects of our parenting that might not be needed. For example, are we spending a lot of time reminding our kids to do certain things? If so, it might be time to sit down and experiment with a different system. For example, ‘If I have to ask twice, there will be X consequence.”

Another way to tackle demands is to see if you can get a “colleague,” such as another parent, uncle, cousin, or neighbor, to take over a role you’ve been filling. For example, if you're exhausted trying to get your child to be helpful and do things around the house, why not ask a neighbor if they have any tasks your child can help them with? (Yes, you may wish your kid would energetically go to the neighbors’ houses on their own, offering to mow their lawns, but we need to parent in line with reality.)

In Screenagers Next Chapter, I explained how I asked my neighbor to have my daughter Tessa babysit for her. It was a win-win. Tessa’s mood was boosted by getting to spend time with little kids, and my neighbor felt good getting to help Tessa feel better. 

Control

This is the easiest one to change because there are a plethora of behaviors we can work to initiate or extinguish in ourselves that can make the job of parenting much more satisfying. To exercise control, I might turn my focus to trying not to yell at my son for being on his video game. Instead, I might go into another room and count slowly until the urge goes away. Be sure to put a gold star on your imaginary or real calendar when you accomplish something like that. 

Another example is to focus on what is going RIGHT when it comes to your kids and screen time. You might make a goal to point out two positive interactions between your kids and screens over the next 48 hours. Pointing out these behaviors to your kids can be even more helpful. Examples might be, “When you texted me yesterday to update me on your plans, it was really helpful. It helped me plan my day. I love how considerate you are.” Or, “I noticed yesterday I didn’t have to ask you many times to get off your computer. Thank you. This shows how respectful you are and makes this house so much warmer.”

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Support

In the same podcast, Adam Grant meets with fire departments working to prevent burnout by getting more effective support for their workers. One area that can impact burnout is the intensity of the demands of a job, like responding to various emergency calls. Duties like this can create an emotional toll. Peer support can help. Talking about these hard tasks with colleagues who can relate can sometimes be more impactful than speaking to a therapist. Grant explains that the fire department calls these peer-to-peer sessions “diffusion sessions.”

Enlisting other parents as support for the challenging aspects of parenting is a brave move. Can you coordinate with another family to have one night a week where everyone gets together for a tech-free potluck dinner? Over dinner, you might discuss screen time balance, bouncing ideas off one another. Can you organize fellow parents to talk with the dance club about making it phone free?  Can you coordinate with the parent of your son’s best friend to agree that some of the time they spend at each home will be tech-free? 

In Screenagers, there are several examples of how families get support with parenting around screen time. I love that having the film shown to whole communities allows parents to see how key it is that we work together in this wonderful and challenging job of managing the tech revolution in all of our kids' lives. It is a big job, and we do it more effectively when we do it collaboratively. 

Ideas to get the conversation started.

  1. Have you heard the term “burnout” when it comes to working? 
  2. Why might someone experience burnout in the context of their job? 
  3. In what ways can burnout apply to school?
  4. In what ways do we feel burnout in family dynamics at home? What are some things we can do to address our at-home burnout?
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Parenting Resources

Addressing Burnout in Parenting

Delaney Ruston, MD
August 9, 2022
Woman with hand on her head

When thinking about burnout, we generally connect it to work, feeling like the demands are too high and nothing we do makes a difference. In my field of health care, the burnout rate is extraordinarily high. Burnout is also very common in the teaching profession. So often, in these settings, the culture and leadership of the work environment can add to the problems of burnout. 

So now, let's turn to parenting. Over the years, I have heard from parents experiencing burnout around the job of parenting, particularly when it comes to trying to parent around tech time. And during the summer, this job can become even harder. One dad said to me, “I just have given up when it comes to my daughter and her phone. I am totally burned out.” Another parent said she had given up on trying to do anything about video games in her house with her son because she felt like she had no impact. 

Research and data remind us that if we want to facilitate our children's mental and physical wellbeing, we must stay in the job of parenting. Checking out or burning out is not good for our kids or us. Kids can experience parents’ burnout as rejection, which is associated with many problems. 

Having some degree of weariness around the demands of parenting is quite normal. Today, I share some pearls of wisdom from organizational psychologist Adam Grant’s wonderful podcast episode on job burnout

If you are feeling burned out, what can you do?

Adam Grant says his favorite model for addressing burnout consists of three components: demand, control, and support. Grant says, “There are three ways to prevent emotional exhaustion: reduce the demands of the job, give people more control to handle them, and provide more support to help people cope.”

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