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October 06, 2021

Has being a parent of school-age children ever been tougher than during this Covid-19 pandemic? It’s no surprise that a February 2021 survey found that nearly half of parents (48%) reported an increase in their level of stress compared with before the pandemic.i Substantial numbers of mothers and fathers say that their mental health has suffered during this period, with symptoms of unwanted changes in weight, sleep disruption, and an increase in alcohol consumption. More than half of adults (52%) with early elementary school-age children report increased drinking to cope with their stress.  

The collision of multiple roles we’ve had to take on as parent, teacher, caregiver, partner, employee, and more, has been an impossible load. Too many of us are burned out as parents, defined as “…overwhelming exhaustion related to one’s parental role, an emotional distancing from one’s children, and a sense of parental ineffectiveness.”ii Many of us don’t even notice that we’ve reached a state of burnout, paying so much more attention to the kids than to ourselves.  

Here are some strategies that can help restore your psychological balance: 

  • Rethink the value of always putting the kids’ needs first. It builds their confidence when they solve challenges and face adversities on their own. (Watch how one mother balances her needs with her child’s needs at Building Confidence and “I Hate You!”.) 

  • If there was ever a time to challenge perfectionism, this is it. Let go of the need to always make the bed, supervise nightly tooth-brushing, carefully fold the laundry, leave no dishes unwashed.  

  • Remember it’s not your homework, it’s their homework (see Whose Homework?). The kids may benefit more if you replace homework-helping time with something you do to nurture yourself: a quiet walk, a soothing bath, daydreaming out the window. Kids rely on our nervous systems to regulate their own, so when we’re in emotional balance, they reap the benefits. 

  • Bring mindfulness into your day with regular “HALT” moments, asking yourself, “Am I Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired?” If you can identify these basics, you’re better able to respond to them. 

  • Practice self-compassion, including the sort of kindness you would offer a friend who came to you in distress. When parenting feels difficult, it might be because it is. Do not blame yourself and your personal shortcomings for the objectively difficult reality of parenting during a pandemic.  

  • Turn to trusted others to vent your frustrations when life as we now know it pushes you to your limits.  

  • Seek professional help when the pressure isn’t letting up despite your best efforts to keep your balance. There’s a reason counselors are busier than ever these days: we’re living in extraordinary times, pushing all parents to the limits of our coping ability.  


References & Citations

i  American Psychological Association, March, 2021. “One year later, a new wave of pandemic health concerns.” 

ii Mikolajczak, M, et al. August, 2019. “Parental burnout: what is it, and why does it matter?” Clinical Psychological Science.