You could – still – have pandemic parental exhaustion


It’s the November 15, 2021, edition of bulletin 8 to 3 on school, children and parenthood. Do you like what you read ? Sign up to have it delivered to your inbox every Monday.

For a moment, I want you to remember (or imagine) being a parent in 2020.

You are at home with your children 24/7. They need help with their homework, connecting to the Zoom class. Your boss wants 20 million things from you, just like the 5 year old who has a temper tantrum at your feet. Your kids see you as a role model for what to do in times like these, but you’ve never been through a pandemic, so you’re as confused and scared as they are. You can’t show it.

You feel like you are lagging behind. You are absolutely fried. And there is no escape.

Thank goodness we are no longer at this location! The kids are back to school and you can hang out with people outside your household and things are usually a lot less apocalyptic. Yet you still feel… not great.

You may be exhausted. Yes again.

According to researchers from Stanford University and the Belgian Catholic University of Louvain, parental exhaustion is a state of “intense exhaustion linked to one’s parenting role, in which one becomes emotionally detached from one’s children and one doubts whether his ability to be a good parent ”. In short, it is the body and mind’s response to the chronic and overwhelming stress of parenting.

Like burnout, parental burnout can lead to depressive symptoms, addictive behaviors, poor sleep, and increased conflict with others. But unlike burnout, you can’t step down as a parent or go on sick leave. Even fantasizing about no longer being a parent is taboo.

“It’s the burnout that we can’t talk about that can be very isolating,” said Robyn Koslowitz, clinical psychologist and director of the Center for Psychological Growth in New Jersey.

Koslowitz teaches traumatically educated parents how to give their toddlers a healthy childhood when theirs was anything but (she calls it post-traumatic parenting).

“When the pandemic hit everyone suddenly went through what post-traumatic parents have been going through all the time,” Koslowitz said. “When you’ve been through trauma, the world is unpredictable. You’re still in shock, waiting for the next shoe to drop.

The demands of daily parenting have been compounded by the claustrophobic and frightening circumstances of the pandemic. In the first stage of burnout, you were probably overwhelmed with burnout. Then you may have moved away from your children to preserve your limited energy (called the detachment stage).

“Some parents I work with come home, shower and go to bed,” said Keisha Henry, a psychotherapist based in South Florida. “They don’t log in, don’t ask about homework.”

So why are many parents still exhausted even though many pandemic stressors are gone?

On the one hand, children are still suffering the effects of the last 20 months. They are struggling with unprecedented levels of anxiety and depression, reestablishing friendships and catching up on school, said Reena Patel, psychologist and parenting expert based in San Diego. Empathetic parents are required to internalize these struggles.

“There’s this saying, ‘You are only as happy as your saddest child,'” Patel told me.

And few have had the luxury of time to deal with what happened during the pandemic, Koslowitz explained. The exhaustion and guilt of not being fully present for your children can still be there, eating into your quality of life and your ability to connect with your children.

“One of the things we do in the trauma world is the process and the reprocessing. We do a debriefing right after the event, then we wait a while and re-process. Most parents don’t know how to do this, ”Koslowitz said. “We went from the pandemic to a normal life in an instant. There was no break to acknowledge, “It was hard, let me breathe. Let me not try to immediately catch up on all dentist appointments and clothing purchases for them. children I missed this year. ‘”

In other words, Koslowitz said: “We are building on a foundation of quicksand. “

Unsurprisingly, certain conditions make parents more vulnerable to burnout. Financial insecurity, lack of support and social isolation are all risk factors that have become much, much more common during the pandemic.

A Study 2021 by Belgian researchers Isabelle Roskam and Moïra Mikolajczak found that parents from more individualistic (typically Western) countries – who tend to value perfectionism and discourage parents from seeking help – had rates of parental exhaustion higher than those of Eastern European countries.

Single parents, parents of children with special needs and parents who have experienced systemic oppression are particularly vulnerable. For example, many parents of color have the added stress of not knowing whether they or their loved ones would receive adequate treatment if admitted to a hospital with COVID-19, Henry said.

How to get out of such a rut? First, recognize that you are exhausted and that you are not feeling good about your relationship with your child, Patel advised. Communicate with your family that you need some space and time for yourself, if possible.

Restoring your self-esteem and your well-being is essential. “Personal care is child care,” Koslowitz said. Your children will be much better off if you feel like a full and regulated human being.

“Any mental load that you can take off your plate gives you more mental energy to adjust to your child,” Koslowitz said. “Mental load is the grain that burns an engine. For example, you could spend a morning preparing your meals for the entire week so you don’t have to think about what’s for dinner Wednesday night.

You should also intend to reconnect with your children. Start by asking them how their day went and what they need; make it a ritual, said Henry.

Also share happy moments with your children. Do something the two of you will enjoy: take a walk, cook, do a puzzle together. Koslowitz finds that reading storybooks to young children is a way to connect when you don’t have the free space for something else.

Finally, seek help from a mental health professional if the problem persists.

“An exhausted brain cannot adapt,” Koslowitz said. “Alignment is the cornerstone of attachment, and you must be able to do this to give your child a happy and healthy childhood.”

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Mental health, critical race theory, and other important issues

What do high school students want? Less stress. Access to technology. The keys to academic success. My colleague Howard Blume describes the results of a survey of students in the Los Angeles Unified School District as follows: mental well-being.

Along these lines, San Diego Unified hosted an optional “Mental Health Day” Friday. Students could take time off from school, and about half of them did. But, as our sister newspaper, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports, some parents were just checked.

The “Critical Race Theory” is a Burning Question all over the country and states are passing laws banning it, even though they never actually taught it. California is in the process of doubling down with an ethnic studies curriculum that has some overlap with critical race theory. Times writer Melissa Gomez has looked into the matter.

A San Diego County Judge dismissed a lawsuit challenging Governor Gavin Newsom’s school mask rules.

What do you get when you combine midwifery and herbalism? You get dandelion oil for pregnancy, Mexican honeysuckle for childbirth, and blue corn atole for breastfeeding. A look at “Hood Herbalist”.

What else do we read

A new science museum has opened in Sacramento – the SMUD Museum of Science and Curiosity. (For those unfamiliar with Sacramento, SMUD is the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, the city-owned power company.) Sacramento Bee.

America has a reading problem. Even before the pandemic, reading scores were dropping. Distance learning didn’t help. The Hechinger Report.

No surprise, but UCLA study reveals that people who were discriminated against as children are more likely to have mental health problems in adulthood. KQED Mindshift.

Here are some tips for recharging your children, who are likely exhausted by the last 20 months of the pandemic. CNN.

Give me your news.

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