What is Parental Burnout?
Parental burnout happens when you are working very hard to make child-rearing work the best way possible. However, due to the seemingly endless mental, emotional, and physical demands on the parent, he or she eventually finds it very hard to cope.
The parent then ends up feeling "fed up" with parenting. One may compare it to trying to holding down a tedious and thankless job. But with parenting, you are not allowed to quit.
What are the Symptoms of Parental Burnout?
- Feeling exhausted in the role as a parent
- The perceived loss of identity before becoming a parent
- Feelings of not wanting to become a parent anymore and being emotionally distant from your child.
Studies show that parents who aim to be "perfect" have the tendency to show less emotion and are lacking in stress management abilities. This type of parent is at high risk for burnout. This goes for parents who have children with special needs as well.
In light of the current pandemic, it even increases the likelihood of more parents burning out.
Fatigued Vs Being Tired
To put it simply, being tired can be resolved by stopping whatever you are doing and taking a rest. You can go to bed early whenever possible, and you'd wake up refreshed in the morning. Being fatigued, on the other hand, is a more severe tiredness, and it is in some ways preventing you from functioning properly.
How Does One Identify Fatigue?
Being tired could also mean being satisfied and fulfilled, whereas fatigued is a negative experience that does not end unless steps are taken to relieve the condition
Fatigue is known to be related to depression in a way that it is assessed according to the severity of exhaustion and loss of energy. While depression is all about mood and not being able to feel pleasure about anything anymore.
Not like tiredness, fatigue though treatable as a medical condition cannot be relieved by just taking a rest. Special steps need to be done to address the issue.
Fatigue in Parents with Children with ASD
What happens to parents who experience fatigue while taking care of children who have autism? The effects include not being able to cope which has an impact on mental or physical health, which may or may not be related to the cognitive processes of the brain.
Being fatigued may induce forgetfulness, a general impaired function of mental faculties, and being short-tempered. The sufferer eventually becomes overburdened, even by simple daily activities.
Are You Experiencing a Burn Out?
Below are some of the signs from your body that could indicate burnout:
Do you easily get sick or feel physically down most of the time for no apparent reason?
Without proper nutrition, our immune system is weakened making us prone to illnesses as well as resulting in loss of energy and even motivation.
Are you experiencing severe mood swings?
Mental and emotional fatigue.
Are you too tired to do anything else outside of parenting duties?
A slow creeping disinterest in your favorite hobbies and not being able to see a friend for dinner because you are too tired may indicate that you are fatigued.
Are you too preoccupied with thinking about your child with ASD that nothing else seems to matter anymore?
As a parent taking care of a child with special needs, he or she doesn't have to give up her identity.
Are you unable to sleep?
The normal urge of being the best parent you can be for your child may be taking over your sense of self-preservation as well.
If you answered yes to any one of these questions you might be on your way to a burnout or are already experiencing one.
3 Things You Can Do to Avoid or Cope with Burnout
Here are some of the ways you can avoid or counter burnout:
Learn to Set Some Reasonable Limits and Take a Break
As a parent, you may want to assess your situation about your child's needs vs. your ability to cope. Take up a hobby, relax and enjoy a book, or take a night off. You may want to do things for yourself for recharge and recreation.
This way you won't lose the enthusiasm of being there for your child even in high-stress situations.
Ask for Help
You can turn to immediate family for assistance in taking care of your child with ASD. You don't necessarily have to burden them with a one-on-one situation with your child. But requesting them to do an errand that you would do normally for yourself can greatly reduce the pressure of having to do everything yourself.
Otherwise, any kind of help from your friends and neighbors will go a long way. Professional help from doctors and therapists should be on top of mind for you too.
Be Gentle with Yourself
With as much effort that you could give to be tender towards your child, be a caring friend to yourself as well. You are not perfect, learn to accept your imperfections as a parent and move on to doing things that will help you become better.
Positive self-talk may help dissipate and even manage feelings that you would rather do without.