Parental Burnout Is Rife During The School Holidays

It's A LOT.
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The school holidays are notably a challenging time for parents up and down the country as they navigate work, entertaining the kids and trying to manage a packed schedule that would rival Kris Jenner’s.

So it’s perhaps no surprise then that as soon as the holidays begin, online searches for ‘parental burnout’ also start to spike.

That’s according to an analysis by Officeology, which looked at search trends over the past 12 months in the UK and found the search term spiked every time there was a key school holiday – with the extra-long summer break being no exception.

In fact, the analysis found searches spiked 60% in the past week alone.

Adam Butler, CEO of Officeology, said of the findings: “Any school holidays can be difficult for many working parents, but especially when it comes to the summer break. With six weeks off trying to juggle work and the children, it can be an overwhelming time for many.”

He’s right. Babbu, an app for parents, asked its subscribers about parenting over the school holidays and 72% of respondents said they had felt overwhelmed over the past couple of weeks.

What are the signs of parental burnout?

Parental burnout is defined as a prolonged response to chronic and overwhelming parental stress.

Common signs of burnout, according to Mental Health UK, include feeling constantly tired, helpless/trapped and detached, as well as having a negative outlook, experiencing self-doubt, procrastinating a lot and feeling overwhelmed.

Dr Emma Svanberg, author of Parenting For Humans, previously told HuffPost UK there are overlaps between burnout and parental burnout as they share that same sense of overwhelm and exhaustion.

But there are also some more specific signs of parental burnout to watch out for, such as:

  • Exhaustion in your parental role. “It’s that kind of tiredness where it doesn’t really matter how much you sleep, you still wake up in the morning feeling really bone-tired,” said Dr Svanberg.
  • Noticing your parenting has changed and is different to how you would normally parent.
  • Feeling fed up with your parental role. “You feel that you’re not very good at your ‘job’ – so you feel like you’re not being the parent that you want to be anymore,” added the psychologist.
  • Emotional distancing from your children. You might emotionally withdraw from your kids because you can’t physically withdraw from them.

What can you do about it?

If you feel like you might be burnt out, Dr Svanberg shared some useful tips for helping yourself:

  • Seek support from friends, family members and neighbours to “bring in a village”.
  • Prioritise deep rest – this might look like a hot bath with the lights off, lying in a dark room, or going for a nice massage if that’s something you can afford. It might also look like turning off your phone, reducing your caffeine intake and making sure you’re eating well.
  • Lighten your load – if you’ve got a to-do list as long as your arm, it’s time to offload jobs onto your partner, children or colleagues and only prioritise jobs that are essential.
  • Reset the nervous system. According to Healthline, breathing exercises, weighted blankets, hot baths, warm hugs, eating healthy fats (think avocado and nuts), lifting weights and taking a break (when possible) can all help with this.
  • If it’s affecting day-to-day life, reach out to your GP, midwife or health visitor about how you’re feeling. If you can afford to pay privately for therapy, that may also help.

What can employers do to help?

It’s in employers’ interests to support staff who are feeling burnt out – especially as burnout of any type can lead to feeling less productive and creative, which ultimately impacts work output.

Employees may begin to struggle to complete tasks on time and even end up leaving their job or going on long-term sickness if they are suffering from burnout, suggested Butler.

He recommends employers reduce their employee’s workload around the school holidays to help them adjust to balancing work and their personal life. Doing this will not only boost wellbeing, but will give them a sense of productivity, he suggested, as they’ll feel able to complete all their work.

Flexible work policies – even if they’re just implemented during the school holidays – can also have a positive impact, as can ‘no-meeting Mondays’ or allowing employees to block out focus time during the day.

Providing additional support, such as childcare benefits and services, is also key to helping employees during the summer holidays, he said.

And lastly, if an employee raises issues of burnout, it’s crucial the employer is accommodating and lets the employee take time off as soon as possible, warned Butler. “This is beneficial for the long-term, as it gives the employee the chance to begin the process of feeling better before it worsens.”