Tag Archive for: Parenting

Managing Expectations for Mother’s Day

Break down these 3 barriers so you can all win and feel the love!

Have you ever asked your spouse what they plan on doing for you on Mother’s Day? Raise your hand if they’ve replied:

Shoot… Is that THIS weekend? 

or

Whatever you want to do, Babe.

or

Umm… nothing. You’re not my mom. 

All wrong answers. That sinking feeling of being unappreciated, taken for granted and forgotten drowns out any last-minute plans they may try to scramble together. The damage has been done. 

Your expectations to be thought of and celebrated have been shattered to dust. And if this isn’t the first, second, or third offense, you may even feel numb to it now. Disappointment is inevitable. No point in getting your hopes up, right?

You’ve probably figured out by now that motherhood is a thankless job. It’s not just what you do – it becomes who you are. It’s like breathing… and it’s natural, instinctual, automatic. But it’s also grueling, emotional and exhausting. So having your family acknowledge all that hard work AND celebrate it one day out of the entire year is not asking for too much. 

But what trips up most couples is actually that – the ASKING part. “What are you going to do for me?” is a loaded question if you already have unspoken expectations of what you want.

But shouldn’t my spouse care enough to look at a calendar and plan ahead? Shouldn’t they know me well enough to know what I’d want to do/how I’d like to be celebrated? Shouldn’t they realize that even though I’m not THEIR mother, I’m a mother, and that’s what this holiday is all about?!

First, that’s a lot of shoulding… So let’s break down some expectation barriers together so we can all win on Mother’s Day.

Barrier #1: You expect your spouse to think and act like you.

It’s easy to believe that everyone (including your spouse) sees the world the way you do. This sets you up for some pretty unrealistic expectations and 

disappointment. You want your spouse to magically know and do exactly what you would do (and probably are doing for your own mother). Maybe you expect them to…

  • Speak the same love language as you. For example: Your spouse may think a signed card shows they care, while you long for a handwritten, thoughtful love letter. Or they may think flowers are the universal language of love, but you find them impractical and a waste of money. Or they may tell you to take the “day-off” and go get a massage or do your nails or whatever you want… but your love language is Quality Time, and you want to celebrate with your family (without any of the normal responsibilities of motherhood…)
  • Have the same skills as you. For example: Your spouse is a spontaneous, in-the-moment kind of person. They don’t enjoy planning. So they wait ‘til the last minute to figure out what to do. But this seems lazy or unthoughtful to you (a planner) when really, it’s their natural temperament. Or they are very logical, and thinking of creative ways to show love is like speaking a foreign language to them. So they get you a super practical gift like new towels or a car charger when you want something meaningful.

Break down the barrier by realizing that your spouse is a unique individual.

They are not YOU. And that’s a good thing! Our differences make us stronger. Talk about your differences. You most likely are speaking different love languages, so discover what each other’s love language is and try to speak it fluently and frequently. If you already know each other’s love languages, a simple reminder can go a long way! 

Barrier #2: You expect your spouse to read your mind.

Whether you’ve been together for 3 years or 30… your spouse cannot read your mind. We joke about this – but when was the last time you’ve thought or said, “You should know what I like! I’ve only told you 1 million times!”? Been there, said that way too often.

The real issue here is that you long to feel seen, understood, and known deeply. This requires intentionally working on your emotional intimacy, which is an ongoing process of growing in your understanding of each other’s feelings, hopes, dreams, fears, motivations, etc. You know what you want and need. But it changes over time and throughout different seasons of life. 

Break down the barrier by telling your spouse exactly what you’d like for Mother’s Day and why it’s so important to you.

Sharing what would make you feel the most acknowledged, valued and celebrated doesn’t diminish your spouse’s effort; it encourages it. The more you tell your spouse how you feel loved the most and why, the more your spouse has the chance to love you in that way… and the deeper your emotional intimacy will grow.1 This doesn’t mean you have to plan the whole day. You just have to clearly communicate what you want or need. Leave the little details up to your spouse! 

Barrier #3: You expect your spouse to be perfect.

No matter how hard your spouse tries, they’ll never be perfect. Expecting perfection sets unrealistic standards that will make them believe they aren’t good enough. It’ll push them away, and you’ll end up experiencing the opposite of what you wanted to feel.

Break down the barrier by realizing that your expectations may be unrealistic.

Take a moment. See if maybe you’re setting the bar too high so that it feels out of reach to your spouse. Have you criticized their efforts in the past? If you have, there’s a good chance they don’t want to fail again (and maybe they think they can’t fail if they don’t even try…). Think about what your spouse is good at and enjoys doing – that still fills your love tank. Telling them exactly how you’d feel loved and appreciated will set them up for success and set your expectations at a realistic level. 

So this year, instead of asking what your spouse will do, try telling them what you’d like to do first. 

Take the pressure off of them to decode your side-eye sighs and do your spouse a favor:

  1. Spell it out.
  2. Be clear and specific before any resentment starts to build. If you’re a planner, talk about it a couple of weeks in advance.
  3. If you like surprises, give your spouse a few options for things you’d like to do and let them choose!  

You DESERVE to be celebrated, Mama. Mother’s Day is a great opportunity for your husband and family to do that. So be honest and open about what would make you feel appreciated and loved. 

Source

1McNulty, J.K., et al. (2004). Positive Expectations in the Early Years of Marriage: Should Couples Expect the Best or Brace for the Worst? 

What Does It Mean to Be the Default Parent?

One parent may carry more of the load, but you can work together.

The other day, I was at my kids’ school, deep in conversation with my wife and another parent. Then, here comes our 6-year-old daughter, on a mission. She goes right around my wife to ask me if she could go play on the playground. My wife responds, “Hey, I’m right here, and Dad is talking.” This didn’t phase my daughter at all. She had a question and thought I had the answer. My wife and I are very much partners in parenting. Still, we recognize that I often serve as the default parent.

What does “default parent” mean?

Default means a preselected option. We all know what parent means. So, what’s a default one? They are the one who carries the bigger load in parenting (assuming there are two parents present). According to a 2014 Huff Post article, they’re responsible for their children’s emotional, physical, and logistical needs. 

If you’re the default parent, you probably already know it without thinking about it. 

Your child comes to you when they need anything (sometimes physically bypassing the other parent). 

You’re the one who coordinates the schedules, sets appointments (and makes sure they get there), nurses injuries, ensures all school needs are met, and serves as the first point of contact for school or daycare. 

You also feel the pressure to take the lead on anything new that pops up, like school meetings or appointments.

How does one become the default parent?

Sometimes it’s a choice. There is an intentional conversation, and one parent chooses that role. But more often than not, it falls to one person without a conversation happening. If only one parent works outside of the home, the other parent may become the default parent. And yes, while moms tend to be seen as the default parent, that isn’t always the case. 

Is there always a default parent?

More likely than not. One parent may always carry more of the load. Parenting will not always be 50/50, depending on your work schedule, but that doesn’t mean it has to be unbearable for one of you. Being intentional about communicating with your spouse is the only way to ensure you’re both sharing the load.

Here’s what parenting looks like in our situation. My children are both elementary school age, and my wife works at their school. I have a more flexible schedule. So, I schedule and take the kids to doctor and dentist appointments. My wife would tell you that she can count the dentist appointments she’s made on one hand. I have served on the school PTA for five years. Until she started working at the school, I served as the primary contact for my son’s teachers. I take responsibility for my son’s sports schedule. 

My wife coordinates the family calendar to ensure we don’t overbook ourselves. She’s the go-to for our kids when they are sick, but I often stay home with them if they miss school. We are fairly evenly split on household chores.

Am I really the default parent? My wife would say yes. Our situation was created mostly by circumstances. Do I do everything? Not by a long shot.

What challenges arise for the default parent?

Let’s start with the fact that parenting is difficult in and of itself. There’s no way around that. Being a default parent makes it even harder. 

Here are just a few challenges that arise:

All of this can also negatively impact your relationship. The challenges affecting the default parent can cause issues with communication and intimacy. If left unaddressed, the default parent’s frustration can evolve into contempt, which is hazardous for the relationship.

If you find yourself as the default parent and you’re not sure how you got there, it’s time to address the issue in your relationship. It all starts with communication and resetting expectations.

Sources:

How Did I End Up as the Default Parent? | Psychology Today

The Default Parent | HuffPost Life

Other reads:

I’m My Kids’ Default Parent But I’ve Made My Husband Intervene More Often

True Life: I’m the Default Parent – Motherly

Welcome to the most incredible adventure of your life… parenting. I’d love to offer you a roadmap to being a successful parent, but I’m still looking for that one. I can provide you with what I’ve learned from almost 10 years of mistakes and countless conversations with fellow parents.

So, buckle up and get ready for the wildest ride on earth – PARENTHOOD. 

Here are 12 tips for first-time parents.

1. Everything is about to change (and it may be for the better).

Change can be scary. But over time, you won’t be able to imagine life any other way. 

2. It’s natural to feel stress as a parent.

When you find yourself stressed, it’s okay to step away for a moment and take a deep breath. Put your baby in a safe location (like a crib) and step outside for just a moment.

3. Take care of yourself.

You can’t give what you don’t have. Do your best to spend a little time for yourself. Take a walk, grab a coffee with friends, get in a quick workout, do a puzzle – whatever fills your soul.

4. You know your child better than anyone else.

You may sense that they aren’t feeling well or something isn’t right. Trust your instincts. Social media and the internet are full of people who think they know best, but they don’t know your baby.

5. Hold your baby a lot.

Don’t worry; you can’t spoil a newborn baby by holding them too much. They need your touch and attention. You’re providing a foundation for them to grow and feel safe emotionally, physically, and mentally.

6. You can’t completely prevent your kid from experiencing bad things.

They will get sick, they’ll have bad things happen, they may even do bad things. You are there to help prevent what you can and work through what you can’t.

7. You’ll make mistakes.

There is no handbook for parenting, and every child is different. It’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up. 

8. When you do make a mistake, own it and apologize.

Your baby isn’t going to remember this, so this is for you. Create the habit now of apologizing when you mess up. As your child grows, they will learn this from you.

9. You are your child’s first teacher.

Learning doesn’t start in daycare or school; it begins with you. You have the opportunity to introduce your child to the world. Start early, teaching them as they grow.

10. Do what works for you, your child, and your family.

You’ll hear so much advice, but every child and every family is different. Figure out what works best for your situation.

11. It’s okay to accept help.

If someone offers to do your laundry, it doesn’t mean you’re a terrible parent because you didn’t do it all. Accepting help is meant to make your life easier – it’s not something to feel guilty about.

12. Parenting can be rewarding, but it takes intentionality.

Every stage has its challenges. Making it through each stage is a victory for both you and your child!

Parenting is a journey. Take it one step at a time, and don’t get ahead of yourself. And have fun! You’ve got this. I’m rooting for you.

Other blogs:

Seven Things Every Child Needs to Thrive

10 Questions Couples Should Ask Each Other Before Having a Baby

How To Make Sure Your Child Knows You Love Them – First Things First

Sources:

Can You Spoil a Baby by Holding Them Too Much?

Bilgin, A., & Wolke, D. (2020). Parental use of “cry it out” in infants: no adverse effects on attachment and behavioural development at 18 months. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, and Allied Disciplines, 61(11), 1184–1193.

Ribar, D. C. (2015). Why marriage matters for child wellbeing. The Future of Children, 25(2), 11–27.

Should Your Adult Child Move Back Home?

You can foster independence and responsibility while you set boundaries.

Do you have an adult child living at home part-time or full-time? Are you considering this kind of arrangement? You might be struggling as you think about how to nurture and honor their adulthood while still being the adult parent in your home. I’ve got essential principles and practical help as you set boundaries with adult children. Let’s begin by examining the adult in the somewhat strange term adult child

Everyone begins life being cared for by others. And if we live long enough, we each end our lives being cared for by other people. Somewhere in between is the chapter of life we call adulthood

Adulthood: When you bear the responsibility of taking care of yourself.

If you’re a parent, you’ve brought a child into this world who began life utterly dependent on you. But as any toddler will show you, the desire to be independent is built in. It’s human nature for the toddler to protest and say, No, I’ll do it myself. That’s a healthy predisposition. Remember: The ultimate goal of parenting is to transition a dependent person into an independent person. 

Parents raise future adults who do life themselves. 

The toddler can’t actually do it themselves, and we don’t expect them to. But when is it reasonable to expect your adult child to be responsible for themselves and no longer dependent on you?

The transition can be tricky. It typically occurs between the late teens and early 20s. How do you know when your child is an adult? Every individual is different. You know where your young adult is from a developmental standpoint. But there are some significant signposts.

At age:

18Legally accountable. Vote. Enlist in the military. Marry without parental consent.

21 – Can buy tobacco, alcohol, and in many states, cannabis.

25Rent a car. 

26Latest age they can be on most parents’ health insurance.

What do you see when you look at those numbers? From 18 to 26, there’s a window of time where adult freedoms and responsibilities kick in. Hopefully, we prepared our kids for the “training wheels” to come off during their teenage years. At 18, the training wheels are definitely beginning to come off. By the early to mid-20s, the transition is complete.

Your toddler is now an adult peddling through life on their own.

Remember: Adulthood  = Independence + Responsibility.

★ If we don’t give our adult children responsibilities, they can’t be independent and reach adulthood. This only extends their childhood and delays their maturity.

There are legitimate circumstances that may cause your adult child to be at home: College, unemployment, experiencing childbirth, illness, even a broken marriage or partnership. Our goal as parents is to promote independence through education, employment, financial stability, and ultimately, living on their own. Moving back home (in most cases) should be a temporary arrangement marked with tangible goals leading to their moving out.

MINDSET SHIFT:

Think of an adult child living at home as more like a housemate and less like a teenager. Your name is on the mortgage or lease. Sure, there should be healthy conversations. But you get the final word.

★ Something(s) To Think About. As parents, we have an impulse to do anything we can for our kids. Know your limits. Understand the healthy freedoms & responsibilities your adult child needs to grow into an independent adult. 

Ask yourself: 

  • Will there be an agreed-upon end date? 
  • What signposts can you put in place to mark educational & occupational goals? 
  • Will you be dealing with a young person who has drug or alcohol issues? Significant mental health issues? 
  • Will your child be bringing a baby with them? 
  • Despite your good intentions, realistically, can you handle this? 

Avoid problems before they happen. Address and agree to boundaries before an adult child moves back home (if possible). Put them in writing. Sign them like a rental agreement or contract

What are sensible, reasonable requirements or conditions you would have for a housemate to reside with you? 

1. They’re reasonably easy to live with. They respect you, your property, and your boundaries.

Start here. You and your adult child living at home will occasionally experience friction. That’s reasonable. They’re adult family

(If it helps, think of your adult child as a stranger who is renting a room at your place. There would undoubtedly be limits.) 

Sadly, there are numerous cases of adult children intimidating, manipulating, or even verbally and physically abusing their parents. You wouldn’t put up with that behavior from a renter. You can’t tolerate such behavior from your adult child. Basic respect is a minimum requirement. Understand what abuse is in all of its forms.* 

2. They’re a contributor, not just a consumer – a giver, not just a taker.

This arrangement shouldn’t just be a net financial gain for your adult child. It should instill discipline and be instructive. Catch this: The person doing the work is learning and growing. The person sacrificing is the person developing character and life skills. This person must be your adult child. 

What resources do they have? Income? What amount can they reasonably contribute? Tough Love Alert: If your adult child is enrolled in school, they can probably work part-time. If your adult child isn’t in school and is unemployed, their job is to find a job. 

What about time & energy? Your adult child can help with household cleaning, laundry, yardwork, and meal prep & clean up. Organize these responsibilities with systems and schedules. Focus on clear communication. If you’re providing childcare while your son or daughter is at work or school, factor that into the division of labor. (I know, I know, but this is your grandchild, right? Call up a local daycare or preschool. Understand the value of the service you are providing.)

3. Hopefully, this is a harmonious, temporary situation.

Don’t be surprised if adjustments take some time, it’s difficult, or it isn’t working out. It’s ok to feel bad if your adult child is in a tough spot in their life. It’s understandable to want to help. Maybe you can. Perhaps you shouldn’t. What’s certain is that you can’t be motivated by guilt or a well-intentioned, “I can fix this.” Let that stuff go. Be the parent your adult child needs today. To let them play video games 24/7, “borrow” money constantly, or take advantage of you is to stunt the growth of their adult independent living skills. You love them too much to do that

4. If you allow your adult child to move in with you, the situation should be right for you both.

Communicate and set boundaries upfront. Agree on how you’ll know the arrangement is working and can continue to an agreed-upon end date. As difficult or uncomfortable as it may be, communicate the signs and consequences that will bring an end to this arrangement. 

Remember: Your adult child is becoming the person they will be for the rest of their life.

*Domestic Violence Hotline

Do you feel unsafe? For a free, confidential, and clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here, or contact the Domestic Violence Hotline, 24/7, at 1−800−799−7233.

Sources:

Adult Children: The Guide to Parenting Your Grown Kids

Rules, Boundaries, and Older Children: How to Cope with an Adult Child Living at Home

Rules for Adult Children | Boundaries for Adult Kids Living at Home

Adult Children: Relating to Them in the Best Way – Dr. John Townsend

Setting Boundaries with Adult Children — Lilley Consulting

Emerging Adulthood

Resources:

7 Ways To Deal With Adult Children Who Make Poor Decisions

Keys to Multigenerational Communication – First Things First

The Art of Communication – First Things First

Journal Prompts For Teens

Expressing thoughts in journal form can be fun!

Another opportunity for teens to do some journaling! Bottom Line: Journaling is good for you. Here’s some scientific research related to journaling. Prepare to have your mind blown!

The simple act of journaling:

If you could get all that in a vitamin, you’d take it – no questions asked. 

Ideally, you should journal 2-3 times a week, but there are no rules. It doesn’t matter if you use paper, a computer, a journaling notebook or even a note on your phone.

There are different types of journaling and approaches. But let’s get right to those burning questions on your mind:

What do I write about? Exactly. You can write about that. 

What if I want to figure out everything I write before I write it? Interesting. Write about that.

What if I don’t have a journal? Grab a napkin and write about whether or not it matters.

Journaling is a lot like so many things in life: You get out of it what you put into it.

These journal prompts for teens may be just what you need to get started.

  1. Describe an important item from your childhood. Why was it important? Where is it now?
  1. You get to talk to a dead person. Who would you choose, and why? What do you want to talk about?
  1. Describe your happiest childhood memory in detail.
  1. Explain something that happened to you that’s so strange, nobody believes you.
  1. In an abandoned cabin, you find a shiny box with a single red “DANGER” button. Do you push it? Why or why not?
  1. What’s something you want to learn how to do? Why?
  1. Where would you like to visit right now? What would you do there?
  1. What’s your favorite memory involving food?
  1. What accomplishment makes you feel the most pride? Why?
  1. The best advice you’ve ever received is…
  1. What’s something you could teach someone to do? How did you learn it?
  1. What are you most grateful for today?
  1. Name one thing you know is true.
  1. What’s a positive character trait or quality that you’re known for? What developed this trait in you?
  1. What character trait or quality can you grow in? How could you achieve that growth?
  1. You’re now in charge of the entire world. What would you change, and why?
  1. You can be any fictional character from a book or movie. Who do you want to be? Why?
  1. You can wake up tomorrow having gained one ability or talent. What do you choose? Are you willing to work at it? Why/Why not?
  1. Who are five people you admire, and why?
  1. What’s your favorite holiday, and why?

Finish these sentences:

  1. Life is mostly just…
  1. I used to think… but now I realize…
  1. I wonder if…
  1. I totally believe…
  1. It gets on my nerves when people…
  1. I hope I never forget…
  1. One thing I want to accomplish this month is…
  1. Success in life basically depends on…
  1. Cake or pie? Explain why the correct answer is definitely ______.
  1. When I’m happy…

Time for some fun!

  1. You find an envelope at the park with your name on it and $5,000. What do you do?
  1. Aliens abduct you and ask you to describe the human race.
  1. You can have one candy for free for life. What do you pick? Why?
  1. You wake up and the world is experiencing a zombie apocalypse. Realistically, how long do you survive and why? (Assume slow zombies, not fast, rage ones.)
  1. You run into someone who in all ways is your exact twin. How do you both make the most of this situation?
  1. If you could live in any part of the world, where would you choose? Why does it appeal to you?
  1. You can enter any video game as an NPC. (Non-Playable Character.) What game would be the most fun to wander around in? Why?
  1. You are now the world’s foremost collector of ______. What do you collect and why?
  1. If you could change one traffic law, what would it be? Why?
  1. You have the most vivid, realistic dream of eating a giant marshmallow. You wake up and your pillow is gone. What’s your first thought?

Other blogs:

Conversation Starters for Kids and Parents – First Things First

100 Conversation Starters To Increase Your Family’s Connectedness

7 Ways to Deepen Your Connection With Your Teen – First Things First

10 Signs You Have Parental Burnout

Any parent is susceptible if there’s an imbalance between the stress and their resources.

Have you ever felt like you can’t parent any longer? Like you’ve given everything you’ve got, and there’s nothing left? These feelings are a reality for many parents. They are simply exhausted. And if they don’t address it, exhaustion can lead to burnout.

What is parental burnout?

Psychologist Herbert Freudenberger describes burnout as a severe stress condition. It leads to extreme physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. Burnout goes well beyond stress or fatigue, though. With burnout, navigating day-to-day responsibilities can be a challenge.

Burnout is often discussed in professional circles. But parents are at risk, too. Board-certified neurologist, Dr. Puja Aggarwal, defines parental burnout as “the physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion that one feels from the chronic stress of parenting.” 

Continual exposure to stressful situations brings on this state of mental and physical exhaustion. For some parents, burnout is all too real. 

All parents are at risk, though. Parenting is tough. And parenting can be stressful, especially during the early stages of child development. But what do we do? 

Being aware that parental burnout is real and being mindful of the signs can help you get the help you need.

In recent years, Drs. Isabelle Roskam and Moïra Mikolajczak have extensively researched parental burnout. After surveying more than 900 burned-out parents, they developed a Parental Burnout Assessment (and anyone can use it). They’ve also studied more than 17,000 parents in 45 countries to learn more about what causes burnout.

“Burnout is the result of too much stress and the absence of resources to cope with it,” Roskam said. “You will burn out only if there is an imbalance between stress and resources.”

Here are five signs of burnout according to the Parental Burnout Assessment:

1. Constant exhaustion.

Parenting is tiring; we can all agree on that. But feeling tired or drained all the time is a whole other level. Studies show that parents may experience different types of exhaustion based on their children’s age. Parents of younger kids are often more physically tired. Parents of teens often experience emotional fatigue caused by conflicts with their children.

Frequently, burned-out parents stress over how they will get everything done.

2. Distancing yourself from your child(ren)

Burned-out parents may do this to preserve energy. Have you ever heard a parent say, “I love my children, but I can’t stand being around them anymore”?

3. Loss of fulfillment.

Parents often find they are not the parents they used to be or would like to be. They see a difference in who they are. This can lead to extreme guilt and stress.

4. Suicidal thoughts or ideas of escape.*

With job-related burnout, you can find another job. But leaving is not an option for burned-out parents. Some parents reported feeling trapped and had thoughts of escape or even suicide. These thoughts were more common among parents than in those experiencing job burnout. 

5. Being violent or neglectful toward your child(ren).**

Even if a parent opposes being violent or neglectful toward their child, burnout can cause them to be. 

Psychologists have also identified other signs of burnout. They include:

  • Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, or self-doubt
  • Headaches, neck pain, and muscle aches
  • Loss of motivation
  • Changes in appetite or sleeping habits
  • Feeling isolated or alone

It’s essential to know and recognize the signs of parental burnout. 

Any parent is susceptible to burnout if there’s an imbalance between the stress and their resources. Burnout is preventable, and help is available, too. 

You can take steps today to stop the cycle. Here’s How to Stop the Cycle of Parental Burnout.

*If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, there are a number of websites and organizations with excellent resources for you. HelpGuide is a great place to start, along with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or 988.

**Contact the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) for more resources or to report abuse.

Other blogs:

Is It Normal To Have A Bad Day With Your Kids? – First Things First

6 Keys to Being a ScreamFree Parent – First Things First

5 Mistakes Parents Make With Teens – First Things First

My Spouse and I Disagree About Parenting – First Things First

Sources:

Roskam I, Raes M-E and Mikolajczak M (2017) Exhausted Parents: Development and Preliminary Validation of the Parental Burnout Inventory. Frontiers in Psychology 8:163. 

Burnout Research: Emergence and Scientific Investigation of a Contested Diagnosis

How to Identify and Prevent Burnout

The impact of parental burnout

Parental Burnout: What It Is and How to Cope

How to Stop the Cycle of Parental Burnout

These 5 tips may be just what you need.

I have a confession to make: I’ve been stressed and exhausted many times. I’ve felt burned out and ready to quit, but not from work obligations – from being a parent.

Parenting is tough. It’s demanding. Before our son was born 10 years ago, I recall people telling me everything would change. I don’t remember anyone telling me I’d be taking 2AM walks to stay sane. No one told me there would be days I’d question whether I could continue. The list of things I wish I’d known then is long. 

Parental burnout is a real thing, but don’t get me wrong – I wouldn’t trade being a dad for anything. Researchers Hubert and Aujoulat found that “parental burnout results from situations where exhaustion occurs as a result of being physically and emotionally overwhelmed by one’s parental role.”

If you’ve been a parent for at least a couple of hours, you know that parenting stress is real. But when it consumes you, burnout sets in. There’s hope, though. You can stop the cycle of parental burnout. 

The stress isn’t going anywhere, but there are some healthy ways to lessen the pressure.

Surround yourself with a community.

“It takes a village to raise a child.” 

I never quite understood that until we had our first child. But it’s true. Raising a child isn’t easy. Mine didn’t come with a how-to guide. 

Surround yourself with people who want what’s best for you. Think about grandparents, other parents, or friends who care about your well-being. You need people in your life to help care for your child when you need it and to help you care for yourself. Asking for help doesn’t make you weak or less than. Any person who has raised a child knows the stress involved.

Today’s action:

Text one person and invite them over. Ask them to hold you accountable for taking time for yourself.

Take care of yourself.

When you’re responsible for a little one, it’s easy to put all your energy into making sure you meet their needs. When they get all your energy, there’s nothing left for you. 

Have you ever been on a plane and heard the safety speech? If the airbags are deployed, put yours on before you try to put on someone else’s. That sounds counterintuitive to parenting, but it’s so true. If you don’t care for yourself, you won’t have anything to give. Being a parent is the best reason I’ve ever had to take good care of myself.

Exercise, eat healthy foods, get rest (when you can), or meditate. Will it be easy? No. Is it important? Extremely!

Today’s action:

Put down your phone. Go get a glass of water, and take deep breaths as you drink. Make it your goal to do that three times today. 

Give yourself grace.

You won’t be a perfect parent, and that’s ok! We all mess up. I don’t think I could list all the mistakes I’ve made. As my kids have gotten a little older, I ask them for lots of grace, too. I apologize when I make a mistake. 

Don’t fall into the social media comparison game, either. You may see someone who looks like the perfect parent – but remember, social media usually shows the best moments. You may not see all the tears it took to get that perfect photo.

Today’s action:

Allow yourself to make mistakes. Tell yourself, “My child doesn’t need a perfect parent – they need a present parent.”

Take a break when you need it.

If your child is in childcare or school, take a day off every once in a while to be alone. Enjoy doing what you like to do. Maybe that’s getting outdoors, taking a long bath or chilling with a movie. And don’t feel guilty about it. You have permission to take time for yourself.

Today’s action:

Schedule an hour this week to take a break. Right now, ask your support system to help you make this happen.

Set boundaries. 

Boundaries help to protect your time and your relationships. You may have to say no to some good things. As my children have become more independent, I’ve found that I can say yes to more things I want to do.

Prioritize your well-being and relationships when opportunities come your way.

Today’s action:

Ask, “What have I said yes to that I don’t have margin for?” Then do your best to take that off your list.

Parenting isn’t easy, but you can do it. If you already feel burned out and have nothing left to give, reach out to a professional, coach or counselor. You don’t have to walk this road alone.

Other blogs:

How to Be an Emotionally Safe Parent – First Things First

Can Self-Care Become Selfish? – First Things First

5 Signs You Need Some Alone Time

Sources:

Parental Burnout: When Exhausted Mothers Open Up. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 1021. 

Breaking through the loss cycle of burnout: The role of motivation. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 84(2), 268–287.

Beating burnout. Harvard Business Review, 98-101. 

The Cost of Caring Without Self-Care

How to Recover from Burnout and Love Your Life Again

Does My Teen Need Screen Time Limits?

Consider these things as you set some guidelines.

Short Answer: Yes, your teen needs screen time limits, but it’s not quite that simple. What screen time limits look like depends on your teen and your relationship with them. The limits you set have much less to do with the screens and much more with the teens.

Eyes On The Prize: You’re raising a future adult. You’re working yourself out of a job.

Long Answer: I was waiting for the “On-Air” light on the set of a local talk show. My segment was about technology and families, particularly teens, smartphones, and social media. I was excited because:

I’m passionate about how technology affects families and relationships, so I’ve been following the research for some time. 

And I’m parenting a teen, and I talk to other parents about these issues. I’m in this with you. I know it’s hard.

My mind was on my messaging as I waited for that light to come on. What do I tell parents about screens and teens? Easy.

Emphasize parenting principles.

1. There’s no substitute (app, program, setting, filter) for a strong, healthy relationship between a parent and their teen. 

2. Talking to teens about screen time and technology is an ongoing thing. It requires talking about many other unrelated things. Things THEY want to talk about when THEY are open to talk. ★ If parents don’t put in genuine relationship work, teens won’t hear their parents talk about screen time (or just about anything else).

3. Stay informed about the technology your teen uses, but, more importantly, stay informed about your teen. Notice their moods, changes in their behavior, and how they spend their time. Is your teen generally responsible and trustworthy? Developing appropriate life skills? Well-rounded and balanced? Have things like pornography, sexting, and cyberbullying already been a part of their screen use?

4. Leading by example is essential when it comes to screen time and technology.

What is your relationship with technology? Are you modeling the behaviors you’d like to see from your teen?

On-Air! 

And to my frustration, the host only wanted to talk about kids being abducted because of what they posted online. Wow.Oh.Okay.Um.Yeah. We can talk about all that, I guess. This is the kind of stuff parents are up against when talking to their teens about screens.

What makes it HARDER to talk about screens with teens?

  • The media feeds parents a steady stream of sensationalized, scary stories.
  • The research in this area, frankly, is all over the place. (To be fair, we’re talking about relatively new and constantly-evolving technology.) This can confuse and frustrate well-intentioned parents. Examples?

I could link to studies to “prove” all of the following:

  • Screens keep teens from socializing. No, they help teens socialize.
  • Screens hinder cognitive development. No, they help cognitive development.
  • Screens hurt teens’ mental health. No, hurting teens gravitate to screens. Or, screens can help heal teens’ mental health. (I think all three can be true.)
  • Screens make it harder to keep teens safe. No, they make it easier to keep teens safe.  
  • Screens interrupt teens’ sleep patterns. No, they can help repair those patterns.

Teens quickly point out any hypocrisy between their parent’s message and their parent’s example. And teens are often more tech-savvy than their parents.

These screens on smartphones, tablets, and laptops are already ingrained in your average teen’s life. In positive, practical ways:

  • Online learning. 
  • Homework and projects. 
  • Virtual college visits. 
  • Work and sports scheduling. 
  • Connecting with family & extended family. 
  • Shopping for stuff they need. 
  • Outlets for creativity & developing new skills & hobbies. 
  • Not getting lost driving. 
  • Calling for help if they need it. 
  • Simply texting that practice has been canceled is a huge help.

A screen is a tool. How is your teen using it? True, it’s a powerful tool, but screens aren’t good or bad. And they are here to stay.

So, let’s get practical.

Here are some adaptable ideas about screen time limits that may (or may not) help your teen.

⇨ I don’t usually make a point about this, but the links in this blog take you to the info you want and need. Click ’em for some deeper practical information for screens and your unique teen!

  • Screens can isolate. Screen use only in “common areas” of the house. No screens in their bedroom. Or no screens in their bedroom at night.
  • Screens can distract. (Part 1) Screens get put to “bed” in the kitchen or the parent’s bedroom to charge overnight, so teens can read, think, and even be “bored” before they fall asleep. Teens can use old-fashioned alarm clocks. ☆ Are You Up For It?

Set the example. Everybody’s phone charges overnight outside the bedroom. You might unwind and fall asleep better, too! 

  • Screens can distract. (Part 2) “Notifications” are a phone’s way of saying, “Notice me now!” But notifications can be turned off completely, muted, put in “Do Not Disturb” mode or “Driving Mode.” Help your teen learn to check their phone when they need to, not when their phone wants them to. Here’s notification help.
  • Screens can demand. Most smartphones come with Screen Use Monitoring weekly reports. These reports show time spent on social media, entertainment, productivity, etc. ☆ Are You Up For It? Offer to compare your report with your teen’s. Make a game out of it. You can both set goals for next week!

Talking To Your Teen About Screens… And Other Things.

  • It can be challenging to get your teen to talk about anything. Here’s help. And here.
  • In general, you’re working toward a conversation with your teen, not a confrontation.
    • Try to have a genuine dialogue. Listen to your teen’s ideas and input. It’s not a weakness to collaborate, negotiate, and have some give and take. Agree to boundaries that leave room for your teen to prove they’re responsible and trustworthy. Being clear about consequences for choices outside those boundaries is essential.
  • Screens can tempt even the BEST teen into making BAD decisions – it happens. Try responding instead of reacting. Pornography. Sexting. Cyberbullying. Posting things that come back to haunt them when they apply for a job or college. 
  • Try to interact with your teen and their screens. The fancy term is “joint media engagement.” Watch ’em play some video games. Ask them to show you the funny Tik Toks. Ask about posts that confused/frustrated/angered them today? This can start great conversations.
  • Ask your teen how social media makes them feel about themselves and their life. Then listen and listen. When it comes to social media, encourage your teen to create, not just consume.

Eyes On The Prize: You’re raising a future adult, and screens are gonna be part of their life.

One day, you won’t be there to limit their screen time, but you can prepare them now.

Today, more than anything, your teen needs you.

FYI: I shared an interview experience that disappointed me. Check out this “On-Air” experience that went well! 

Other blogs:

How to Create Social Media Rules in Your Marriage – First Things First

When (and How) Should I Give My Child A Cell Phone? – First Things First

How to Be an Emotionally Safe Parent – First Things First

How To Make Sure Your Child Knows You Love Them – First Things First