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Parenting Burnout: 3 Signs You’re Too Overwhelmed

Dr. Seth Meyers


Parenting is, without question, one of the most challenging experiences an adult can have in this lifetime. We all do the best we can as we navigate the endless dilemmas and parenting issues that parents face every day. How can you tell if you’re burnt out? How can you tell if you’re about to lose it, as they say? There are definite signs and I will show ways to handle each one.

You’re snapping more than usual at your kids.

Hands down, this is the number one sign that a parent has become burnt out and needs a break. Inevitably, a parent will snap or issue a punishment on an occasional basis, but finding yourself snapping throughout the day and watching it last for a few days is a sign that you feel spread too thin and need a break.

What to Do: Call a family meeting with your family and openly share that you noticed that you have been snapping more than usual. Apologize for losing your patience, and then ask your kids, “What are some possible reasons why I might be getting more frustrated lately?” Give them a chance to talk and then tell them what they can do to help. “It would help me if you could try harder to pick up your room and avoid fighting with each other. I am also going to try to keep my frustration under control because I know you guys don’t want to get snapped at, either.”

You find yourself constantly saying “no” to most things your kids ask for.

True, parents shouldn’t say yes to everything, but kids need their parents to say “yes” more than “no” in order for them to feel cared about and noticed. If you go through a stretch where you say no to almost everything, your kid will come to feel disconnected and unappreciated – and then the acting out behavior begins.

What to Do: Make sure to pepper your no’s with yeses if you want to maintain a close, allied relationship with your kid. Remember, the more you work with them and help them meet their goals – whether it’s setting up paint supplies for them, hooking up a movie for them, or playing pass with them with a ball – the more likely they will be to follow your rules.

You haven’t been getting enough sleep for more than a few days.

The reason why sleep is so important is because it is the one thing that balances a person’s mood better than any other. If you don’t get enough sleep, you will get lethargic or irritable, or you may start feeling a little depressed. When you don’t get enough sleep for several days in a row, your mood will be seriously affected. Sleep deprivation means that you are physically burnt out, causing you to feel that things are overwhelming and unmanageable.

What to Do: Start your winding down ritual earlier than usual, including teeth brushing, washing your face, and changing into your bedtime clothing. Force yourself to get into bed one hour earlier than usual and bring a book with you, even if you don’t love to read. Reading before bed is a great step in practicing good sleep hygiene, as focusing on something keeps your brain occupied and away from more stressful or distracting thoughts. If you need extra help relaxing, light a couple candles. Put a note on your door that says something to the following effect: “Trying to get extra sleep, please be extra quiet.”

If you are burnt out, remember that this too shall pass and that things will get better soon. Don’t be afraid to ask a friend or family member for extra help when you reach this point. Having someone babysit for a few hours so you can go out, or having someone do the school pick-up or soccer practice for a day can make an enormous difference in your day. What you really need is more support, so don’t be afraid to ask your partner, kids, and others for a little help!

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Dr. Seth Meyers

Dr. Seth Meyers is a licensed clinical psychologist and author in Los Angeles, California. He specializes in parenting and relationships, and he is trained in multiple evidence-based parenting interventions. Dr. Seth earned his B.A. in psychology from Vassar College and earned his Psy.D. in clinical psychology from Yeshiva University in New York City. He appears regularly on television programs, including Good Morning America, 20/20, ABC News, The Doctors, Nancy Grace, Dr. Drew and others. Dr. Seth is the author of Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve.