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Manage parental burnout (and keep smiling) with these expert tips

Parental burnout among moms, dads and other primary caregivers is a real and common thing.


Even highly educated parenting experts are not immune from the feeling of being overwhelmed, especially during the often-trying teenage years.


“It happens to the best of us,” confirmed Brandon Jones, a psychotherapist, executive director of the Minnesota Association for Children’s Mental Health and host of the “It’s Not Your Fault” podcast on the podcasting platform.


Jones, who has worked with adolescents and their families throughout his career, devoted his most recent podcast to the topic of parental burnout.


Himself the father of three daughters, he admits that stress is a challenge that he and his wife have faced, especially with their ten-year-old, who is “inching her way” into her teenage years and “giving us all the business.”


Jones has a comprehensive definition of parental burnout.


“It’s when you don’t have the coping skills, the motivation or support to move forward. You feel overwhelmed. You start to discredit yourself for what you’ve done or are doing,” he explained “You start to believe there is no way things are going to get better. Your mind is in a negative place.”


The feeling of parental burnout is linked to stress, Jones said, but not just any stress. He noted that stress is a normal part of daily life and “positive stress” can keep people moving. “Tolerable stress” happens in situations when heightened stress elevates stress hormones, but people can manage it with support and by developing coping skills.


Then there’s “toxic stress,” which is “where burnout lives,” according to Jones.


“This is when there are strong, frequent and prolonged stressors. The dynamics don’t feel comfortable. You don’t always have the coping skills or support to push through,” he said. “Sometime you are just stuck.”


But there are ways to manage parental burnout and Jones offered some proven tips.


-Don’t isolate.

“Parents often pull away from their partner or co-parent or other adults who could assist them. Don’t deal with this alone,” he said. “Build a village. Find some friends, virtual or in person, who are parenting in your age group. This is not a one person job.”


-Set boundaries.

“Respect the young person’s voice and choice but remember you are the parent. Make the boundaries as just as possible. You have authority and influence and sometimes you have to flex that muscle.


-Acknowledge that things are not okay.

“In my career as a therapist, I learned the reason why many people are not successful in therapy is because they do not want to accept the reality of what has happened or is happening.Sometimes accepting reality is challenging. The goal is to convince people they can be in a new space—today. That is one of the steps to liberate yourself and develop that growth mindset.”


-Find humor.

“Sometimes this stuff with kids is so ridiculous that you have to laugh to keep from crying—or to keep from going insane. It doesn’t have to get disrespectful. You just have to take a step back and laugh at how out of synch things can get.”


-Self-care isn’t selfish.

“Be proactive with what I call sustainable wellness. Take care of yourself now. Don’t wait for the big explosion, build healthy practices today so when things blow up, you are in a good position to handle it.”


-It’s okay to ask for professional help.

“Seek out a parenting coach, a mentor, a therapist, social worker or case manager. You don’t have to join a program. Read books, find resources. There’s good content on YouTube; I’ve found great parent coaches on Tik Tok. Reach out to people who have studied this.


-Remember that this is a journey.

“You are helping young people develop on their road to adulthood. You want to help guide them so they have the opportunity to be  successful young people in this world, that’s the goal. So pace yourself as you do it.”



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