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Struggling family burnout during the COVID-19 crisis

After several months of stay-at-home orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many households are beginning to experience family burnout from spending so much time together.

Many are currently unemployed, partners, parents, and children who are together 24-7 may soon feel even more desperate for a few moments alone and a return to their pre-COVID-19 routines.

But the current rise in cases and the delay of reopening plans in several states may signal that families will need to remain together at home even longer than they realized.

However, households that are feeling togetherness fatigue can take steps to alleviate family burnout and ease the strain on their relationships.

There are three main symptoms to look out for. They are:

  • feeling physically or emotionally exhausted
  • not being able to handle usual tasks
  • feeling annoyed easily

The additional toll faced by single parents

For single parents still working, now depleted of their normal childcare assistance, the pandemic may mean more to do and fewer opportunities for self-care than ever before.

In a two-parent household, division of tasks allows each parent to have some relief, but single-parent households typically take on all of these tasks themselves, which can absolutely lead to burnout quicker.

For single parents in a pandemic, there’s no partner to help share responsibilities and there are few, if any, opportunities to get away and breathe by oneself. The result can easily lead to family burnout.

One of the earliest signs of burnout is having less patience, whether it’s snapping at your kids or making a microwave dinner.

There are other factors that can contribute to family burnout in the time of COVID-19 as well.

How demanding your job is or how the rest of your family is handling quarantine can further exacerbate burnout.

Family burnout can affect romantic relationships too

Months together in quarantine can also be a strain on romantic relationships.

A survey found only 18 percent of respondents were happy with the communication within their relationships since the pandemic began. Besides, an unprecedented number of divorce requests were filed as soon as marriage offices began reopening.

When one person in a relationship is experiencing burnout, the other can typically pick up the slack, but when both are, it can be a struggle to connect and feel your best.

The impact on marriages and romantic relationships is considered part of the collateral damage of COVID-19. In times of high stress, it may not always be the best thing to be locked at home together, incapable of getting the space and clear head that’s often needed to work through marital discord.

It’s not just parents and adults — kids can experience family burnout as well

It’s important to remember that amidst all this, adults aren’t the only ones experiencing burnout.

Burnout in children often presents as anxiety, being irritable, poor academic performance, or staying isolated from peers and not expressing interest in playing.

Children are experiencing psychological impacts as a result of lockdown which leads to more irritable, having trouble sleeping, and many are regressing developmentally.

Compared to younger children, teenagers may be more likely to experience burnout due to higher academic workload, greater need for peer interaction, and more frequent conflicts with parents.

How to reduce the impact of burnout in your household

But just because so many are experiencing burnout doesn’t mean it can’t be helped.

Burnout can be prevented by having a better balance between family time versus me time. When dealing with kids who may be acting out as a result of lockdown stress, parents can try using encouragement and positive reinforcement over punishment techniques.

This gentler approach may be best for helping to redirect kids while also honoring the life struggles we’re all facing right now.

Having a routine for sleep, meals, and study time can help children feel prepared for the next activity and avoid some conflicts.

On the other part, parents must consider stress management techniques at work and aim towards a better work-life balance.

Two-parent households can help each other by giving one another time off from household obligations and child-rearing duties every once in a while.

For partner, you can ask your partner to go out for a walk, or ask for the chance to sit in the tub with a book uninterrupted for the next hour. Mini-breaks such as these can do both parents a world of good.

For the kids, try to switch up their activities — take them bike riding, to the pool, or to the park.


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