Parenting

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6 Signs You Need A Break From Your Kids, Like, Now

Because you're only human.

With families settled into the school year, one might think life would have regained some semblance of normalcy. But the pandemic continues to take its toll on parents, and after months of isolation, little additional help, and rare breaks from the pressures of childcare, many moms and dads are feeling exhausted and at their wits’ end. Working from home while managing distance learning only adds to the stress, which can sometimes rear its ugly head in the way parents react to their children. But what's the difference between a moment of frustration and a sign you need a break from motherhood?

“I would say a key marker to be able to differentiate between exhaustion and burnout is the ability to feel the full range of emotions,” Katie Schefter Sheron, an Individual and Family Therapist at Harmony Counseling in Vancouver, Washington, tells Romper. “Are you able to enjoy them? Are you able to delight in the little things? When we face burn out, we experience an absence of positive emotions, sometimes apathy, and most often anger. We have to adjust to the 2020 scale and honestly assess how we are experiencing our emotions.”

Watch out for these red flags if you suspect you might need to take a timeout from your children.

1

Emotional Burnout

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“Being exhausted by kids carries a connotation more aligned with physical tiredness and regular familial stresses. In contrast, emotional burnout brings about difficulty sleeping, lack of motivation, chronic stress, irritability, apathy, and trouble finding joy in your situation,” Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a neuropsychologist at Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services, P.C. in New York City, tells Romper.

2

Misplaced Anger

“I spoke to a woman last week who was able to recognize, with the assistance of her partner, that she was angry with her baby for not sleeping well,” says Sheron. “If we find that we are getting angry more often than not, and for developmentally appropriate things, we should be concerned that we are burned out.”

3

Child Neglect

Sheron says that if a parent is neglecting their children’s most basic needs, that’s a big red flag. Think: food, safety, education. “I would say physical abuse in any form or name-calling are absolute red flags and need immediate relationship repair and intervention,” adds Sheron.

4

Lack of Self Care

Neglecting one's own needs is also a signal that a parent needs a break. Dr. Hafeez recommends taking any time you can to give to yourself. “Whether that be reading, a beauty routine, meditation, wine, and a tv show, a nice walk. You will not fare well by pushing yourself to the limits without any respite. Part of self-care is self-compassion,” she says.

5

Harsh Self-Judgement

“Often, parents feeling emotional exhaustion feel guilty and can judge themselves very harshly. Learn to forgive yourself and practice positive self-talk,” says Dr. Hafeez.

6

Lack of Sleep

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Remember to fill up your own tank first. “It sounds so simple but getting enough sleep is a biggie,” says Sheron. “Don't come at me with 'I only need 5 hours.' According to the research of Dr. Matthew Walker, adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep on average. He said there is a small exception to this but the exception rounded to the nearest percent is 0%, so parents need to get to bed.

So, what can you do? “Grace upon grace upon grace,” says Sheron. “To yourself. To your kids. To your partner. This is really effing hard. Lower expectations. Normalize hard emotions. If you need to cry, please go cry; it’s a healthy way for your body to get rid of excess cortisol which we all have in abundance right now. And you know what? Crying in front of your kids won't kill them. It gives them validation of their own emotions and gives them permission to cry themselves.”

And if you need help, get some. Both Dr. Hafeez and Sheron recommend reaching out to a mental health professional for more help if you can identify any of the above in your own behaviors.

Experts

Katie Schefter Sheron, M.A., LMHC, Individual and Family Therapist, Harmony Counseling, myharmonycounseling.com

Dr. Sanam Hafeez, neuropsychologist and professor at Columbia University, comprehendthemind.com