Burned Out? Here's Why It's Hurting Your Kids (Plus, How You Can Stop It)

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mommy burnout children

Research on burnout in adults and children shows that there is a correlation between the level of stress that parents feel at work and the level of stress that their kids feel at school. Of particular importance is the fact that the highest correlation can be found between mothers and their teen daughters. Stress and anxiety over money seems to be predictive of the highest levels of burnout. It seems that feeling burned out can actually run in the family.

Our high, uncontrolled stress levels that result in us feeling burned out are detrimental to our kids because we act as their role models. They are constantly watching what we say, what we do and how we cope with stress. One of the concerning qualities about today’s generation of kids is that they are now the most stressed-out generation — which means they're likely to become burned out adults.

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One of the factors that contribute to that staggering statement is that they have poor coping skills. I am thinking that we, too, have poor coping skills in dealing with the tremendous stress that we now live with on a daily basis.

In kids, there are certain behaviors that may be signs that they are burned out:

  • Loss of energy and interest for things they used to care about
  • Anxiety rears its head socially and in school
  • They say, "‘I don’t care” a lot
  • Reduced personal accomplishment
  • More easily distracted than usual

When we are running around from place to place often late while eating and driving, texting and talking on the phone, we send a message to our kids that life is chaotic. When we are stressed, we can’t really be present. This means that if our kids have something they want to talk to us about, we aren’t available to listen to them.

When we overschedule our work and social lives we are likely to overschedule their school, athletic, and social lives, too. Some kids today tell me they don’t have time to hang out with friends because they are “too busy.”

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Our kids need to be saved from the unachievable standards of perfection that are being placed on them. And parents need to be freed from their own unachievable standards of parenting perfection.

Here are three important things you can do today to stop the cycle of burnout:

1. Be sure there is an end in sight.

One of the factors correlated to burnout is that the stress is chronic and won’t ever stop. Be sure once your child does a project or plays on a sports team that there is an obvious break. This way they experience stressful things as having a start and end point.

2. Insist on self-care and downtime for your child.

Make sure that they have time to do the things they love to do in a non-competitive way and that there is time in their schedule every week for boredom. Yes, that time that is needed in order to be creative, innovative and relaxed.

3. Reduce multimedia exposure time.

This includes phone, iPads, television and computer time. The level of stimulation that kids receive on a daily basis overloads their developing brains. Taking tech breaks reduces stress hormones flowing into their bodies and increases relaxation.

These tips apply to parents, too. I would suggest making it a family affair that everyone makes an effort to practice self-care, reduce stress, and know the signs of chronic stress in an effort to prevent family burnout.

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Dr. Sheryl Ziegler is a mother, Doctor of Psychology, speaker, and author of the new book, Mommy Burnout: How Addressing Yours Will Make You A Better Mother And Create A Better Life For Your Children. You can follow her parenting advice in her newsletter by signing up today or visiting

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