When you think of someone who is burned out, you might picture an overworked business executive or an athlete training too hard for the Olympics. The truth is that anyone can become overwhelmed at any age.
Kids experience burnout too.
My daughter Laila asked to join the swim team and wanted to start practice this week. I thought it would be great because she had been asking for quite some time. She was accustomed to being in gymnastics, but since covid, we stopped all sports. We recently just started to get them back playing and registered for new sports. Today was her first day, and I honestly felt like I failed because I forgot to pack snacks, a water bottle, and to top it off, she barely had a few bites of cereal before we left the house.
She took the swim test and passed. Yay! I was so excited; she was able to start her first class right away. It was about eight minutes in; she was cramping, complaining, in pain, and hungry! I was shocked; I had no clue what to do. My sister was my saving grace; her boys were on the swim team for a few months now. My sister was there just in time and approached Laila, comforted her, and started providing a ton of supportive strategies that were helping her. Whew! I felt a huge sigh of relief, but inside I felt horrible. I felt like it was my fault all this was happening. Shortly after, I saw that Laila was doing just fine, and I said to her after her class, we would use this experience as a learning experience for both of us on how we could have prepared better. She agreed, and I felt so much better; instead of sitting in that feeling of a victim and self-doubt, I chose to change my mindset and use it to create a strategy and a teaching moment for my child.
I say this because we as moms get exhausted, and we have a super busy week, meeting deadlines, responsibilities, making it to practice, and doing everything on time. Imagine the children will have a whole week of school, homework, chores, extracurricular activities, and any other obligations. They can quickly become fatigued. Sure, they don’t usually have mortgages and jobs. However, they do have internal and external pressures of their own. School, friendships, and other challenges of growing up can be a lot to deal with.
As a parent, you can help.
How to Restore Energy
Emotional fatigue is a major sign of burnout in children and adults. Show your son or daughter how to recharge when they’re feeling drained.
Try these methods:
- Do NOT Overschedule. Cut back. Doing less could be part of the solution. Many children are overscheduled today with academic and extracurricular activities. Focus on the clubs and sports that your child enjoys most and allow plenty of free time in between.
- Prioritize sleep. Lack of sufficient sleep at a young age can affect body weight, mental health, behavior, and cognitive performance, according to the Sleep Foundation. Nine to twelve hours of sleep each day is recommended for school-age children, with those numbers decreasing as they grow older.
- Eat healthy. Kids can be picky eaters, but you can help them make nutritious choices. Complex carbohydrates, nuts, and foods rich in calcium may be especially beneficial for fighting stress.
- Work out. Physical activity is another constructive way to deal with pressure. Exercise together with family fitness classes at your local gym or neighborhood park. Ride bikes or take a walk after dinner.
- Practice self-care. Introduce your child to self-care and relaxation methods.
We went on a nature walk later in the day! I also gave her a dose of Ibprofen to help with the pain, but she is a busy body and wanted to keep moving so we kept it moving!
How to Build and Maintain Connections
Prevent burnout by teaching your child how to create community and stay engaged. They’ll be more resilient when they know how to motivate themselves and seek support from others.
Keep these ideas in mind:
- Offer choices. Burnout often involves a sense of losing control. Let your child make decisions about which homework assignment to tackle first or what they want for a snack.
- Play around. Is your child eager to please or concerned about how they measure up to others? They may lighten up if you suggest games without any rules or final scores.
- Make art. Encourage your child’s creativity. Crafts are a practical way to take their mind off their troubles and build their self-esteem.
- Monitor media consumption. Your family may need a break from politics and pandemics if you keep CNN playing in the background for much of the day. Pay attention to what your children are seeing and hearing in stores and other public places too.
- Prepare for life events. Your child may be more vulnerable than usual if your family moved recently or is going through a divorce. Maintaining routines can help them feel secure.
- Provide a role model. The way you handle stress will influence your children. Try to maintain a positive attitude and healthy lifestyle even when you’re recovering from remote working and hybrid learning.
- Talk about emotions. Let your child know that it’s okay to feel angry or sad. If you spend quality time together on a regular basis, you’ll make it easier to have sensitive conversations.
Be alert for signs of burnout in your child. That may include insomnia, irritability, and withdrawing from activities they used to enjoy. With your support and professional counseling as needed, you can guide them back to a happier and more balanced life.