Pandemic Parenting: Do you have Parental Burnout?; Strategies to help with Parental Burnout; 13 million pounds of discarded soap.
In SAVVY, an online survey of 1,285 working parents was conducted between January 2021 and April 2021. Earlier in May, the researchers from Ohio State University published their report, Pandemic Parenting: Examining the Epidemic of Working Parental Burnout and Strategies to Help.
In SKILLS, after describing what Parental Burnout is, the report went on to provide some strategies to help parents deal with burnout. So whether you are a parent yourself, or helping parents cope, the report has strategies for you.
In SOUL, In 2008, Shawn Seipler was staying at a hotel in Minneapolis and wondered what happens to all the unused hotel room soap? This got me thinking about what would be the ‘wasted hotel soap’ of the healthcare industry? What better systems could we build that could save as many lives as 13 million pounds of discarded soap?
In the USA, Mother’s Day was on May 8 and Father’s Day will be June 19 (Fun Fact: In Australia, Father’s Day is the first Sunday in September. Mother’s Day is the same as the USA). While we are all sick of the COVID pandemic, a report published by researchers at Ohio State University (OSU) earlier this month caught my eye in the context of Mother’s and Father’s Days.
The report is based on an online survey of 1,285 working parents that was conducted between January 2021 and April 2021. It is titled: Pandemic Parenting: Examining the Epidemic of Working Parental Burnout and Strategies to Help
Here are the SAVVY tips arising from that OSU report. All the content is from the report where you can see more detail. I have just reworked the information into Tips and Topics format.
Sixty-six percent of parents reported being burnt-out.
Parenting stress is normal and expected. However, when chronic stress and exhaustion occur that overwhelm a parent’s ability to cope and function, it is called parental burnout:
- A “non-clinical term that means they are so exhausted by the pressure of caring for their children, they feel they have nothing left to give.”
- “For two years, working parents in America have been running on fumes, hammered by the stress of remote schooling, day care closures, economic instability and social isolation.”
- It results from a mismatch between perceived stressors and available resources leaving parents feeling physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted, as well as often detached from their children.
One parent: “I am expected to be a superhuman that can be a full-time employee, parent, elementary school teacher, pre-school teacher, cook, cleaner, playmate and emotional support system. But I can’t do it any longer.”
Factors that contributed to higher levels of burnout included: Being female and being parents who were very worried about their children’s mental health versus parents who were less worried.
All factors that were strongly associated with parental burnout:
- Being female
- The number of children living in the home
- Anxiety in the parent
- Having child(ren) with the diagnosis of either Anxiety or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Parental concern that their child(ren) may have an undiagnosed mental health disorder.
Parental burnout is strongly associated with depression, anxiety and increased alcohol consumption in the parent.
Besides being strongly associated with depression, anxiety and increased alcohol consumption, Burnout is also associated with dramatic increases in the likelihood that parents may:
- Scream at
- Curse at
- Physically harm their children (i.e. spanking).
Working parental burnout is associated with parents’ reports of their children’s internalizing, externalizing, and attention behaviors.
Parents’ reports of their children’s internalizing, externalizing, and attention behaviors:
Examples of internalizing behaviors are:
- feels sad or unhappy
- is down on themselves
- worries a lot
Examples of externalizing behaviors include:
- fights with other children
- does not listen to rules
- teases others
Examples of attention behaviors include:
- inability to sit still
- has trouble concentrating
- is easily distracted
After describing what Parental Burnout is, the report went on to provide some strategies to help parents deal with burnout.
Find a balance that decreases personal stressors and increases the access to and use of available resources.
Stress and burnout looks different for everyone:
- Perhaps you have children in half-day preschool who are home in the afternoons while you work, or
- You’re shuttling older kids to multiple after-school activities
- Perhaps you stay up after your children go to sleep to do work for your job as you watch laundry pile up on the floor.
Stopping to catch, check and change the negative automatic thoughts that often happen with parental burnout can result in feeling emotionally better and can open the door to strategies and solutions that work for you and your family.
Work on burnout by decreasing personal stressors and increasing the access to and use of available resources.
Decrease personal stressors:
- Make it a priority to get at least 7 hours of sleep per night
- Have children help with chores
- Decrease number of after-school activities
Increase and tap resources by leveraging the ‘village’ around you:
- Flex work hours or ask a family member for help with childcare
- Engage in free corporate wellness programs
- Find people to carpool with for after school activities
Other evidence-based strategies that can help you every day.
Here are five other evidence-based strategies:
1. Take good self-care (it is not selfish!):
- Even a five-to-ten-minute recovery break a couple of times a day to enhance your well-being or engage in something that brings you joy does wonders (e.g., drink a warm beverage slowly; do a five-minute meditation; get some physical activity, such as dancing to your favorite music or walking up and down the stairs).
2. Be kind to yourself:
- Don’t set expectations too high.
- Don’t overcommit or feel guilty for saying “no” to something.
- Forgive yourself; everyone has strengths and opportunities for improvement.
3. Talk to someone you trust about how you are feeling:
- Stay connected to family and friends.
4. Build your mental resiliency and coping skills. This can include:
- Practicing mindfulness
- Developing cognitive-behavioral skills
- Practicing gratitude and self-affirmations and deep abdominal breathing.
5. Ask for help:
- If your level of burnout, anxiety and/or depressive symptoms are interfering with your ability to function or concentrate, talk to your primary care provider or seek out mental health help.
- It is a strength to recognize when we need help, not a weakness!
In 2008, Shawn Seipler was staying at a hotel in Minneapolis and wondered about a question I have also pondered: what happens to all the unused hotel room soap? So he called the front desk and found out that they throw the soap away and it all goes to a landfill.
Learning that millions of bars of perfectly salvageable soap were going to waste, Shawn laid out a bunch of stats and came to a realization:
- Hotels were wasting millions of bars of soap.
- At the time, about 9,000 children under the age of 5 were dying from hygiene-related illnesses every day globally.
- Studies showed that regular hand-washing could cut those deaths in half.
“Seipler launched Clean the World and set out on a mission of getting those millions of bars of wasted soap to children in need.”
Since 2009, the company has:
- Collected 13 million pounds of discarded soap from hotels.
- Distributed 68 million bars of reprocessed soap to 127 countries.
- Diverted 23 million pounds of plastic and soap waste from landfills.
You can read all about Shawn’s ingenuity and journey in The surprising afterlife of used hotel soap in The Hustle.
All this got me thinking about what would be the ‘wasted hotel soap’ of the healthcare industry? Would it be:
- All those barely used hand gloves that the phlebotomist, lab or dental assistants throw away?
- All those clients on the waiting list for a residential treatment bed whose need for ‘treatment on demand’ we throw away because of a fixed 30 day program model?
- All those clients we discharge for having a flare-up of their addiction who need a chance to learn from their mistakes instead of throwing away their fragile hope that change is possible?
Out of the resources we waste or misuse in healthcare, what better systems could we build that could save as many lives as 13 million pounds of discarded soap?