In May 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized burnout as a medical condition and defines it as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”
Burnout, however, does not just exist in a workplace setting. There is parental burnout, which leaves you feeling “exhausted, less productive, and competent and emotionally withdrawn.” It is highly associated with depression.
Kids, too, experience burnout. As defined in Understood.org, a non-profit umbrella organization that provides support for parents of kids with learning and attention issues in the U.S., burnout in children is a “state of mental, physical or emotional exhaustion” and can happen “when kids are faced with ongoing stress or frustration with no chance to relax and recharge.”
Signs of burnout in children
A bit of stress can be healthy for kids. It helps motivate them to do better or learn how cope with life’s challenges, whether that’s an exam coming up or a sports tryout. Too much stress, however, can lead to burnout, or when a child feels like he has no control over the situation. Burnout, however, doesn’t happen in an instant. You can help your child do something about it by looking out for the following signs of burnout:
1. Your child suddenly doesn’t care about things she used to be passionate about.
Your child is not putting in the work in something he used to love, whether it is a hobby or a school performance.
Of course, kids are not defined by their grades, but when he is not making an effort anymore or does not care, then something may be wrong.
3. Your child is not interested in social interactions.
He used to go on and on about his classmates. Now he suddenly doesn’t talk about them anymore and doesn’t want you asking about them either.
4. Your child procrastinates and always turns in late.
Your little one used to be excited to finish a drawing homework. Then he doesn’t even start on an artwork that has been due yesterday. Often, your child comes in late to school or after break times or falls asleep during class hours.
5. Your child is anxious.
There’s an exam coming up, and your child is so worried about taking it that it disrupts his daily routine. For example, he cries when studying or during the test, or he’s easily distracted and can’t focus on reviewing.
6. Your child always complains of aches and pains.
Your child may be using ailments as excuses to get out of a school activity or family get-together. His body aches and pains seem to be recurring more often and increasing in intensity as well.
7. Your child is moody, easily annoyed.
Your child used to be a ray of sunshine when he walks in a room. Now, he always appears tired and rarely smiles anymore. He’s also easily annoyed, upset, or irritated by the littlest things.
How to help your child prevent or overcome burnout
No parent wants her child to feel that every drop of her energy has been spent. Having past-paced lives in today’s digital age makes it even more important to instill in kids essential life skills to help them cope with everyday’s challenges. You may also want to discuss with his teacher or coach to confirm your observations and have them onboard in helping your child avoid a burnout.
Start an open discussion with your child about what he’s feeling
Ask your child what’s wrong. You want to find out the source of his stress. Maybe someone is bullying him? Does he feel too much pressure to excel? Peer pressure from friends? How is his schedule?
Reset positive goals and expectations
If your child feels she falls short of expectations, emphasize the hard work she’s putting in, so she feels appreciated. Failure is a means to learn more and improve. Voice out realistic, positive expectations to encourage kids to do their best and succeed without pushing them to the limit.
Give your child tools for better time management and study habits
Stress management expert Karen Belshaw believes that organization and prioritization are the keys to effective time management and avoiding stress — and children’s can practice it, too. Help your child get organized so she can tackle one task after the other, allowing proper breaks in between. Below are some of Belshaw’s suggestions. Ask your child to:
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Make lists of everything he needs to do. Set a time and resources for it.
Plot tasks in order of priority.
Divide a task that takes a lot of energy and stick to your schedule.
Be realistic in projections and expectations.
Try to relax and don’t let teh brain panic. Remind him he is in control.