Study finds burnout among working parents resulted in more mental health concerns and punitive behavior toward kids

Experts say burnout will not disappear as we emerge from the pandemic and action is needed to protect parents and kids

(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – The COVID-19 pandemic brought unprecedented challenges, especially for working parents juggling things like virtual learning, disrupted childcare, ever-changing working conditions and, of course, serious health risks to their family. A new report by The Ohio State University Office of the Chief Wellness Officer and College of Nursing found the stress was simply too much for many working parents to handle, revealing that two-thirds of parents experienced some level of burnout.

“In our report, we showed higher levels of burnout were associated with mental health concerns like depression, anxiety and increased alcohol use,” said Bernadette Melnyk, PhD, vice president for health promotion, university chief wellness officer and College of Nursing dean at The Ohio State University. “Stress on parents is not going to magically go away as we emerge from the pandemic, and it is critical that we find ways to prevent burnout before parents are in crisis.”

The research, conducted in 2021 amid changing school, work and childcare situations, found stress on parents also had consequences for children, as parental burnout was associated with punitive behavior towards their kids – including screaming, criticizing and even physical harm – and increased acting out by their children.

“We usually associate burnout with jobs and things like that. But it can feel shameful to think that you can get burned out in your role as a parent, which makes it harder to recognize and address,” said Kate Gawlik, a working mom and associate professor of clinical nursing at Ohio State. “Parents need to understand that they’re not alone, and that it’s OK to need help sometimes or to say ‘no’ to activities or commitments that are going to overload you.”

Experts also recommend learning simple cognitive-behavioral skills like mindfulness and deep breathing. Even taking a few minutes to breathe or focus on something that brings you joy can go a long way toward reducing stress and preventing burnout. It’s also important to find someone in your life you can share your feelings with and who can take over for a little while when you need to step away. 

Gawlik and Melnyk have developed a self-assessment tool to help parents recognize when they’re becoming overwhelmed and are at risk for burnout. To access the assessment and resources to help prevent burnout, go to XX.wexmed.com.

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If you feel overwhelmed as a working parent, you’re not alone. A new report by The Ohio State University Office of the Chief Wellness Officer and College of Nursing finds two-thirds of working parents experienced burnout in 2021, and experts say that stress won’t magically disappear as we emerge from the pandemic.

A new report by The Ohio State University Office of the Chief Wellness Officer and College of Nursing reveals the importance of preventing working parental burnout. Two-thirds of working parents reported burnout during the pandemic, which correlates with depression, anxiety and increased alcohol use.

A new report by The Ohio State University Office of the Chief Wellness Officer and College of Nursing finds burnout doesn’t just affect parents, but also their children. Parents who experienced burnout during the pandemic reported increased punitive behavior like screaming, criticizing and even physical harm towards their children.

As a working mom, Kate Gawlik isn’t quite sure how she made it through some stressful days during the pandemic. As an associate professor at The Ohio State University College of Nursing, Kate helped reveal the dangers of constant stress that leads to burnout among working parents and the importance of stress reduction.



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