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Parents facing burnout following pandemic

More than eight in 10 parents are showing at least one warning sign of parental burnout following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unhappy husband and father with his family at home

Action for Children research of more than 2,000 parents shows that 82% of parents are showing one warning sign at least of parental burnout. More than 50% of women have struggled with anxiety, compared with 37% of men with the long-term impact of the pandemic on their child’s education being their main concern.

Lynn Giles, Parent Talk Manager at Action for Children, said: “Everyday Parent Talk hears heart-breaking stories of children struggling with their mental health, education, development – the list is endless and these issues are hurting children from newborns to teens. Parents are desperately trying to help support their children but are often feeling utterly overwhelmed with nowhere to turn. Desperate to do the right thing, but not knowing what that is.”

Parent Talk is a digital advice and chat service for parents and carers run by Action for Children which has helped nearly 10,000 parents through one-to-one chats in the last year. However, there has been a sharp rise in parents seeking help with the most severe issues since the start of the pandemic.

Action for Children warns:

  • Worries about children’s mental health featured in over half (51%) of chats since March 2021 compared to around a third of chats (32%) last year – an increase of 60%.
  • Concerns about their child’s education have also doubled year on year.
  • Parents and carers are also increasingly expressing worries about their own mental health.

Action for Children’s parenting advisers fear anxiety over job security, rising living costs and impact of Universal Credit cuts will continue to compound the pressure on parents.

One Mum told the charity’s parenting advice service Parent Talk: “I feel like I’m crumbling under the pressure and I’ve lost count how many times I’ve cried over the past weeks. I don’t know what to do and I hate myself but I feel like just walking out of the door and not coming back.”

Over eighty per cent (82%) of parents admit to struggling with at least one of the warning signs that may indicate parental burnout – a condition identified as ‘a prolonged response to chronic and overwhelming parental stress’ – as a result of the pandemic.

The most common red flags shown by the majority of parents polled by the charity included:

  • Anxiety (46%)
  • Disruption to sleep (34%)
  • Feeling isolated (33%)
  • Depression (32%)
  • Overwhelming exhaustion mentally (27%)

Other key findings:

  • Parents of pre-school age children were more likely to say they have suffered at least one of these indicators (86%) than parents of secondary age children (76%).
  • More women are likely to be struggling with signs of parental burnout as a result of the pandemic than men
  • 88% of parents said they were worried about the impact of Covid on their child’s future

Parent Talk is seeing evidence of the challenges being faced by parents first-hand.

The charity is urging the government to urgently increase the support available for parents and carers before problems escalate in homes or schools – a situation which could lead to potentially significant, yet avoidable, costs for public services.

Lynn Giles, Parent Talk Manager at Action for Children, said: “The Parent Talk team is there for the growing numbers of parents and carers that need help. The fall-out from Covid is going to take years to process and with the added stresses in the run up to Christmas with food and fuel price rises on the horizon it’s almost a perfect storm of parental pressure. This could have a huge impact on the life chances of our children.

“The government needs to recognise that parents, especially now, need help in lots of different ways. So, as well as trusted digital services like Parent Talk, we need to invest in face-to-face services like Family Hubs, which are local support centres where problems can be picked up more easily in the early stages and could prove a vital lifeline to those parents struggling in the wake of the pandemic,” she concluded.

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