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Coronavirus: how to avoid parental burnout?

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In these times of containment, with the spread of the coronavirus and the suspension of classes in schools, teleworking is encouraged in most companies. The result? Parents have to juggle their roles as parents and workers simultaneously. How can parental burnout be avoided? Two researchers from the University of Leuven advise: trust yourself, put your children to work, structure your day.
Practical information

After the closure of schools, France took nationwide containment measures on 14 March 2020. Everyone must stay at home! Who says coronavirus says telework and suspended classes in schools. 

Symbolically, the home is the home with those who live with the child; it is the value of shelter, refuge, protection, maternal womb. It is also the first space that is explored by the child. It is the symbol of the family environment where the first experiences will take place, with the first expression of drawings charged with effects. The neuro-psychiatrist Marie Claire Debienne (1) explains that the home functions as a mythical space. The child projects his anxieties and fantasies into it. Hence the interest of creating a reassuring environment for him. Parents are therefore the first on the front line to reassure and accompany their children. It is therefore a major challenge: juggling their roles as parents and workers simultaneously. An arduous task. In order to limit the risk of parental burnout , Moïra Mikolajczak and Isabelle Roskam, researchers at the Institute for Research in Psychological Sciences atUCLouvain, propose ten tips to get through this period more serenely:

  • Trust yourself as a parent: trust yourself, you will adapt to the situation. You've done it so far, there's no reason why you can't do it;
  • Quality rather than quantity: Just because your children are at home doesn't mean you have to spend your days with them. Favor activities where parents and children enjoy being together;
  • Be flexible: don't hesitate to relax certain rules or create new ones. The important thing is to communicate about them so that everyone at home understands the changes;
  • Involve your children: divide up the tasks as a family, without forgetting the little ones. Let your children choose their tasks (or at least give them the impression of doing so) without forgetting to include you in the division. Tasks can rotate from day to day or week to week;
  • Structure of your children's day: Children are used to having a structured day at school. Explain to them the value of planning their day and make a weekly schedule with them, including times when children play together and do things on their own. Make sure your children feel that they have a say in their planning;
  • Improvise: If possible, let yourself live and take advantage of these moments to do with your children what you dreamed of doing without having the time to do it;
  • Choose your fights: this is not the time to get into conflict with your children. Make a list of the behaviors you are prepared to put up with and identify the two or three intolerable behaviors. Plan the sanctions in advance and respect them;
  • Give up being superwoman or superman : parents, teachers, or workers, you have to choose. That doesn't make you bad parents;
  • Take care of each other: sometimes one parent is at home and the other is "out". Even if the one who is "outside" works more, it is for the one who is left that the situation is the most difficult: he or she has to combine telework and childcare. If not helping, the "outside" parent has to support his/her partner;
  • Blow! Breathe: the situation can quickly become tense. If you are overwhelmed, get some (fresh) air. If the situation becomes really untenable, do not hesitate to call for help. That's what psychologists are there for!

More info? A website created by the two psychologists of the UCLouvain : www.burnoutparental.com. Parents will find a burnout prevention test and a list of psychologist ready to help.

(1) Author of the book " Le dessin chez l'enfant " - Edition PUF, 1968

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