Preventing Parent Burnout by Encouraging Children to Play Independently
As parents take on new responsibilities for their children's learning, they are at risk for experiencing the same emotional burnout that new teachers often experience.
Burnout tends to follow a three stage evolution...
Reduced Sense of Accomplishment
First, we feel emotionally exhausted or “used up”.
Then we begin to emotionally distance ourselves from our role.
Finally, we become disheartened when we fail to live up to our expectations for ourselves.
So what can parents do to prevent feeling burnt out?
It may be helpful to turn to findings from a study in which a researcher interviewed mothers who chose to homeschool their children (Lois, 2006). Of course, their experiences aren’t perfectly comparable to the experiences of families who are quarantined. However, when they first started, they needed to adjust to their role just as we’re doing now.
The parents that were interviewed doubted their ability as a teacher at first. They struggled to blend their identities of parents and teachers. Those who had teaching backgrounds faced new challenges in teaching their own child.
Most of the mothers found experienced homeschool parents to be their best source of information. The most common piece of advice from the seasoned homeschool parents was to “embrace more flexibility in their teaching styles and curricula”.
Too much structure for homeschooling families tends to lead to burnout.
Rather than attempt to recreate a school environment at home, the mothers with homeschooling experience suggested following children’s interests and allowing them to learn through play. Taking a child-directed approach helps to sustain children’s motivation and supports parents’ ability to manage their feelings of emotional burnout.
For some parents, this lack of structure heightened their insecurity.
They said things like...
“I can’t gamble with my son like that.”
Turning to a highly structured routine helped alleviate their anxiety as they transitioned to having their children at home. However, after an initial honeymoon period, children tended to lose motivation. Their lack of motivation impedes their learning leading parents to feel insecure about their abilities as a teacher.
“I’m too terrified to try that right now.”