Creative Tips to Help You Combat Stress and Avoid Parental Burnout This Summer

If juggling all of your responsibilities — working, parenting, taking care of yourself — feels extra challenging, you’re not alone. These strategies can help you navigate it all with less exhaustion and more joy.

Monkey Business Images/ Shutterstock
Monkey Business Images/ Shutterstock

Homeschooling and online learning might have wrapped for the school year, but for many parents, the stress of 2020 lives on. As a result, many parents are headed into the summer at risk of burnout, having to keep kids entertained, fed, healthy, and busy — while simultaneously being available for work calls and tending to a myriad of responsibilities. In a recent survey, the American Psychological Association found that 60% of parents said they “have no idea how they are going to keep their child occupied all summer.” 

With this stressful reality in mind, we asked our Thrive community to share their best advice for navigating working parenthood and avoiding burnout this summer. Which of these tips will you consider?

Lower the bar

“My best advice for avoiding parenting burnout this summer is to lower the bar. Think back to when you were a kid and your summers were full of boredom. Your parents didn’t enroll you in camps because it was expensive and unnecessary. This summer, I’m choosing to let my kids have more control over their time. I’ve enrolled them in a couple of self-paced online learning courses, but those will only take a couple of hours a week. The rest of the time, they’ll need to figure out what to do. Will they play too many video games? Probably! But I’m choosing to let it go in favor of my sanity.”

—Alexis Haselberger, time management and productivity coach, San Francisco, CA

Make time for self-care

“Parents often put themselves at the bottom of their priority list, but we need to realize that our own self-care is essential for the whole families’ health. Parents need to know how to recognize their stressors, stop the energy drain, and recharge their batteries so that they can best support their child’s well-being while we’re all at home together. Dr. Juli Fraga, a clinical psychologist who specializes in maternal mental health, recommends for parents to find some time, even five minutes during the day, for a joyful activity. It could be reading, watching a show, listening to a song, taking a long shower, or doing a little bit of exercise. Even if it’s something small, just taking a few minutes once a day and making it as much of a priority as it is to take care of kids is essential.”

—Purva Gujar, founder of Inceptive, San Francisco, CA

Designate activity corners

“As the mother of two toddlers, I’ve decided to get inspiration from their nursery teacher to get through the summer. In the classroom, they design the room so that each corner represents a different theme. For example, there’s a doll corner, a table to tinker with, and a place to do puzzles. I decided to introduce these themes at home. Throughout the day, the kids switch between the different corners to stay entertained and active. In the evening, they clean up together. This way, they have fun with the variety of activities, and I can continue working productively throughout the day.”

—Dorien Vullers, manager at ServiceCenter CM, Antwerp, Belgium

Don’t overload your to-do list

“I’ve been finding that the key to WFH and parenting simultaneously is not putting too much on the to-do list or daily schedule. In March and April, we were all focusing on video calls with friends and family to help each other, and now that this has lessened, we’re increasing playtime with our daughter, reading, doing at-home exercises, taking a daily walk, and of course getting the right amount of sleep.”

—Nick Peacock-Smith, events director, Brooklyn, NY

Carve out mandatory alone time

“If I was a mediocre teacher during the school year, I am now discovering that I am a terrible summer camp counselor. I miss the comforts of noisy class Zoom calls and links to extra assignments we never ended up completing. One of my new strategies for surviving this pandemic summer with a five-year-old and a seven-year-old is mandatory alone time. This means 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon of scheduled time to be by myself, whether it’s spent meditating, reading, or making myself a snack. I look forward to alone time every day.  We all need this time to recharge and reset so that we can all survive the summer.”

—Mita Mallick, head of diversity, Jersey City, NJ

Cut back on micromanaging

“These are crazy times, and as parents, our biggest concern is how to keep the kids busy. When the pandemic routine first started, I was investing every single inch of my soul to keep my daughter engaged with activities, but I soon realized how unproductive it was. She wasn’t learning through my spoon-fed teachings, and I was left so exhausted simply trying to keep her occupied all the time. I decided to stop micromanaging and over-spending my time with her. She showed some reluctance in the beginning, but she soon started finding means to keep herself entertained. We spent time together for studies, or sometimes educational or creative activities, but other times, she decided what she would do next. That’s where we stand today, and it works for both of us!”

—Neha Mishra, blogger, Noida, India

Loosen up your routine 

“As someone who craves routine, I’ve spent lockdown trying to stick to one with my children while homeschooling. My husband leaves the house at 6:00 am, and I’ll get up shortly after to meditate and journal in the garden. The time I have to myself before the house wakes up is really important for my headspace and getting into a positive mindset for the day. During this time, I’ve learned that it’s okay to break that routine when everyone gets edgy and tempers are frayed. Lockdown has lowered my son’s expectations of what we will be doing or can do, so the usual summer holiday pressures aren’t there. We throw in a few random activities each day, and the weeks fly by. Loosening up your routine is okay.  It’s all about finding your own family rhythm and taking lots of deep breaths!”

—Jody Woodbridge, writer, Cheshire, England, UK

Do you have a tip that’s helping you avoid parental burnout this summer? Share it with us in the comments!

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