Burnout in the context of parenthood can take many forms – having a short temper with your kiddos, schedules running behind, and struggling to remain positive in an unrelentingly negative world [to name a few]! Your children have been asked to deal with challenges, transitions, and negativity that have emphasized the need for adaptability and resilience. Fortunately, resilience can be learned from a young age to help you and your kids not just overcome but thrive during challenging circumstances. And just as you may have felt yourself struggling despite practicing consistent mindfulness and self-care skills, your children will also experience feelings of anxiousness, frustration, and sadness when going through difficult changes. While it can be easy for quality time, words of affirmation, gift giving, acts of service, and physical touch to get lost in the uncertainty, maintaining family connections through periods of change with consistency and determination can make a world of difference in building your kiddos’ resilience! This can be achieved by noticing you children’s love languages, practicing family self-care, and encouraging adaptability.
You might think about Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages and think what does this have to do with kids?! The answer is: A lot! Physical touch, gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, and acts of service are ways your whole family feels and shows love to each other. A crucial component in building your kiddos’ levels of resiliency and overall self-esteem is creating a secure, loving environment where kids know they will be unconditionally cared for. Yet, it can be challenging to try to figure out the love languages of each of your children [oftentimes each member of the family identifies with a different love language].
Throughout literature, psychology, religion, and politics there is power in what you say, and is epitomized in this Italian proverb, “the tongue has no bone, but it can break bone.” Particularly for children and adolescents who are developing their self-concept, positive affirmations can be the key in developing healthy levels of self-esteem. If your child is most drawn to words of affirmation, parents can put notes with encouraging words in their lunch boxes, make it a point to tell your kiddo that you love them while tucking them into bed or as they leave for school in the morning. You can also send your older kiddo a semi-spontaneous message telling them that you love them [I suggest once a week].
For children who primarily feel loved through physical affection, you can make hugs and kisses a part of the ritual for tucking your kiddo into bed or saying goodbye to them in the morning – older kids might prefer a simple high five, pat on the back or a quick hug but the regularity is what counts! Parents whose children appreciate gift-giving are faced with a dilemma and must be careful not to fall into the trap of bribery or using gifts as an alternative to the other love languages. If your child is drawn to gifts as their love language, established research recommends parents prioritize personalized gifts with the child’s name, choose a small present that fits your kiddos’ interests, or mail a small gift to your child when away from home. Whereas if your child feels love through acts of service, you and your child can practice serving the local community through volunteering, sitting to help them with their homework, or helping them practicing for their sports team.
Quality time is another powerful method in building your child’s resiliency, particularly if you notice that your child thrives and appreciates when you give them your undivided attention. Implementing quality time doesn’t require you to go somewhere expensive or even out of the ordinary with your child – rather, it is important to put emphasis on having in-depth conversations and asking about your child’s feelings and opinions. This can look like making a ritual of having walks with just you and your child or setting up a “date” where your child chooses an activity for the two of you to do together. Prioritizing quality time, in addition to the other love languages, sends the message to your child that self-care and investing time in your interpersonal relationships is important for building happiness, maintaining resilience in challenging times, and remaining adaptable when faced with change.
While you want to encourage your children to look at the positive and practice gratitude in their lives, it is just as powerful to acknowledge where your kiddos are struggling to cope by normalizing the benefits of “taking a break” and practicing self-care. Connections can be achieved through honest, age-appropriate conversations with your kids on where you are also struggling and what the family can do to support each other. Families can make the effort to have technology breaks, prioritize fun activities through sports or art, and taking time to laugh with each other through something as simple as a game of Uno or board games. Overall, when you and your kids are struggling with burnout and want to build more resilience and adaptability, it’s easy to feel defeated by feeling a lack of energy and frustration due to not having an abundance of time! Yet, through moderation and patience, there are several avenues for resiliency to incorporate into your family routine by understanding your children’s’ love languages, encouraging flexibility when faced with change, and integration of family self-care activities.