While stress is common within families,
sometimes the limits are breached and the result is "parent
burnout". Photos courtesy of Quanjing
Few families have a stress-free existence but sometimes the
level is over the top and results in "parent burnout". A lot of
combined factors create stress within a family - some are objective
factors, others could be described as subjective perceptions.
"Parents today see their roles quite differently compared with
parents of previous generations," says Bettina Maehler, of
Gelnhausen, near Frankfurt.
"It used to be that children simply had to go along with things
and people didn't worry them," says Maehler, a teacher who has
given parenting courses. "Today being a parent is viewed with great
expectations and there is enormous pressure for achieving
The reality is often grayer than the colorful image of the
family that is presented in public. This image includes well-rested
individuals in a good mood who live in clean and tidy homes,
Look into most children's rooms and the contrast is clear to
see. Aside from that, many children are simply more difficult than
children used to be. And they act differently around their
A true burnout, in which parents break down psychologically and
physically rarely occurs, Maehler says, but stress overload occurs
in many families.
"Depending on the age of the child, there are various stress
triggers," says Julia Scharnhorst, a member of the board of
directors of the Berlin-based professional association for German
psychologists. Young parents with small children are often stressed
out when they don't get enough sleep at night and their baby cries
a lot during the day.
"Even nursing the baby at night is no fun. Then comes teething
and later illness," Maehler says. This often leaves parents in a
state of sleep deprivation, and these are just the usual day-to-day
"Premature babies are more common today," says Andreas Engel,
director of a consulting center for child rearing in Hof, Germany.
"And the frequency of eating disorders in children has increased as
well as the number of children who cry continually."
There are warning signs that indicate when mom or dad has reached
their limit. These include when parents feel a constant
restlessness and have the feeling they are simply running from
appointment to appointment, says Ulrich Gerth, director of
Germany's nationwide conference for parental advice.
Another is when parents feel they constantly have to strive to
get something achieved, but it still isn't enough, says Gerth.
Scharnhorst, adding that another warning sign is when one parent
begins to feel indifferent.
People who notice such tendencies must get back on track. A
decisive step is breaking the vicious circle in which the demands
become excessive and the more excessive the demands, the greater
the stress, Scharnhorst says. The break one gets by going to a spa,
for example, can help.
"Parents must seek relief, possibly in ways that require them to
hire a babysitter, at least for a while," she says.
Maehler advises getting away temporarily from the burdens of
"Parents must regularly do something without their children,"
Leaving at least some unscheduled time every week for enjoying a
quiet evening together, for example, is a sensible approach. It's
also important to have contact with other parents and neighbors
because it is doubly difficult for parents who are stressed and
have no one to help them or to listen to them.
"A person who spends his or her entire day with a child can feel
like they are in solitary confinement," Maehler says.
(China Daily via DPA January 23, 2008)