Taking A Break From Caregiving
How do you avoid caregiver stress or caregiver burnout? Parents of high-demand children need to rest and get away.
Many people worry about burning out from the constant drain of caring for a child 24/7, and this can be an even more crucial issue for the parents of a child with bipolar disorder, ADHD or other serious mental health condition.
Parents frequently hear questions such as "How can you stand to be with your kid 24/7?". The answer can be found in one word... Respite. Without planning adequate opportunities for the parent/educator/caregiver to be free from demands, rested and rejuvenated, parenting is likely to rapidly deteriorate into a painful power struggle benefiting no one.
Sometimes the other parent can provide "time off" for the parent, but for single parents or parents who have a spouse who travels, additional plans must be made. Grandparents might provide respite by taking the child(ren) for a few hours or overnight. A local high school or college student can be hired for a relatively low wage and provide respite. Schools who have psych programs or special education programs often have students who would jump at the chance to work with a child with a psychological condition. When more stable, many children with a mental illness benefit from classes such as art classes or volunteer work, and that time can provide a brief respite as well. It is imperative not to neglect this most urgent of issues if you are to remain effective parents and happy people.
Put the Glass Down
A lecturer was speaking to his students on stress management. He raised a glass of water and asked the audience, "How heavy do you think this glass of water is?" The students' answers ranged from 20g to 500gm.
"It does not matter on the absolute weight. It depends on how long you hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it is OK. If I hold it for an hour, I will have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it for a day, you will have to call an ambulance. It is the exact same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes."
"If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, we will not be able to carry on, the burden becoming increasingly heavier. What you have to do is to put the glass down, rest for a while before holding it up again" We have to put down the burden periodically, so that we can be refreshed and are able to carry on.
So before you return home from work tonight, put the burden of work down. Don't carry it back home. You can pick it up tomorrow. Whatever burdens you are having now on your shoulders, let it down for a moment if you can. Pick it up again later when you have rested...
Last Updated: 21 March 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD