Recognising and Preventing Caregiver Burnout
Amanda Simmons, a member of the clinical team at Skills on the Hill Pediatric Therapy, discusses caregiver burnout, particularly in parents of children with special needs. She identifies the top four stressors for parents as behaviour, sleep challenges, lack of adaptability, and reinforcement. Simmons emphasises the importance of co-regulation, the ability for people to regulate their body, feelings, and emotions in tandem with another person. She suggests strategies for strengthening connection and preventing burnout, including recognising and naming emotions, evaluating personal emotional bandwidth, experimenting with feelings, regulating emotions together, and apologising when necessary. Simmons also highlights the importance of mindful parenting, being present and curious in everyday tasks, and building a supportive community to combat feelings of isolation.
Hello everyone, my name is Amanda Simmons, a member of the clinical team at Skills on the Hill Pediatric Therapy in Washington, DC. Today, we will be discussing how to prevent caregiver burnout, especially during these challenging times.
Overview of Common Concerns and Stressors
Parenting a child with special needs can be stressful. The top four stressors for parents caring for a child with Angelman Syndrome are:
- Behavioural issues, including hyperactivity and distractibility.
- Sleep challenges, such as sleep onset insomnia and sleep maintenance issues.
- Lack of adaptability, or the inability to adapt to small routine changes.
- Reinforcement, or the ability to positively reinforce the parent.
These stressors can lead to caregiver burnout.
Co-regulation is the ability for people to regulate their body, feelings, emotions and arousal in tandem with another person or an attachment figure. Some children have better regulation skills than others. All children are born worthy of love and affection, but no child is born knowing how to auto-regulate.
The Importance of Consistency
Consistency is always helpful. We co-regulate with everyone around us, but for the most part, we co-regulate with our closest attachment figure. When the adult is in the stress cycle, the child will also have stress. But when the inter-brain connection is co-regulated, stress behaviours are reduced.
The Role of Attachment
The way that attachment works is that the infant seeks out the person in their world that they are getting their self-worth from. Healthy attachment is the fundamental means for establishing positive emotional states and is required for healthy neurodevelopment.
Here are the steps to co-regulating with a child:
- Name it: Labeling emotions accurately greatly improves the chances that we will then let that emotion flow.
- Evaluate yourself: Do you have the emotional bandwidth to calm your child?
- Experiment: This requires some higher verbal skills, but you can still participate in this step even if your child has communication deficits.
- Regulate together: It is better to start high with them, get their attention, be at the place that they’re at and teach them how to come down together.
- Apologise: An apology from an authority figure goes a very long way.
Caregiver Self-reflection and Self-regulation
It’s important to reflect on your own self-regulation skills. Label your feelings during interactions with your child and try to find patterns. Evaluate your beliefs about the behaviours of others. Use self-calming strategies to communicate effectively and compassionally when you are a little bit regulated or dysregulated.
Emotional Regulation Strategies
Mindful breathing, forward-looking strategies, attention-shifting strategies, and cognitive reframing strategies can all help with emotional regulation.
Mindful parenting is a new area of study. It suggests that parents who engage in mindfulness practices often have improved physiological states. This reduces oxidative stress, which can increase our capacity for kindness and empathy.
Building a community and getting involved can be a really helpful piece to buffer the burnout with you and your child. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to email me at my Skills on the Hill email address. Thank you.
- Title: Recognizing and Preventing Caregiver Burnout
- Author(s): Amanda Simmons
- Author(s)’ affiliation: Symbria Solutions
- Publication date: 2020-12-31
- Collection: 2020 FAST Educational Summit