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Parenting Burnout Is Exhausting! Get Your Joy Back with Emotional Intelligence

When I was a young mother, there were many times I felt like I was failing as a parent—and I even taught parenting classes!

It's so easy to get overwhelmed or discouraged as a parent, isn't it?

We LOVE our children—but let’s face it: parental burnout is a thing, especially with both parents working.

Parenting demands a lot from us, and we're human. So if you’ve ever wanted the newborn stage to be over or wondered if you’d survive toddlerhood, or lost your cool with a teenager, you know what I’m talking about.

Once I learned missing emotional intelligence skills, it was a game-changer for me! Parenting life became so much easier... and way more fun! (And fewer arguments with my hubby, too!)

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

Young parents arguing at the dinner table in front of their children.Table of Contents: Jump to what you think will be most helpful.
Are You Experiencing Parenting Burnout?
Symptoms of Parental Burnout
What Research Says about Emotional Intelligence in Parenting
Why Is Emotional Intelligence Important as a Parent?
Self-Care Is the Foundation of All Emotionally Intelligent Parenting
4 Actions to Relieve (and Prevent) Parental Burnout
Raise Your Emotional Awareness
Practice Emotional Regulation
Keep Motivation Well Greased in Parenting
Learn to Empathize as a Parent
Frequently Asked Questions

Are You Experiencing Parenting Burnout?

If you're exhausted, it's understandable. Parenting is relentless; we're never off duty. It's a sprint and marathon simultaneously!

And even though parenting is also rewarding and fulfilling, the responsibility and sheer number of demands can eclipse that amazing love you have in your heart. You might be wondering where it went!

There are many unspoken pressures when you're a parent, some self-imposed, like trying to be perfect parents, which can wear us down. Sometimes parents can feel judged by their own parents. Or thoughts of failing as a parent can be disheartening and break down our parenting confidence.

Each family and parent is unique; therefore, their challenges are also unique. Here are some common things I've heard from parents I've coached that you might relate to.

Symptoms of Parental Burnout

Below are some common symptoms of parents who feel burned out. See how many you are experiencing:

  • Fatigue, exhaustion, and sometimes depression
  • Chronic stress
  • Worry that you shouldn't be a parent
  • Feel like you're failing as a parent
  • Haunting feeling that you're failing your kids
  • Anxiety that keeps you awake at night
  • Feeling trapped or overwhelmed with responsibilities
  • Emotionally distant or shut down
  • Feeling shame that you want a break from parenting
  • Increased neediness from children
  • Short-tempered, possibly more conflicts with your parenting partner
  • Reactive or disengaged with your children
  • Increased disconnection or negative feelings toward your children

Experiencing even a few of these symptoms can weigh us down. However, what I've found is that when we feel the worst, it's partially because we have our attention on the negative. Chances are that you have your eyes glued on your shortcomings or the times you lost your temper. And self-care is likely nonexistent.

Life happens. Parenting happens... and not always from our best self, BUT we do our best!

As parents, we sometimes need to cut ourselves some slack so...


Take a deep breath.

Now, think of the ways you do a GOOD job as a parent. Every parent has strengths. By highlighting them, we can feel more encouraged.

If you grew up in a dysfunctional or unhealthy home, being a parent can feel like an unsurmountable Everest. I know. That's what I felt at times when I was a young mother.

Take it from a now-veteran mom with three grown children, learning emotional intelligence (EQ) skills can help! And learning to change perspective that dramatically influences how we feel and respond is key to emotionally intelligent parenting. Plus, self-care is imperative!

What Research Says about Emotional Intelligence in Parenting

Just in case you’re not convinced that EQ will help relieve parenting burnout, let’s explore some key findings from studies that demonstrate its significance in parenting:

1. Parent-Child Relationship Quality

Studies have consistently found a positive correlation between a parent's EQ and the quality of the parent-child relationship. Parents with higher emotional quotient are more attuned to their children's emotions, which fosters a stronger bond and connection. They are better equipped to understand and respond to their children's needs, leading to increased trust and open communication between parents and children.

2. Parental Responsiveness

Research indicates that emotional intelligence enables parents to be more responsive to their children's emotional cues. These parents are found to be more likely to recognize and appropriately address their children's emotional needs. This responsiveness contributes to a secure attachment style with children, which is associated with better social and emotional development.

3. Emotional Regulation

Emotional intelligence involves the ability to understand and manage one's emotions effectively. Parents with high EQ are better at regulating their emotions during challenging parenting situations. This emotional regulation allows them to respond to their children calmly and constructively rather than reacting impulsively out of frustration or anger. Consequently, children of emotionally intelligent parents are more likely to learn healthy emotional regulation skills themselves.

4. Positive Parenting Practices

Parental emotional intelligence is linked to the use of positive parenting practices. Emotionally intelligent parents are less likely to resort to punitive discipline methods and are more inclined to use positive discipline strategies that promote children's emotional development and self-esteem. They also tend to engage in more effective problem-solving with their children, teaching them valuable life skills.

5. Children's Emotional Development

Parents play a significant role in shaping their children's emotional development. Studies have indicated that emotionally intelligent parents affect a child’s mental health and are better at helping their children identify and express emotions in a healthy manner. This emotional coaching positively impacts their emotional development and emotional fitness, leading to improved interpersonal relationships and social competence.

6. Academic Achievement

Emotional intelligence in parents has also been associated with better academic outcomes in children. A study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology found that emotionally smart parents predicted higher academic achievement in children, even when controlling for other factors like socioeconomic status.

7. Reduced Parental Stress

Here's the clincher! Emotional intelligence can act as a buffer against stress. Emotionally intelligent parents are better at managing stress and coping with the challenges of parenting effectively. As a result, they experience reduced parental stress, leading to a more positive and nurturing parenting environment.

Overall, research highlights the importance of emotional intelligence in parenting. Developing emotional intelligence can lead to improved parent-child relationships, better emotional regulation in both parents and children, positive parenting practices, and enhanced child development outcomes. As a result, enhancing your emotional well-being can have far-reaching benefits for both parents and their children.

Related reading: "3 Things Emotional Intelligent Parents Do."

Mother and daughter on a merry-go-round having fun.

Why Is Emotional Intelligence Important as a Parent?

Research shows that emotional intelligence is a key ingredient in all successful parenting. Emotional intelligence, or EQ, refers to the ability to understand and manage your own emotions and those of the people around you. Therefore, having EQ competence empowers us to provide a healthy model for our children, which is one of the most vital elements of being an effective parent.

Positive parental behaviors begin with a parent’s ability to be self-aware and self-regulate. When parenting with emotional intelligence, we are responsive and attentive to our children. We know our limits and take time to calm ourselves before reacting. Parents are more likely to keep their values and long-term goals for their children and families in focus. And when encountering difficulties, we also have greater resiliency to bounce back. And isn't resiliency what's lacking when we feel burned out?

Not only does it make us better parents, but greater emotional intelligence also fosters emotional fitness in our children.

Our kids need us to be present with their emotions, mirror and empathize with what they are feeling, and then teach them how to process and express their emotions productively. Through this process, children learn self-control and healthy self-expression. No way we can support this emotional development if we don't even know how to ourselves.

Emotional competencies allow us to navigate the emotional terrain of ourselves and our children with confidence.

Self-Care Is the Foundation of All Emotionally Intelligent Parenting

Yes, parenting can be stressful and challenging—it's probably the most complex job there is! That's why self-care for parents is essential.

If we don't care for ourselves, we'll be too full of our own stresses, responsibilities, worries, and turbulent emotions to be present to our children. We'll want to escape from what appears to be too much.

One of the primary reasons that parents get overwhelmed or are impatient with their kids is because their own needs are competing with their children's unmet needs. Trust me, I remember feeling so stressed at times that I secretly hoped my children didn't need me so I could get a break. Does that make me a bad mom? Nope! We're human and have needs, too.

But it does mean that it's our responsibility to get our needs met. Then, we're more likely to be patient, less burned out, and enjoy our children far more.

Patience is garnered by feeling at ease within ourselves.

When we have taken care of ourselves, we feel more loving. And self-love is a by-product of self-CARE.

When we take care of ourselves, we are more positive, creative, and responsive. With our own needs met, we can give our children what they need throughout the day and balance priorities throughout the week.

Related reading: "Why Selfie Care Is Vital for Parents!"

Emotionally intelligent family doing pottery together and laughing.

4 Actions to Relieve (and Prevent) Parental Burnout

Now, if you're feeling burned out, it's easy to think that learning a new skill is impossible and that you don't have what it takes. But small and consistent steps are all you need to take. One breath at a time.

Ready to get started!?

Here are effective ways to promote higher EQ. Learn these skills to stay sane and turn that burnout on its head! You'll be halfway home to building a happy and loving family!

Raise Your Emotional Awareness

We cannot change anything without awareness.

Therefore, the first step is gaining self-awareness: observing, recognizing, and identifying what is happening in your mind, body, and emotions.

To raise your emotional awareness, you need to pay attention to your internal terrain. Specifically, your emotions.

Emotional awareness is a vital stepping-stone for parents to build greater emotional intelligence. To cultivate it, you’ll need to consciously recognize and understand your emotions, acknowledge your triggers, and understand how your feelings impact your state of being and how they might influence your parenting.

By practicing self-reflection, you can build greater self-awareness, allowing you to respond more effectively to your own as well as your child’s feelings and emotional needs.

ACTION STEP: Check in with your emotions throughout the day. Ask: “What am I feeling?” several times a day. Then trace the feeling back to what has invoked it.

Yes! I want to increase self-awareness.

Practice Self-Regulation

The next step is learning to self-regulate yourself so that you can respond instead of reacting. Managing and controlling emotions is key, especially in parenting.

A lack of self-care is the number one reason I find that parents lose their cool. So, the best advice even ahead of building greater emotional intelligence skills is this: TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF!  Then, learn the emotional intelligence skills that may be missing from your toolbelt.

Once you’ve gained awareness, try the following exercises to self-soothe and regulate your emotions.

ACTION STEP: Practice self-regulation by noticing when your feelings are growing intense and taking action to self-calm. Pick one of the following.

Sensory Grounding Technique: Take a break and immerse yourself in being present. Engaging your senses can help redirect focus away from intense or overwhelming emotions. This 5-4-3-2-1 grounding exercise will slow your feelings by engaging your cognitive mind and can be done anywhere!

Name things in your environment in this order:

  • FIVE things you SEE
  • FOUR things you can TOUCH
  • THREE things you can HEAR
  • TWO things you can SMELL
  • ONE thing you can TASTE

This technique brings attention to the present moment, helping detach, ground, and regain control.

Deep Breathing: When parents feel overwhelmed or stressed, taking a few moments to engage in deep, intentional breathing can have a calming effect. Deep breathing—inhaling slowly through the nose and exhaling through the mouth—can activate the body's relaxation response.

Yawn: Here’s something a parent can always do—yawn! Yawning is what the body does when it prepares for rest and sleep, so it signals the brain we are safe, which engages the soothing system. By yawning five or six times consecutively (or more), you’ll notice an immediate release.

Related reading: "Inner Peace Requires You to Be Present with Self-Compassion."

Keep Motivation Well Greased in Parenting

Motivation is an EQ component. Knowing how to channel emotions into meaningful intentions and goals is critical, especially during tough interactions with our children or when we're feeling burnout.

And there are times when parenting is so challenging that we can lose touch with our inner peace. We’re not at all feeling like adulting. Movement moves energy. So even if you take a walk around the block, you'll feel a little better.

ACTION STEP: When you are frustrated or upset with your child, a great motivational technique is to call to mind THREE things you LOVE about your CHILD. Find some happy memories to release feel-good chemicals.

The simple act of connecting with a pleasant memory or your love will quickly shift your emotions, and you will begin to return to your heart.

Empathetic parenting allows children to feel heard and comforted.

Learn to Empathize as a Parent 

Empathy is one of my favorite emotional intelligent skills and it works wonders with children. It’s like greasing an annoying, squeaky door. Sometimes our children’s behavior sounds like that squeak, and other times fingernails screeching over a chalkboard! In these moments, we’re not feeling very empathetic, are we?

In this case, turn empathy to yourself. Have compassion for your own parenting challenges and give a little love to yourself. Maybe you’re short on sleep because you were up through the night with a sick baby or toddler; perhaps you have been working with your teen on a science project and you’ve skipped exercise. Or maybe you just need a break.

When we care for ourselves, a natural side effect is an immediate desire to give to others. When we love ourselves, we want to turn that love to others. If your tank is empty, fill it up. And give yourself some empathy.

Empathy helps our children feel heard, seen, and valued. It is worth the effort to learn.

Deep Dive:How to Teach Empathy to Children and Create Understanding.”


Be kind to yourself and take extreme care while flexing your emotional muscles to grow in emotional intelligence.

Each day is an opportunity to practice self-awareness, emotional modulation, and empathy. Focus on one area at a time; every time you learn a new skill, it will build confidence in other areas as well. The most important thing as a parent is to stay encouraged!

So be gentle with yourself. If necessary, take baby steps. You got this!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the characteristics of an emotionally intelligent family?

An emotionally healthy and emotionally intelligent family has a calm, light-hearted, and fun atmosphere. Parents are loving and responsive, not reactive. Communication is open and diverse topics are discussed. Each family member is valued and has a voice; everyone is respected. Conflicts are resolved with win-win solutions.

Parents model self-care, respect, and unconditional love. However, parents also show their human imperfections and quickly apologize when appropriate. It's okay to make mistakes; they are a part of learning. Everyone feels comfortable asking for help, and a growth mindset permeates the environment.

Everyone contributes to the home and necessary household chores with age-appropriate tasks. For instance, a toddler puts their toys away, a preschooler dusts the living room furniture while an older child vacuums. And a teen mows the lawn, does errands, and occasionally babysits. It's a family that is supportive and responsive to the needs, preferences, goals, and desires of everyone.

My Parenting Blog is called Permission to Be Imperfect for a reason. Not only are we imperfect, but we often need help. Heartmanity's mission is to support parents.

So if you're ready to develop higher EQ, get our Emotional Intelligence online course to support your journey.

Yes, teach me emotional intelligence!

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Jennifer A. Williams / Parent CoachJennifer A. Williams / Parent Coach
Jennifer is the Heartmanity Founder and a parent coach and behavioral consultant with two decades of experience. She is a Parent Instructor and Instructor Trainer for the International Network of Children and Families and author of several parenting courses, including How to Bully-Proof Your Child and Hacking the Teen Brain. Jennifer is happily married and a mother to 3 fantastic grown children.

Posted in Perfectly Imperfect Parenting

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