Parental Compassion Fatigue & Your Mental Health: Helping Needn’t Hurt During the Pandemic

In the last three months, COVID-19 has taken over the reins of our daily lives. We have been forced to quickly adjust to this “new normal,” which has had significant impact on our wellbeing, causing tremendous stress for many. This stress may be caused by several factors including constant worry about staying healthy and safe, job security, financial hardship, and the state of our economy, to name a few. However, for many parents, the stress they have experienced is even more complex, as many have had to navigate working a job without childcare options and/or facilitating their children’s online virtual education.

In a new survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, from March to May 2020, results show that COVID-19-related parental stress is extremely high, more than 7 in 10 parents see managing distance/online learning for their children as a significant source of stress. This can be further compounded if you have a child or children with learning differences, significant mental health needs, or other special needs. Many parents are now reporting that they are feeling burned out.

A mother of two boys, age 6 and 14, states “I am not finding any joy in parenting right now. Trying to work from home while also helping my kids stay focused at school is too much and I feel resentful a lot of the time. I am just so burned out.”

This parent is far from alone. At Embark Behavioral Health, we are hearing from parents across the nation that they are feeling overly encumbered by these events. We know this stress is both layered and complicated and we are seeing that many parents are experiencing what is called Parental Compassion Fatigue.

What is Parental Compassion Fatigue?

According to Brenda McCreight, therapist and author, “Parental compassion fatigue is physical, emotional and spiritual fatigue that takes over a parent and causes decline in his or her ability to experience joy at home or to feel and care for her child and herself.”

The term compassion fatigue is usually used in reference to frontline workers such as medical professionals, protective service workers (police and EMTs), etc. Though there are differences in the two, many of the symptoms are the same. Some of the symptoms may include cynicism, helplessness, emotional overeating, changes in sleep, substance abuse, isolating oneself from others and apathy.

Professional Quality of Life Scale (PROQOL) Compassion Satisfaction & Compassion Fatigue (PROQOL) Version 5 (2009)

If these common symptoms resonate with you, yet you are still on the fence on whether you struggle with parental compassion fatigue, we challenge you to take the following self-assessment. Please note that this assessment is not a prescription, nor are there right or wrong answers. The purpose of this assessment is to measure whether your empathy cup is half full or empty.

Compassion Fatigue
Parental Compassion Fatigue & Your Mental Health: Helping Needn’t Hurt During the Pandemic 3

So, What Could Help You Manage These Feelings of Compassion Fatigue?

According to, here are some ways to help:

  • Plan time to be alone (even 5 minutes can be a lifesaver).
  • Develop a personal relaxation method.
  • Claim a place that belongs to you alone for personal time.
  • Dress comfortably in clothes you like.
  • Take a bubble bath.
  • Hire a babysitter for an hour per evening.
  • Make and keep a regular date with a significant other or friend.
  • Go for a drive, roll down the windows, and crank up the radio.
  • Reduce all sensory input (dim lights, turn off televisions, radios, and phone).
  • Read a book.
  • Light some candles.
  • Order dinner to be delivered.
  • Get a massage.
  • Plan and get enough sleep.
  • Eliminate unnecessary activities in life.
  • Eat regular and healthy meals.
  • Dance, walk, run, swim, play sports, or partake in other physical activities that are enjoyable.
  • Try something fun and new.
  • Write or call a friend.
  • Give yourself affirmations/praise (you are worth it)!
  • Find things that make you laugh and enjoy them.
  • Pray or meditate.
  • Let something go for a day (The world won’t stop spinning if the beds are left unmade).
Taking care of yourself doesn't mean "me first," it means "me too."
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As we continue to adapt to this “new normal,” know that you are not alone. We understand how hard this adjustment has been for all members of your family, especially you! Embark Behavioral Health would love to help by offering our community-based or virtual family coaching services.

If you are interested in learning more about Embark Behavioral Health, please feel free to contact us at 1-855-264-8712. We are here to help!

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Embark Behavioral Health

Embark Behavioral Health

Embark Behavioral Health is a leading network of outpatient centers and residential programs offering premier mental health treatment for preteens, teens, and young adults. Dedicated to its big mission of reversing the trends of teen and young adult anxiety, depression, and suicide by 2028, Embark offers a robust continuum of care with different levels of service and programming; has a deep legacy of over 25 years serving youths; works with families to adjust treatment in real time to improve results; treats the entire family using an evidence-supported approach; and offers the highest levels of quality care and safety standards. For more information about Embark or its treatment programs, including virtual services, intensive outpatient programs (IOPs), therapeutic day treatment programs, also known as partial hospitalization programs (PHPs), residential treatment, and outdoor therapy, visit