Work, life and kids: The mental health demands on working parents
They are working harder than ever before, they barely have time to focus on their own wellbeing, their bosses don’t want their focus to be anywhere other than at work.
And yet, parents still need to be parents, and somehow, amid all those pressures do the best for their children while navigating the pressures of social media and the myth that somehow a ‘work life balance’ is possible.
This was the topic of the British Business Group Dubai and Northern Emirates (BBG)’s recent ‘Business Briefing’ which played host to a live recording of a bonus episode of our ‘the mentl space’ podcast.
Scott Armstrong, the host of the podcast, started the conversation by pointing to alarming statistics on working hours and burnout, “98% of respondents in the UAE are suffering from at least one symptom of burnout,” he said. He also touched on the perils of social media and its impact on children’s mental health, an increasingly relevant concern for parents juggling their professional and personal lives.
Naomi Williams, Deputy Pastoral, Learning and Teaching at South View School Dubai, discussed the shifting focus in primary schools. She stated, “It’s very much about children being able to self-regulate, being much more self-aware, and being able to manage their thoughts, their feelings, their emotions, and their behaviours.” This shift is largely due to a transition from social to online interactions and the consequent reduction in social cues.
As for strategies to tackle this, Williams highlighted the use of the concept of ‘zones of regulation’ being implemented at her school. This is a tool that helps children recognise their feelings and physical sensations before their behaviours come into play.
Family therapist Joanne Jewell echoed the word ‘anxiety’ as a common concern heard from parents. She emphasised the need for both parents and teachers to understand and learn self-regulation, as children, despite being taught these skills, won’t always have the capacity to consistently self-regulate.
The discussion then moved to the role of leaders and organizations in creating a supportive environment for working parents. Rob Stewart, a business psychologist, said, “Organisations and leaders need to take it seriously.” With the impending shift in demographics and the ensuing war for talent, organizations will need to do whatever they can to attract, keep, and retain talent. He further stated, “If a huge number of people are coming in, and they have children, that is a priority for them. We have to look after them.”
In terms of addressing mental health concerns, Kate Hill, Head of Middle School for Dubai College, spoke about the importance of collaboration between parents and schools. “We do have a lot of events for parents… and our counselling department have regular meetings with parents… So if there’s something specific they want to talk about, we are constantly meeting with parents,” she noted.
The conversation highlighted that working parents and their children are facing unique challenges in this digital age. To navigate these challenges, a combined effort is required from schools, organisations, and parents to promote self-regulation skills, foster open conversations, and create supportive environments for better mental health and work-life balance.