Managing Exhaustion in Children and Teens The Parental Intelligence Way

Exhaustion is a common problem parents face in kids of all ages. The Parental Intelligence Way helps busy parents reach solutions collaborating with their kids.

How do you define Exhaustion?

Exhaustion is defined as extreme mental of physical fatigue, a form of depletion of resources. It results from being drained of energy or vitality; a weariness and fatigue that occurs when kids are stressed.

What are the recommended hours of sleep at different ages?

Preschoolers-3-5 yrs  10-13 hours

School aged children 6-13 years  9-11 hours

Teens 14-17 years  8-10 hours

 Babies, children and adolescents need significantly more sleep than adults to support their rapid mental and physical development. Children can learn from their parents a positive view that sleep is for needed rest of their bodies, so they don’t view bedtimes as restrictions or punishments, but gain an understanding appropriate to their age about why sleep  is a good thing.

When do kids whose parents have marital problems get exhausted?

Kids listening to parents argue at night often suffer from increased anxiety and decreased sleep. Even if the fighting occurs when the kids are asleep, they will awake to the tense sounds of their parents’ voices even if they aren’t yelling and imagine the worst so that worries and fears keep them awake. If the kids peek into their parents bedrooms and listen they may feel their parents are out of control which undermines feelings of safety and security. In the morning when the kids are exhausted and don’t get to do what’s needed promptly their parents may be critical not realizing how they have impacted their kids.

Some parents don’t argue but use silent treatment which also affects kids and keeps them up at night worrying. Sleep restlessness is common

Busy parents need to ask and listen to their kids fears about their marital state especially responding to questions about separation, divorce, and the big question, “who will take care of me?” Kids need to know their questions are welcomed and can be answered briefly but clearly.

Can exhaustion be a sign of depression and burnout in kids?

Without a doubt. Kids who are pressed to achieve in this competitive world are often pushed to be productive at high levels as if that will make them smarter and more capable of tolerating demands when older to be ambitious. Pre-COVID this was common and not well understood because the US did not rank high in measures of student achievement and learning.

Countries that focused more on respect for teachers, finding out the interests of kids, and learning for its own sake rather than grades and a long resume were less exhausted and achieved more in the long run.

The societal idea common in the US that there is something more honorable and even moralistic in achievement often leads to burn out rather than other kinds of ideals that lead to high achievement without exhaustion such as applauding kids for their rigor, persistence, toleration of frustration, learning from mistakes, and exploring their own interests.

Lethargy and excessive tiredness are often the complements of loss of enthusiasm and tense nervous energy. Parents need to be aware of the danger of depleting limited energy resources if they overvalue the supremacy of achievement as if it indicates moral superiority or is even  heroic. The result is burn-out pride, not learning.

If depression is the result parents will identify several factors:

insomnia nearly every day,

diminished interest or pleasure in activities

fatigue and loss of energy

and a disturbance of mood.

Illustration of using

The Parental Intelligence Way

The Overscheduled Exhausted Young Child

8 year old Lidia

Lidia’s parents see their daughter is overtired most of the time and becoming a perfectionist. Worried, they have a dialogue with her that helps them understand what is actually on her mind by using The Parental Intelligence Way which means nonjudgmentally exploring with their child what is causing her exhaustion.

Step One: Stepping Back

Lidia’s parents are bewildered by their daughters exhaustion and stepping back or pausing to really face what they’re seeing, they decide they need to be proactive.

Step 2: Self-Reflecting

The parents realize since she was a toddler they’ve emphasized giving her every educational toy imaginable in a way they didn’t have when they were growing up. But they begin to question if she is really having fun.

Step Three: Understanding Your Child’s Mind

Dad: “Let’s talk about over-scheduling Lidia. Mommy and I have been wondering what’s it like for you?

Lidia: “I like all I do and do it well. Why should things change? I promise to get up on time and get myself dressed. I like being independent.

Mommy: “I understand you like being independent and you are but tells more what it’s like when you wake up.”

Lidia: “I set two alarms but the second one just rings and rings. My calves ache from ballet. My neck hurts from gymnastics. But I want to be an Olympic star someday. Wouldn’t that please you both?”

Dad: An Olympic Star? I can imagine it but Olympiads usually focus on one sport. AND what’s this about pleasing us?”

Lidia: “I know you and Mommy take pleasure in what I do and say ‘Just do your best.” But don’t you really mean deep down, “Be the best?”

Mother and Father: “NO!

Mommy: “I don’t love you because of what you do. I love you always no matter what you choose. You mistook our enthusiasm for something more than we intended. You have our approval no matter what. Please don’t think we are pressuring you to be perfect!

Lidia: “But I want to be perfect. Perfect is perfect. Though sometimes I think I eat too many carbs and will get fat.”

Lidia’s parents begin to wonder if this could be the beginning of a potential eating disorder.

Dad: “What about hanging out with girls. You’ve mentioned that.”

Lidia: “I feel left out when kids fool around at recess. I don’t know how to relax.”

Step Four:Understanding Your Child’s Development

Both parents realize Lidia’s development is on track except for her socialization. She isn’t invited to sleep overs which upsets her and actually doesn’t have time to just hang out.

Step 5: Problem Solving

Dad: “I’m sorry sweetheart you’ve kept so many worries to yourself. Where should we begin so you don’t have to feel so perfect?”

Lidia: “Could I try to be on the travel team for lacrosse and travel which would be so exciting.”

Mother: “Great idea. Can you put the Olympiad idea on hold and just enjoy it? Being part of a team is really fun.”

They plan on sending Lidia to a summer lacrosse camp to try it out and see if it stays her first choice.


Of course, this is a pre-Covid situation. But during lockdown, parents are still facing overscheduling for some kids. They go to school online and do their homework, then go online for many activities such as karate, gymnastics, music lessons, enforced time reading every day, and don’t take advantage of the opportunity lockdown presents for exploration, discovery, and free play in more spontaneous ways that increase learning in less structured, more playful ways.

The same problem exists that learning isn’t viewed as pleasurable and for its own sake. Kids and their parents are still measuring achievement levels and perfectionism knowing that future college and ambitions exist with or without the COVID restrictions.

So once again, it will benefit parents and kids to dialogue about how they are using their time, what their opinions are about their interests and what they want to learn, and how to have fun doing it.