Parental loneliness is soaring according to research, here are 5 expert tips on how to deal with it (#3 is more important than you think)

It's a part of parenthood that definitely needs to be spoken about

Lonely mother on the beach with her child
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A new survey found soaring numbers of parents report feeling isolated and lonely - this is resulting in burnout from the demands placed on them, with many feeling unsupported to carry out their parental duties.

While some will wonder how to deal with lack of sleep as a parent, others might ponder how to play with a newborn - this might not seem possible, but there are plenty of ways to begin those essential interactions. As babies get older and turn into toddlers, the types of play your kids needs to support their development changes. In considering what they need to support their children physically and emotionally, not many expect the fact there's a high chance of experiencing crushing loneliness as a parent.

BACP registered counsellor and parenting expert Jenny Warwick, works closely with parents and families, some of whom experience loneliness. She told us "As you're trying to juggle conflicting schedules and priorities, you might find your friendships are strained and your social interactions get less. Your relationship with your partner can also change as you navigate the challenges of parenting through various ages and stages."

Jenny added "Where you might have once agreed on boundaries and communication, this can shift, and differences in parenting styles become more apparent, contributing to feelings of isolation. Relationships with extended family members may change during this period, with some relatives becoming more involved while others may drift away, impacting your parental support network."

A study carried out by The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in the US, found up to 66% of parents felt the demands of parenthood sometimes or frequently caused feelings of isolation and loneliness. Approximately 62% reported feeling burnout from parental responsibilities, while nearly 38% felt they had nobody to support them in their role as parent. Finally, a huge 79% suggested they'd value having contact with other parents outside of their homes.

5 expert tips on coping with loneliness

Jenny Warwick, along with fellow BACP registered counsellor and international parenting expert, L. J Jones, offered their advice on how to cope with loneliness as a parent. 

  1. Know that you are not alone. Although this might feel strange when you actually feel lonely, the thought of others sharing your feelings can be of some comfort. Jenny said "Parenting is a challenging and isolating experience. It's something we need to get better at talking about."
  2. Find your support networks. This can feel daunting, we totally understand that - but reaching out can be the first step to feeling less isolated, even if it feels frightening. Jenny suggests "Get active in building supportive relationships with other parents, family members and community resources. These might be face to face or via online communities, the important part is that it's somewhere you can connect and share common experiences with other parents.
  3. Remember who you were before you were a parent. Your body might have changed, and you might not like the things you used to, but the sense of 'you' is still in there. "Maintaining a sense of identity and purpose beyond parenthood is crucial, whether through your career, volunteer work or other areas of personal interest," are Jenny's thoughts.
  4. Value your time by setting boundaries. This includes making time for hobbies and interests you enjoy. Jenny suggests "Don't feel you have to work this out on your own. If you're struggling, seek professional help. Counselling or parent support groups can help address your feelings of loneliness"
  5. Prioritise emotional wellness. L. J shares "Speak to a trusted friend, or even a professional, and by ensure self-care is weaved into hectic schedules. Parents are usually so consumed with overseeing the home and children’s needs, that when loneliness is thrown into the mix, self-care becomes the least priority when in fact it ought to be a priority. Even if only for 30 minutes per week, this restores a sense of self whilst tackling the horrible emotion that is loneliness."

Discussing the loneliness study, L. J added insight, telling us "These findings echo what is often shared in therapy sessions, and from a variation of parental demographics – such as single parents and those who have spouses who work away from home, and parents who are lonely within their marriage and feel they oversee the social, emotional, practical and even financial tasks alone. The latter can be particularly challenging as this adds contempt and disappointment into the mix of tending to daily tasks and what feels like never-ending cycles of caring for the children. Once marital issues become present, the loneliness often intensifies."

L. J also shares that when she sees new parents as part of her therapy role, loneliness is a common occurrence. She said "This shows up differently for new mothers and new fathers. Whilst mothers are often overwhelmed with their new role and responsibilities and an often-enormous surge of maternal protectiveness (and sometimes anxiety) arises, fathers often find themselves feeling lonely as they have less time to spend with their partner who might be breast-feeding and navigating motherhood in a more hands-on way."

The therapist concluded "Men often share feelings of uselessness attached to loneliness which in turn impacts their sense of a role within the home and relationship. If this resonates, it’s important you communicate your feelings with one another, and speak to trusted others – such as friends and registered professionals."

Alongside loneliness, mums often report not being 'enough,' and an expert shares how to embrace and survive these feelings. Regretting motherhood might feel shameful to admit, but it's very common - our expert gives guidance on how to deal with these thoughts. 'Mumfluencers' who glamourise motherhood can also make mothers feel inadequate, but their lives might not always be what they seem.

BACP counsellor and parenting expert Jenny Warwick
Jenny Warwick

Jenny Warwick is a BACP registered counsellor and parenting expert. She is an online counsellor specialising in helping parents and carers manage the distinct challenges of their child's tween and teenage years. Her approach involves providing personalised support to help individuals balance their work, home, and family responsibilities, promote emotional health, and develop stronger connections with their children.

L. J. Jones
L. J Jones

L.J Jones is a BACP registered counsellor and international parenting expert who provides online counselling sessions and parenting courses. She specialises in creating harmony for families as they nurture their children and adolescents through the developmental stages. Her approach is based upon a decade of experience working with families both in schools and private practice in times of stress, distress, and crisis. L.J promotes emotional wellness for families through educating parents on their children’s and teen’s intricate needs and by providing strategies to facilitate calm, growth, positivity and respect within the home.

Lucy Wigley
Parenting writer - contributing

Lucy is a mum-of-two, multi-award nominated writer and blogger with six years’ of experience writing about parenting, family life, and TV. Lucy has contributed content to PopSugar and In the last three years, she has transformed her passion for streaming countless hours of television into specialising in entertainment writing. There is now nothing she loves more than watching the best shows on television and sharing why you - and your kids - should watch them.