7 signs your child is burned out

At a glance

  • Too much stress can lead to kids feeling overloaded, exhausted, and burned out.

  • Having a negative or indifferent attitude can be a sign of burnout.

  • Burnout can keep a child from staying motivated to work on challenges.

Kids can burn out for different reasons. Whether your child is striving to make it through school or just struggling just to keep up with the changes in the world, the signs of burnout can be the same.

These signs can be hard to spot at first. It may take several weeks, months, or even years before you notice a change in your child’s behavior. But knowing the signs of burnout in kids can help you protect your child from becoming exhausted and shutting down.

It’s especially important to be on the lookout for signs of burnout in kids who learn and think differently. They’re working hard to build skills and often face more hurdles and setbacks than their peers. All the hard work and stress can turn into overload and lead to burnout in school. And when it does, it can squash the very motivation that keeps them working to improve.

Here are seven common signs of burnout in kids:

  1. Procrastination: Your child used to be motivated to start schoolwork right away. Now, you have to give several reminders. And your child still complains and stalls.
  2. Apathy: Your child seems to have stopped caring about things. In the past, when you asked, “How did speech therapy go today?” your child would describe the session in detail. Now your child just shrugs and says, “OK, I guess.”
  3. Avoiding situations: Your child loved the first few months of being in a virtual social skills group. Now your child comes up with excuses not to go.
  4. Anxiety or fear: School has always been hard on your child. But the anxiety has become so intense that your child cries each night.
  5. Negativity: Your child’s positive attitude has disappeared. You often hear your child say, “What’s the point?” Activities your child used to like are now viewed as unfun.
  6. Trouble concentrating: Your child can only focus for about 10 minutes before becoming distracted. It used to be for twice as long.
  7. Irritability: Your child seems to be easily annoyed or upset by little things that weren’t a big deal in the past.

Recognizing the signs can help you make changes at home to prevent burnout. Start by asking what kinds of emotions your child has been feeling. Explain what burnout is, and then brainstorm with your child about what might help.

Explore tips for avoiding burnout. And learn more about stress and anxiety in kids who learn and think differently.

Key takeaways

  • The signs of burnout can be hard to notice at first.

  • Kids who learn and think differently often face more hurdles and stress than their peers.

  • Talking about what your child is feeling is a good first step toward reducing burnout.

About the author

About the author

Lexi Walters Wright is the former community manager at Understood. As a writer and editor, she helps parents make more informed choices for their children and for themselves.

Reviewed by

Reviewed by

Bob Cunningham, EdM has been part of Understood since its founding. He’s also been the chief administrator for several independent schools and a school leader in general and special education.