Why Your Kid Needs A Mental Health Day, Too

It is the Monday-iest Tuesday ever. I heard that somewhere before, and it just couldn’t be more true. My flock and I woke up with the need for it to be Friday. Is that even possible? We are just stepping our toes into the beginning of the week, and already I needed a break. We all needed a break.

All three of my kids wanted pizza for breakfast, and you know what, I was too tired to cook, so that’s what they had. Left over pizza. I know, I’m NOT winning "Mother of The Year" over here anytime soon. To make matters worse, we have a freshly stocked pantry and fridge. Maybe I’ll cut up apple slices and throw them on top for good measure. Eh, there’s always tomorrow right?

We sat down for school (we are homeschooling family) and I will not lie to you, it was 3 PM, and we were all in our pj’s. I am a lover of schedules, as I’m sure a lot of mamas are. If I have no schedule, my life slowly crumbles around me. Our normal day starts after breakfast. As I sat there about to start our first lesson, I looked at my kids through my tired, puffy, coffee-needing eyes. Two were wrestling over one of my birch logs, and the other with the sweetest face saying “ I’m ready mama, I’m listening, even if I don’t want to! “ as she is upside down, doing a handstand.

Laughing and shaking my head I was reminded of when I was little and I myself did not want to go to school. There were days my mom would let me stay home if I was out of it, or she could sense I needed a relief. I recall a few times that on those days we would drive to the mall, or the movie store, when Blockbuster was still a thing, and we would just hang out. I don’t necessarily remember all the conversations, or even what problems were clouding my mind that I couldn’t face school. However, I do remember spending time with my mom. The fact that she could sense that about me and gave me that security and freedom, made all the difference in the world. She didn’t need to do that for me, but she did anyway. Those are some of my most favorite days.

I decided to write this day off as a mental health day. I told my kids we were “skipping” school and they looked at me like I was crazy. Instead of school, we went to the park and took a long walk. We watched movies and had hot chocolate. We just enjoyed each other. I had some of the very best conversations with my littles, and it is so amazing what they can grasp at 6, 5, and 3 years old.

As a stay-at-home mom, heck, even a mom in general, there is seemingly so much pressure on our shoulders. If we need breaks as adults, we should allow them for our children too. Here are a few reasons kids need “mental health days” too.

1.       Kids are sensitive and feel stressed out

Much like adults, our children are faced with what appears like more and more pressures. It seems like especially nowadays, we expect so much more from our children. Of course they still need to meet deadlines, study, and complete their work, but sometimes when pressures mount, they need to know they’re not alone, and that life is all about work and no balance.

2.       They are over-scheduled

While I love me a schedule, everyone in our house, including my kids, function increasingly better with less on their plates. I look back and I don’t understand how my mom did it all, running me to all my games and practices. I feel a little more pressure as a homeschooling mama from society to make sure my kids are getting socialized. Clearly, that’s my own doing. We have about 3-4 activities depending on the week at hand, and the weeks we have 4 or more, we are all rushed and cranky. It makes sense, the more your children are involved in, the more outlets they have to feel stressors in. Pick their favorites, and stick with what makes everyone happy.

3.       Peer pressure

Not only are there pressures from school work, but from fellow classmates as well. They may be fighting with their best friend, or feeling the weight from making decisions they aren’t ready to face. Allowing your child the day out of their normal environment, especially if they are feeling down, in turn provides you with a great opportunity to get to know your child better. It gives you a better chance to communicate with them and find out what is going on in their lives. Giving them a freedom day will let them know you do indeed understand what is like to be a teen. Who knows, you may even get more than a one word answer. Fingers crossed.

4.       It will build trust between you and your child

We all know how fickle teenage hormones can be. However, when your child sees you respecting their feelings and needs, they will become more honest with you in return. Whether you're aware of it or not, your child is already taking mental health days on their own. Only in their case, it is in a form of a fake sick day. That’s right, faking sick to get out of school was around long before Ferris Bueller. If you don’t allow your child a mental health day, they will lie to you and take one anyway. Ouch, that hurts me to say, even writing it out! I am not promising a magical fix, or even that your kid will never lie again, I am just saying that when a child feels understood, safe, and heard, they will be more willing to be upfront with you. Communication is key to any and every relationship.

5. It teaches them balance

It is tough as adults to find balance in our life. It seems like it is always about work, or accomplishing goals. When do we find time for "us"? It's a struggle our generation faces every day. Helping your child identify when they may need a day off from the stresses of life will help them grow into a balanced adult who will recognize the signs of overload, and know how to do a little self care. 

Though they have summers off and other holidays to recharge, stressful days don’t always present themselves when it’s convenient for the calendar. I believe we hold our kids to such unattainable levels of performance, that we forget that they are just that: kids. They feel what we feel, and aren’t even capable of determining all of their emotions since they are still growing and changing. On the flip side, if your child is asking for a mental health day every day for weeks on end, there may be a deeper issue going on to look into.

Every child is different, every family is different, and what works for one, will not work for all. If you present this day to your child as a “breather” and not as a way to retreat, you aren’t abusing it, but rather showing your child “I’m with you, I understand, and your health is more important than this task”.

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