I was in my early 20s when I first heard the term mental health day. I think I called a friend who was supposed to be at work, and she said she was taking a “Mental Health Day.” I kind of laughed, and I asked her what on earth that was. I’m sure I thought it was a made-up day to get out of doing some work. In some ways, I suppose it was, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t valid. Since then, I have found myself taking a few of them. You see this friend unknowingly taught me that it was okay to take a break when I need one. When work is overwhelming, when relationships are struggling, and when I said too many yeses when I should have said no is taking a toll on me, I take a break; a Mental Health Day.
My girl is still young but not too far in the future she will find herself in the daily grind of school, navigating relationships with peers and teachers, and likely commitments to extracurricular activities. And while I will do my best to make sure she is not overloaded with doing all the things before she is mentally ready to tackle them there will come a day when life just seems too much, and she needs a break.
What adults forget or don’t even realize is that kids are dealing with pint-sized versions of adult challenges. They are dealing with the pressures of school all while navigating friendships and extra commitments. But to them, they are massive, and they have not yet learned the coping skills to deal with them.
Signs that your child may need a mental health day.
Because kids don’t have the language to adequately express how they are feeling or that they need a break, it will be up to you to look for signs.
A loss of appetite could be the first sign they are struggling. It’s totally normal for kids to go through spurts of eating everything in sight and barely grazing. What you want to look for is a pattern of not eating. Is their lunch box coming home almost full? Have they skipped breakfast several days in a row? Be on the lookout and trust your instincts.
Dramatic behavior changes are different from being just a little moody. If your usually even-tempered child suddenly turns into a hot mess of emotions, this might be a sign that they need a break. Alternatively, if your typically outgoing vibrant kiddo becomes reclusive and unwilling to socialize with their friends, this could be a huge red flag.
So Should You Allow a Mental Healthy Day for Kids?
I see the question posted in mom groups all the time, “Should I allow my kid to take a mental health day from school?” As a mom and a teacher, I absolutely without a doubt think you should allow your kiddo to take a mental health day from school. Whether they come to you or you start spotting the signs give them a break. I can promise you that there is almost nothing at school more important than taking a much-needed break. Be careful with these days, though. You will want to make sure your child isn’t taking advantage of them or requesting too many. If they start wanting more and more days away from school, this could be a sign that they need a little more than just a day off.
Don’t waste the day on the couch.
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While staying in your jammies and binging on the couch might sound like a good idea; it does little to nothing to change their mood. If you do allow your kiddo to take a day off get out in the world and explore it together. Go ahead and sleep in, take your time getting ready, but then get out of the house and do something. This could be a trip to a nearby city, a walk in the park, or maybe a little retail therapy. Not only will this help lift their spirits, but it will also give you some one-on-one time with your kiddo. Who knows, maybe they will open and tell you what is going on if there is anything.
So to the mamas out there wondering if it is okay to let their child take a day off here and there; the answer is YES. A thousand times YES!
What are your thoughts on mental health days for kids? What would you do with your kiddo on a mental health day? Let us know in the comments.
For more information on children’s mental health click here.