Should I Let My Kid Take A Mental Health Day?
Fact-checked by HeHe Stewart, Doula and birthing expert. HeHe is the founder of a Maternity Concierge, Doula and Birthing Service in the Boston area.
“They didn’t go to school last Thursday. We took a mental health day,” she said to me. “Like, you just stayed home and did nothing as a family?” I asked.
“Yeah, exactly,” she responded, as casual as if I had asked how her day was.
This particular mom in my village is the mother of three kids which includes a set of twins. She is also a very successful woman in a high-power position at a very well-known company in the healthcare world. I am constantly blown away at how calm she always appears and how nothing her children do ever seem to push her over the edge. It was in this moment that I realized her secret. She values mental health. In her family, in her kids, in herself—it’s just important to her.
As a child, school never held us back from going on family vacations. My parents firmly believed that traveling was educational and honestly, they could not have been more spot on. Matter of fact, this in itself, was self-care as a family. But, this idea that everyone plays hooky together and just hangs at home, was a brand new concept. I loved it.
As adults, we need self-care. We carry so much weight from the world, from other humans, from the news and our political climate, and the heaviest of all, from ourselves. Unfortunately, our kids are not immune to this. They may carry this weight differently, but nonetheless, they carry it. Just as you and I need days to veg-out and spend the day baking, kids also need days to spend playing in the yard and reading on the couch.
Kids may not always show it, but you might be surprised at what's causing them stress.
The Experts Weigh In: Should Kids Get Mental Health Days?
I asked Balanced Lifestyle Coach Sarah Bivens about mental health days for kids and she was on-board. Sarah says, “I’m all for kids having mental health days. I actually got them as a kid: my mom would let me take one day off of school each quarter (if I was all caught up with my work and there were no major exams) from elementary to high school. We even called them ‘mental health days’. I think it’s important because it begins the practice and conversation around self-care at a young age, especially in a culture where we tend to burn ourselves out. I believe it promotes a healthy balance of being productive as well as taking care of what’s important.”
Ah, burnout. Yes, we’ve all experienced burnout at one point or another. The secret here is that it’s totally avoidable. By being mindful of our actions, our limits, and our personal obligations (including what we say yes to, how much we give, and who we dedicate time to), we can begin to bring focus back to checking in with ourselves… or maybe you were never taught how in the first place.
Parenting Communication Specialist Amanda Houle is also pro-mental health days for kids. She says, “Children should be allowed to get mental health days as long as they are not trying to escape everyday life.They should be allowed to take a mental health day and reset, which teaches them the skills of how to take care of their mental health needs and honor their emotions.”
Teaching Self Care
Teaching your child that self-care practices are a priority and incorporating mindfulness early on in your child’s life will only build their tool box. Allowing them a “mental health day” will allow them to see the benefits of balance and how to execute said “balance.” Relaxing on the couch, listening to stories of fairies and robots, and stealing sweet snuggles in the middle of the week isn’t the worst thing to squeeze into your calendar unexpectedly.
So many people today are driven by results, hard numbers, and data. With this, our mindset and emotional well-being take a beating. Often times, we believe the lie that we simply do not have enough time to meditate, go to that yoga class or sit in silence for 20 minutes while your child naps. If we want to stop this cycle and start over with a better tomorrow, it starts with our tiniest of humans.
Remember, there are always eye lurking. What they see, they do. Make sure you’re pouring back into your cup so you teach them that taking care of yourself is sexy (when they’re older, of course!).