Mental Health Days for Kids

Kids need mental health days too.

Imagine a generation that knows when they need to take a break to recharge, and then gives themselves the permission to actually do it. We can raise that generation.

Human beings were not designed to be constantly at the top of our game — and yet work culture in America demands that we are. We work at least 40 hours a week, reward working MORE than that, barely allow for sick days or parental leave, and even expect people to be available to answer work emails after hours. There have been studies done showing how much more efficient and productive people can be when they work fewer days/hours, as well as the benefits of taking mental health days, but few adults actually put that into action. Instead, we burn ourselves out.

Similarly, children were not designed for 40 hour school weeks. To be constantly on your very best behavior, with every action, utterance, and written expression judged according to a behavior chart or grading scale, is not sustainable. We, as parents, have the opportunity to teach this generation of children that it’s okay to take a break from it all. Just think about the impact that could have on the future of the American workplace, let alone our children’s current mental health!

Every once in a while, one of the girls takes a mental health day and stays home from school. Sometimes I suggest it if I see that one of them is struggling, and sometimes they ask. So I call up the school and let them know which child won’t be attending that day, and then we recharge. Some of the ways we like to spend mental health days:

  • Playing — Free play, completely child-directed.
  • Connection — Lunch out together or with a loved one, a date at the coffee shop, baking together. Connecting over food.
  • Movement — usually a walk at the park.

I can already see the question forming in your brain: “But what if they just ask to stay home every single day?” Honestly, if they’re asking to stay home from school every single day in the elementary years, there’s something bigger at play — and you need to get to the bottom of that. Maybe they’re being bullied in the classroom. Maybe they’re struggling academically. Whatever it is, you can support them through that. But children who are healthily engaged at school won’t be asking to stay home every day.

I know that many life circumstances, jobs, and other responsibilities don’t allow for spontaneous mental health days, for you or for your child. I am lucky that mine do, and I hope that someday that can be true for everyone.