With the trending tweet by the woman who took a Mental Health Day and how her CEO responded, I feel compelled to stand up on my tiny soap box rallying for a Mental Health Day for the young people in our lives. I haven’t written anything on here in the longest time and perhaps only 2 people will read it. But, if it can impact those 2 well then, heck yes, I am glad I wrote it.
Too many children walk around with pain, anger and hurt inside. I am not professing to have any particular answers on how to heal the hearts of children – but, I do have one suggestion for how we try to tune in to the health of our kids.
Since my oldest was in preschool, I instituted a family rule that still continues nearly 21 years later – everyone, no matter how old or how young, gets at least 1 Mental Health Day per school year.
Some Moms thoughts I was too lenient or crazy for wanting my kids home when they could be out of my hair safely in school. Others called me a Cool Mom, accusing me of trying too hard to ‘get my kids to like me’. But, truly what I was doing in my mind, was teaching my children the value in taking care of themselves.
Taking a day for yourself even as young as 4 or 5, with the caveat that they can select just one day per semester, got rid of the need to stay home from the feigned stomach ache or the crying fit over going to school (although I never totally got rid of this…). Instead, my children would save up until they really felt they needed that day to spend with me, spend doing something they wanted with alone time away from siblings, school pressures, social pressures, etc.
There have been moments in the middle school years or especially in high school, when my children have needed more than 1 mental health day and I’ve provided them with what they’ve needed. Bad days, sad days, days you just can’t face – don’t just happen to adults. If anything, the middle school or teenage years are hard. Damn hard. And, sometimes what you require is a freaking break.
What I did not do on Mental Health Days was allow my kids to wallow. No vegging in front of the tv all day. No sitting in pajamas or eating ice cream out of the container (usually). They could always sleep a little bit late, but then it was outside. Sometimes to a nice lunch. Shopping, a movie day, craft project together or trip downtown. I found that on these special days together they opened up, shared what was in their heart. Remembered to take a moment and enjoy life while knowing their friends were sitting in class. Once Snapchat rolled around, trying to make their friends jealous of Mental Health Day was immediately outlawed as well.
So often when my kids come home from school they plop down and plug in. Or, they go up to their rooms for some down time. These opportunities to talk just don’t present themselves in the daily hustle and bustle of life and sometimes, stress or anxiety can go missed or stay hidden inside.
During one of my daughter’s middle school years, I was driving to her Mental Health Day outing and she just randomly burst into tears. It was so bad we had to pull over to the side of the road. She was holding on to some serious social stuff at school and in that moment it just needed to come out. She literally sobbed her way through some stories. When it was over, she looked so relieved to let that pain go and I was so grateful for the opportunity to present itself.
We’ve had times I am not ashamed to say, my children have required more than just a Mental Health Day to deal. Some problems required professional or educational help, others just time and patience. But, these days have become valuable barometers for me to check in with my kids one-to-one.
Mental Health Days are not a joke. They’re above truancy or cutting school or Ditch Days (although my kids like to lovingly refer to them as that because they know it annoys me). Even healthy, well-adjusted kids need time to rebalance themselves, sleep, breathe, laugh, sometimes cry and most importantly, just be. It’s our jobs to give them the time and space to do so.