Allowing Children to Have a Mental Health Day
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Most parents have heard this from their children at one point or another: “I don't want to go to school today – please, can I just stay home?” Often, it is the last thing a parent wants to hear when they are rushing around in the morning, trying to get both themselves and their family ready for the day on a tight schedule. 

In some cases, parents are quick to tell their children no and order them to hurry up and get ready before they are late. But before doing this, it is important to ask the child why they don't want to go to school. Their answer may surprise you. 

As adults, we all know what it means to need to take a mental health day from time to time. But could children need the same thing too? 

Understanding What a Mental Health Day Really Is 

Ultimately, it is up to a parent to decide whether or not their child is really in need of a mental health day. Figuring this out involves trying to get to the bottom of why they are really asking for a day off. There are certain things that may qualify for a day off but aren't equivalent to a mental health day. One example is if the child is legitimately sick and needs to stay home to rest and avoid spreading their illness to other children. 

However, a sick day is different than a mental health day. A mental health day is reserved for a student who is feeling drained and emotionally exhausted from certain upsetting events at school or even just the constant business of everyday life. Perhaps they are simply too overwhelmed to put forth their best effort and need some time to decompartmentalize. A mental health day is intended to be an opportunity for them to get some space and have some alone time so they can process their emotions and put their best foot forward when they return to school. It is also a chance for them to become energized and rejuvenated.

Even just one mental health day when a child needs it the most can make a huge difference not only in their overall mood but the quality of their performance at school. The key is to listen to your child and recognize the signs when they may truly need one. 

Understanding What a Mental Health Day Is Not 

There are also reasons that a child may request a mental health day for reasons that don't equivalate to needing one. For example, in the case of younger children, the reasoning they give could be:

  • They want to stay home and play or relax
  • They don't want to be away from their mother
  • They don't want to share with other kids

Though these might not be reasons that a child may need a mental health day, they are, of course, all reasons that should be taken extremely seriously by parents. Many children struggle with separation anxiety from their parents, which can make going to school an extremely taxing experience for them. 

Rather than keeping the child home from school altogether due to these sorts of reasons, it is often better to allow them to work with a therapist to help get to the root of how they are feeling and to help get them more comfortable at school. 

When it comes to older children, particularly teenagers, their reasons for asking to stay home could be quite different. Some reasons that do not constitute a mental health day include: 

  • Wanting to skip class 
  • Wanting to sleep in longer 
  • Needing more time to complete a project they put off
  • Having procrastinated on studying for a test and needing an extra day to prepare
  • Simply wanting to stay home and not have to worry about school that day

While these reasons might seem to your teenager legitimate enough reasons to stay home from school, giving in to them, especially on a consistent basis, might keep them from learning valuable lessons in responsibility. 

Questions for Your Child About Why They Think They Need a Mental Health Day

Instead of simply dismissing your child's request to stay home from school, consider asking them the following questions to get a better understanding of what they are thinking or feeling: 

  • Are you feeling anxious or stressed?
  • Are you afraid to go to school?
  • Do you feel overwhelmed right now? 
  • Is there something going on at school or home that is contributing to your stress?
  • Is there something that I can do to help you feel better? 
  • Are you worried about grades or meeting certain deadlines? 
  • Is there someone at school that is making things difficult for you? 

At the end of the day, it is up to you as the parent to make the final call. 

As adults, we have all probably had one of those days when we say to ourselves, “I need a mental health day." A mental health day is a day to simply take some time to yourself, rest and recharge so you can put your best foot forward when you return to work. But could children need the same sort of break from school? In some cases, yes. If a child asks to stay home from school, it is important to ask them why rather than simply dismissing them. For mental health or recovery support, call The Ho Tai Way at (714) 581-3974 today. We can answer any questions you may have.