Q. As I sit with a cup of coffee watching the snow fall outside my window, I’m also observing my happy children. When they woke up this morning and I told them school was cancelled because of the snow, they literally jumped for joy. As I experience the joy of a day off from work, I ask myself if from time to time my children would also benefit from a mental health day. I guess my question to you is whether it would be beneficial to give my children a day off from school. On the other hand, would I be giving them the wrong message or compromising their ability to keep up with classwork? When my children have Zoom classes, they often verbalize how much they are stressed. Would a break from Zoom class be necessary as well? I’m also wondering how to navigate a day off so my children can utilize the day to its fullest and recharge.
A, I feel inspired by how astute you are to your children’s needs. I believe that one of the greatest joys is watching our children feel free and joyful. That said, it is important to notice each child’s needs individually. As parents, we aspire to provide our children with a sense of stability and consistency while creating a worry-free and relaxing environment. This helps our children thrive both physically and psychologically. I believe our children crave stability with a sprinkle of joy provided by a sporadic day off from school.
According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, a mental health day is defined as a day when an employee takes off to reduce feelings of stress and renew vitality. Traditionally, this is a term that has been coined for adults, assuming their days apply more mental pressure than a child’s average school day.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, children are expressing more stress and anxiety related to school than ever before. The awareness that children benefit from a day to recharge is becoming a more popular phenomenon. Signs that your child is in need of a day off include feeling anxious, coping with a change at home, and increased irritability. Change in appetite, sleep issues, and body pain can also be an indicator that your child needs a day off. Even children learning remotely can experience “Zoom fatigue” and require a day off from school.
As far as your concern about missing schoolwork, it is important to recognize each child’s nature and academic abilities. If your child does not take advantage of days off and makes up the work missed, go ahead and provide that mental health day. However, if you find that your child wants to take off too many days or does not make up the work missed, think twice before recommending a mental health day. When providing your children with a general sense of consistency and giving them a day off when they need it, you are teaching them to be attuned to their mental health and to balance stability with flexibility.
Activities that will help your children navigate a day off successfully include resting, reading, crafting, and playing with toys. Moreover, spending quality time with a parent or engaging in a special activity such as baking can help your child feel rejuvenated.
Last but not least, try to remember your childhood. As a child, did you ever experience feelings of emotional or physical fatigue or boredom from a monotonous schedule? How did your parents help you manage these feelings? If you have sweet memories of parents who accommodated your feelings while providing consistency, simply copy and paste their actions. Otherwise, consider revising your actions as your children experience school fatigue to provide them with a better tomorrow. Remember, as parents we create impressionable memories that will solidify our children’s level of resilience in the future.