Sometimes Teenagers Need A Mental Health Day Off, Too
By Katie Bingham-Smith
I went to check on my daughter yesterday morning. She was lying on her side staring out the window– she’s been going non-stop since Spring break. Lacrosse started, there have been field trips, parties, and concerts galore.
The day before I noticed she seemed down and said she felt stressed about having practice or a game every day after school. As soon as she gets home, she eats, does homework, showers and it leaves little time for her to unwind. I feel like I’m continually herding my kids around like a bunch of cattle, barking orders about how we need to get on to the next thing.
Taking A Mental Health Day
On top of that, she goes back and forth between my house and her father’s home. That’s an added stress she never asked for. She has to pack clothes and remember her sports gear. It’s a lot to handle.
I know being in middle school isn’t easy. The pressures these days are different than they were when I was a teenager in the late ’80s and early ’90s for sure. I see things moving so fast, and my kids trying to keep up with the hustle and bustle– there are times when I feel helpless.
Do I let my kids slow down a bit? Do I encourage them to keep up? It’s almost impossible to nail down the right way to handle things. I want to teach my kids to advocate for themselves and let me know when they’ve had too much and need a break, but sometimes they don’t even know what they are feeling.
I want to support and encourage them to live the life they want—which includes social activities, doing well in school, and playing sports.
But I’ve realized that the one thing I can do is watch and listen for the signs that she may need a break. I know my daughter, and I can tell when she’s running out of steam and just not herself.
So, I asked her if she needed a mental health day.
While it’s not something I do a lot, and my kids know they can’t simply say, “I’m not feeling it, Ma. I think I’m going to skip school today,” I do think a mental health day a few times a year goes a long way.
A Chance to Refuel: Benefits Of Mental Health Days
There’s a reason why a lot of companies give you a few personal days a year on top of vacations and sick days; It’s because they are needed. Teenagers need them, too.
Sure, kids get weekends, holidays, and school vacations off, but it’s not enough, especially when a lot of the activities and school work don’t stop during those breaks. Our kids still have games, practices, and are expected to read and work on more extended assignments like reports or projects. I’m tired just thinking about it.
Mental-health days are an excellent chance for teens to stay in their pajamas and refuel. So, when my daughter said that’s exactly what she needed, that’s what I let her do.
She fell back asleep, and I went about my work and felt good knowing she would benefit from this lazy day at home. It felt more important than forcing her to attend a full day of school and go to practice. It was one day that made a huge difference in her mental well-being.
The next morning, she was up at 6 a.m. and ready to face the day in ways she wouldn’t have been had I made her attend school.
We may not have all the answers as parents, but we do know our kids. We know when they’ve had enough and need to regroup.