Should Kids Get "Mental Health Days" Off From School? Reddit Says Yes

Here’s why mental health (and time to unwind and regroup) should be a top priority for stressed-out humans of all ages.

The pandemic has prompted people around the world to more strongly consider both their physical and mental health. Some adults have re-evaluated work-life balance, with many working parents craving more flexibility so they can care for their children.

That being said, sometimes, taking a sick day from work can allow us to regroup. Should we offer kids the same? One parent was going back-and-forth on the idea, and wasn't too keen on it initially.

An image of a mom hugging her son.
Getty Images.

She went to Reddit for a gut-check after she let one of her children, who wasn't physically ill, stay home from school one day.

"Have you ever let your kids stay home from school just because they felt like it?" asked u/icanteventell in the Parenting subreddit. "I don't normally—only if they're sick or the weather is really bad. But today, my kids woke up and told me they wanted to stay home…I had a feeling something was bothering my oldest, so I relented and let them stay."

Turns out, Mom's instincts were right on the money.

"My son is having trouble making friends in school since we're new to the area and just hasn't been feeling good lately," she continued.

The two had a good talk about the son's struggles and how to manage them over pancakes and a movie—the perfect antidote to tough times.

"I told him they're definitely going tomorrow, though. And to not make a habit out of this. I'll chalk it up to a mental health day," she said. "Any other parents do this too from time to time?"

Redditors eased her concerns, assuring her that kids, like adults, sometimes need a day off to focus on their mental health.

One top commenter shared her family's policy on mental health days.

"I allow them one 'recharge' day per semester. I sometimes will even reward them with a special activity if they want to, like a movie, mini-golf, etc. The rules are that this can't be used if homework isn't done [or] if you're avoiding a test or a conflict with another schoolmate or teacher in any way. They've never abused it, and I'm happy to reinforce their mental health matters," the person said.

"Adults need mental health days, right? So do our kids sometimes," wrote another.

And another Redditor who has social anxiety especially appreciated the original poster's willingness to tune into her child's needs.

"I was that kid with social anxiety, and I think what you did was perfect. He needed your support," the person said.

In an update, Mom wrote she was happy she followed her gut.

"When my husband came home, he took him skateboarding…and talked to him," she posted. "This morning, my son was cheery and ready to go…Mental health days work, guys."

It's great it all worked out for this family. The movement for mental health days for kids has been gaining steam in recent years. In 2017, Parents writer Claire Gillespie discussed why she allows her kids to take a mental health day here and there.

"Paying attention to my kids' mental health is just as important as getting them vaccinated against disease and treating them for physical ailments," Gillespie wrote.

And in Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill this summer allowing students to take up to five excused mental health days starting in January 2022.

The bottom line: Mental health matters as much as physical health, and that's true for both adults and kids. Allowing little ones to take a day off to regroup teaches them to prioritize their mental health from an early age.

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