You don't have to be a mom to occasionally need a break from life. Moms definitely earn their right to take a mental health day every now and then. But what about the kids? They have tough days too. Teething, potty training, school, friends, homework, social anxiety, puberty, teenage drama, driving, becoming an adult...it's a lot. But it seems like we're always telling them to stop crying, be strong, be brave, hang in there. Maybe they just need a break.
Last school year I let my 12 year old daughter take a mental health day from school. There was no specific event that caused her anxiety. She was simply overwhelmed with being 12. So I let her stay home. I had her email all of her teachers and find out what she would miss and needed to make up. I explained to her that it was ok to take a day to reset her mental health but that she still needed to manage her commitments. The next day she woke up ready to go to school.
Some schools now accept mental health days as excused absences. I hope more join in. And even if they don't, I hope more parents realize the benefits of allowing their kids to take a break. It doesn't have to be skipping a day of school. It could mean staying home all day on a Saturday. No errands, no activities. Just stay home. Watch movies together, play games, play with toys. I guarantee that a good Nerf gun battle or dressing up Barbies will do wonders for everyone in the house. And if your child seems completely overwhelmed with school, let them take a day off. You are teaching them to take care of themselves. That it's OK to put themselves first. That nothing is as important as their mental health.
Obviously, we can't let them stay home all the time. Most kids will tell you everyday that they don't want to go to school. It's our job as moms to really listen to our kids. When they were infants you learned to distinguish whether their cries were from hunger, exhaustion or a dirty diaper. As they grow up, you will learn the difference between not wanting to go to school and needing to stay home.
There are plenty of books for all ages to help kids understand their feelings. I love The Feelings Book by American Girl. They also have a Feelings Journal which is geared toward girls and can help them work through their feelings. The Feelings Book by Todd Parr was our favorite board book when they were little. Having a Mommy and Me or Daddy and Me journal is great for kids to write things down without having to talk directly to you. You can respond through the journal too. This removes the awkwardness that comes with face to face conversation. The goal is to help your kids learn how to understand and process their feelings. How you reach that goal is up to you.
And just like that, we are back to school. We made it through registration, school supplies, first day jitters, new teachers, PTA donation requests (already) and back to school night. I thought I'd get a break from the craziness...then, my middle schooler came home and told me she had a lockdown drill.
She had one last year so this wasn't the first but for some reason, this one really affected her. She said her teacher was crying. The teacher was upset that kids today have to prepare for an active shooter/dangerous intruder situation in school. The class was told to split up into different corners of the room so that if one corner is targeted, there might be a chance for others to escape. They were told to grab their water bottles to possibly use as a defensive weapon. They stayed cowering in a corner and waited for the school officials to perform their part in the drill and clear the classrooms. She said it took the better part of a class period. Then she told me that her plan is to play dead so the shooter would not target her.
I don't remember exactly what I was doing when I was 12...but I'm pretty sure I wasn't making a plan to not get shot at school.
We talked a lot about the drill and about school shootings in general. I tried to reassure her that the chances of it happening in her school are slim. But isn't that what everyone says about their school?
Most schools today have lockdown procedures and some conduct drills throughout the year. My elementary kids did not have a lockdown drill last year. I think they are very careful with the younger kids to not frighten them. However, the school works with the staff to ensure they know what to do in a lockdown situation.
If you are not sure if your school has a lockdown procedure or conducts drills, I recommend inquiring about it. Find out how you would be notified of a lockdown situation. They might not give you specifics about their plan. That's ok. I wouldn't want that information readily available to everyone. Our elementary school does not post the daily schedule online. They don't want outsiders to have access to the student's locations throughout the day. I'm happy that they have put so much thought into school safety. Although it's surreal that we have to prepare for such a horrific event, it's reassuring to know that our schools are doing their best to protect our kids.
We were very moved by the recent video from Sandy Hook Promise (SHP-S). Their mission is to create a culture in preventing shootings and other violent acts in schools. Watch their video below (parental discretion is advised).
Gina is a wife and mama to 3 tiny humans. Her and her family live in sunny SoCal. They enjoy hiking and being in the great outdoors together. To read more from Gina, click here.