Allowing Students a Mental Health Day

Sometimes, it's OK to let your child take a mental health day off from school. A pediatric psychologist with Henry Ford Behavioral Health weighs in.

In the work world, grown-ups may take a “mental health day” off to recharge.

Occasionally, stressed-out kids could benefit from one, too. But it’s more than parent-approved class cutting.

Dr. LaSonia Barlow, a pediatric psychologist who worked with Henry Ford Health, offers a few insights.

Seek out stressors

Bullying, schoolwork, self-esteem issues, anxiety and schedule overload can all contribute to stress.

“Any behavioral change not typical for that child are all red flags,” says Barlow, who works with ages 2-18. Bed-wetting, changes in grades or appetite and acting out are surefire signs you need to talk with your child.

“Have an open forum, and tell them, ‘I’m here for you,'” she adds. “You can’t push them to talk, but you can give them a person to come to.”

Before calling it

Remember, it’s acceptable to allow your child to go to school and simply deal.

“School is very important, and they need to learn to navigate their stressors,” Barlow explains. “As adults, we may need a day off, but sometimes we have to push through anyway, and kids need to do that sometimes, too.”

Explore healthy options, as well. Enrolling kids in a physical activity they enjoy can help them manage stress, for example.

Make it purposeful

If your child hits capacity and you both decide to take that mental health day, Barlow says, parents should be involved – and the day should be productive.

“I really recommend the parent and child spending time together doing anything that the child is comfortable doing,” she says.

This can include reading, crafting, outdoor fun or other self-care outlets – with little-to-no time on electronic devices. “Kids tend to shut down the world during screen time. It can become a crutch after a while.”

Regroup

Keep mental health days to a minimum – just like an employer would. And if a day doesn’t help or problems persist, Barlow suggests seeking professional help.

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