Taking a mental health day is not unheard of these days. With 1 in 25 adults experiencing stress or anxiety, according to the online MSW at the University of Southern California infographic, taking a mental health day is actually an important part of self-care as an adult. But what about children? Kids aren’t immune to stress and anxiety in their lives—in fact, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders affect one in eight children. If you can take a day off for your own mental health—is it okay to let your child take one too? The following considerations may help you decide.
Know what’s normal
Anxiety is a normal and healthy response to certain life circumstances—such as a big test or performance. However, there are times when parents should be a little more concerned if it seems to be interfering with how a child usually functions. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), it’s important to ask:
- Does the anxiety reduce his ability to perform at school or engage with friends?
- Are the symptoms of anxiety stopping her from pursuing what she wants?
Yes, sometimes kids may “fake” an illness to get out of going to school. But instead of being irritated by the performance, you might consider if a plea to stay off the bus is a sign of something more.
Dig deeper if needed
According to parenting expert Katherine Lee, there are specific things you can look for when it comes to spotting anxiety or stress in a child. Since certain life events can play a role, start by knowing whether your kid is going through one of them:
- Big family changes—including divorce, death, moving and the birth of a sibling.
- Over-packed schedules—with no time to relax.
- Self-inflicted pressure—when kids want to be liked and are afraid of making mistakes.
- School-related stress—like bullies, cliques and the pressure to fit in.
- A terrible news event—like tragedies and natural disasters.
- Scary content—like movies or books that are frightening or violent.
In addition, our technology-saturated world can create stress, too—even for kids. According to a recent report by the American Psychological Association (APA), “More than half of parents (58 percent) say that they worry about the influence of social media on their child’s physical and mental health.”
Keep an open mind
When it comes to deciding on a mental health day for your child, an open mind may be one of your most important tools. As working-mom Erin Mantz writes, she considered all the factors and decided it was the right move: “Some parents may think I lost my mind for giving my nine-year-old a mental health day. But what happened that day will be more memorable than any metric system conversion or science experiment he missed that day at school.”
If you think your child might need a mental health day—maybe you should give your kid a break.