Do Kids Need “Mental Health Days”?

What do you do, as a parent, when your child doesn’t want to go to school? Sometimes, kids feign illness for a day off. Other times, they’ll be open about not wanting to go. On one hand, it’s possible that kids, like adults, get stressed, tired and overwhelmed and can use a day to recoup before jumping back into action. But what if their fears or reluctance are just the symptoms of a deeper problem? It could be that your child is facing anxiety issues, and may benefit from seeing a counselor to work through them. Your child could also be subjected to bullying, or may struggle in a certain class: both elements that they’d want to avoid. If it only happens once in awhile, it’s likely not to be a problem. But if school avoidance happens regularly, it’s something that should be looked into.

© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Charlotte

    Charlotte

    November 30th, 2010 at 5:37 AM

    When or if kids need mental health days like an adult then you know that there are some underlying issues that definitely need to be dealt with. Maybe they are ebign bullied at school or perhaps they are having a hard time dealing with some pressures at home. No matter the reason, when your child seems stressed out or anxious then this is certainly not something that should be ignored. There are lots of great counselors available who are trained to work well with childrens’ issues and to help them through these difficult times that sometimes pop up.

  • Tim

    Tim

    November 30th, 2010 at 8:01 AM

    I used to fake illness when I was little but that was not due to bullying or anythin. When I look back at it now it feels weird but at that time I absolutely hated going to school and being there for long hours without doing what most kids are best at-jumping around and observing little discipline ;)

  • kim jackson

    kim jackson

    November 30th, 2010 at 12:32 PM

    In my early years I always thought why we kids dint have a few days off every year,why is it that we get to skip school only when we are ill,why we need a reason to miss school,why can’t we skip because we just don’t feel like going on a particular day?!

    Seems like it may well come true in the near future ;)

  • marina

    marina

    December 3rd, 2010 at 4:40 PM

    I think kids today are under far more pressure than ever to achieve in shorter and shorter timeframes. Any child that doesn’t want to go to school much at all deserves to have an adult looking into why. I don’t see the harm in giving them mental health days if they are very stressed.

  • ruben

    ruben

    December 3rd, 2010 at 10:47 PM

    Kids have a whole summer to goof off and chill out. Isn’t that enough mental health days? I wish I could say the same.

  • Jerry

    Jerry

    December 4th, 2010 at 2:49 PM

    The issue here isn’t about goofing off, it’s about addressing any hidden issues they may be having and getting them the proper help. If a child had a mental health day they could take and you saw no improvement once they had had those breaks, you would know it was time to call in a professional counselor to get to the bottom of it. Kids today may be more mature at an earlier age than they ever were, but they still need us grownups to be in their corner.

  • Gregory

    Gregory

    December 4th, 2010 at 5:07 PM

    Remove your own unrealistic expectations of your child and the stress will often vanish. Parents can be problem just as much if no more than anything external like bullying. Let kids be kids, not mini-adults. Some parents treat raising them like a competition, always wanting their kid to be top of the class.

  • Audrey

    Audrey

    December 4th, 2010 at 8:22 PM

    We’re guilty of swallowing up all their free time with scheduled activities too. They don’t need to be constantly participating in an activity to educate them or show off their talents. My children’s schedules got to be more busy than my own and I felt like all I did with them was chauffeur them from one activity to the next. It was dumb! They got to where they didn’t enjoy them and I got to where I resented all the running around. This year we cut after school activities down to a third of what they were and everybody’s much happier, including me.

  • Roger

    Roger

    December 5th, 2010 at 3:59 PM

    I agree. I sure don’t want mine to burn out before they are out of their teens. Schooldays were the best days of my life and I would like them to have fun and be educated at the same time, not worrying about peer group pressure or mean kids. I would have no problem giving them a mental health day if I felt they needed the break, school policy or no school policy.

  • Thomas Tarler

    Thomas Tarler

    December 15th, 2010 at 6:44 PM

    As a senior in high school, I will say that I have taken mental health days several times throughout my years. The majority of my friends do because school can be extremely stressful, especially for those of us in an accelerated program. I usually have to fake sick to my parents because they don’t believe in them… but trust me they are necessary.

  • Emily

    Emily

    February 21st, 2016 at 7:39 PM

    As a student in high school, I feel that mental health days are just as important as physical health days. My parents and I have come to the mutual understanding that we all need a mental health day every once in a while. I have gained my parents trust about not abusing this privilege either. I think it is safe to say that schools nowadays are far more stressful than they used to be in the past. Not only are we pushed to achieve things in shorter time, but we are pushed to learn so many things in those short spans of time. There is also the issue with so much homework, projects, and studying. Eventually it all adds up, kind of like a snowball effect. After a while the work continues to pile on and pile on, and eventually our brains just get worn out, so we take a mental health to recoup so that we can function normally the next day. There have been plenty of studies that show how mental health can take a toll on your physical health.

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