With just a few more weeks of the school year left, parents feel the brunt of the stress and overwhelming emotions their kids have been experiencing all year. The “please-don’t-make-me-go” pleas are common and may be occurring more often.
And, while there is undoubtedly some merit for a much-needed mental health day during the school year, it’s also a really good idea to use these opportunities to check in with our kids and do a little detective work about where they are emotionally.
Kids pleading for a day off may not always be up for talking, but parents should always follow up the request with a bit of digging to see if something specific is behind not wanting to go to school.
- Is your child overwhelmed with schoolwork or responsibilities?
- Is there a situation they’re concerned about with another student or a teacher?
- Is today test day? Is a big assignment due?
- Is your child anxious or sad?
- Is something going on at home that is bothering your child?
Mental Health Break
Mornings are always rough. They seem rushed. Everyone is tired. It’s hard to remember everything. Many times, instead of trying to squeeze in a heart-to-heart talk before the bus gets there, it’s easier to set a “mental health break” with your child for later in the day. Set a specific time for you and your child to connect. You could take a walk outdoors, exercise, listen to music, read together, bake, draw, or do anything else during that time – with the intention of setting aside time to be mindfully together. This is also an excellent time for conversations to drift toward your child’s concerns or things making them anxious.
Teach Coping and Resiliency Skills
Some kids need some dedicated time to be mindful. They need a chance to discuss their worries or the things that cause them stress. This is a great time to help them with coping skills that will help them manage the anxiety they experience in life.
- Teach them to sort out their responsibilities and break them down into manageable goals. Our kids are tackling more projects, activities, and accelerated classes than ever – that’s a lot of pressure! They need to learn how to prioritize and sort out their obligations meaningfully so bigger projects become smaller ones that don’t seem so daunting.
- Teach them to say “No.” Sometimes, our kids get too involved with extra-curricular activities, after-school groups, athletics, and academics. Give them the thumbs up to give an activity a thumbs down if they are feeling too much pressure from it and/or it’s not something they enjoy or are interested in. They shouldn’t feel like they must do everything.
- Remind them to breathe. Taking a deep breath and exhaling can help deescalate any stressful situation. Sometimes, even just taking a quick pause helps enable your child to put things into perspective and assess the situation more calmly.
- Role model ways to build stronger mental health. Show kids how to take care of themselves:
- Get active.
- Socialize with others in positive ways.
- Eat healthy foods.
- Engage in helpful sleep habits.
- Start a hobby or pursue interests that make them happy.
- Perform self-care by doing something that makes them feel good.
When the Request for a Mental Health Day Reveals Bigger Problems
Some kids ask for mental health days a LOT. Many are not just wanting to skip school – they’ve got genuine ongoing issues that need attention.
The number of children reporting struggles with severe anxiety and depression is rising alarmingly. Kids are experiencing levels of stress and worry at levels never seen before.
Many children don’t have the words to describe their feelings. Their way of communicating may be to tell you that they don’t want to go to school – or that they “can’t” go to school today. Kids who issue this plea repeatedly may be requesting help for problems they know they have, but they can’t find the words to express.
Allowing repeated mental health days for kids battling mental health issues may only exacerbate the problem. Further isolating them from their peers or allowing them to avoid their problems will increase their feelings of loneliness, anxiety, depression, and fear. Additionally, many children do better when they have the routine of school and the consistency the school day brings.
Children struggling with depression and anxiety may benefit from professional counseling and therapy that will help them build coping and resiliency skills to counteract their struggles with their mental health. They’ll learn healthy ways of dealing with their emotions instead of developing negative coping strategies. Seeking professional mental health assistance for your child is the best thing you can do for them.
SEKMHC Services Can Help
SEKMHC offers school-based services in 12 school districts in Southeast Kansas. From therapy to case management, kids can receive support at school without having to miss out on important things in their day. Our staff members can provide onsite encouragement and comfort to students who may need a little extra to make it through rough days.
Services for children and adolescents are available in all our offices throughout our six-county catchment area. Call us to schedule an appointment today: 866-973-2241.