How Important are Mental Health Days for Children and Adolescents?

Author: Alexis Anderson, LMFT-A

What are mental health days? Mental health days are a time set aside for us to reset after a stream of full, busy, and emotionally overwhelming days. Mental health days are not only important for adults who are tending to both work and home responsibilities, but these days can also be beneficial to incorporate into your child’s yearly routine. First and foremost, incorporating mental health days sets the stage of their importance in your child’s life now and into adulthood. We must be the ones to model and set a standard of what healthy balance looks like on a daily basis.

There are a few reasons your child may need a mental health day. For example, your child may be beginning to feel overwhelmed with school, extra-curricular activities, or family dynamics. What does “overwhelmed” look like? Ask yourself if there has been a drastic change in their mood, motivation, grades, performance, interest, or even family interactions.

Mental health days decrease the likelihood your child will succumb to chronic stress without relief by allowing your child to take a break, breathe, de-stress, and refocus on their daily responsibilities. Implementing mental health days teaches your child how to prioritize their mental health while simultaneously learning to perform their best in all other areas of their lives.

Begin identifying what will constitute as a needed mental health day. Are these days scheduled when your child presents as overwhelmed, or will they be scheduled regularly as maintenance days? Should weekends be sufficient? Mental health days should consist of allowing your child time and space to rest, relax, and recharge. They are a time for your child to learn the practice of self-care. There are long lists of self-care activities and you and your child can come up with a list of favorites. Also, think about a list of activities that are not acceptable to participate in, such as increased time in front of the tv/devices or laying around.

Additional possibilities for your child’s mental health day may include therapy appointments or coming up with a strategic plan for how they will manage their mental health going forward. This could be a time to assist your child in understanding and voicing their emotional needs. You may choose for these days to be centered around fun and focus on activities such as going to a ball game, a day in the sun, or visiting a local museum.

How will you assist your child in managing overwhelming emotions while functioning in daily activities? Remember you are your child’s first and primary model. They are looking to you to show them how to work and how to rest.


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