Why Mental Health Days are Important For Your Child (and for You)



My family went through a lot when I was 15. My younger brother passed away and there was a lot of extra stress on top of that. I remember one time during that year when my mom pulled me out of school. She took me hiking in the nearby national park. It was a wonderful day as my mom and I spent time submersed in nature, enjoying our time with each other. We developed a greater connection with each other. It was also a wonderful break from all the stresses that we were facing in our lives. My mom called it a mental health day. 

I have never forgotten that day nor have I forgotten the benefits that my mom and I gained from having our mental health day. I want to share with you some of these benefits and why taking a mental health day can be beneficial to both you and your child.


1. Time to Recharge from Overstimulation

As an introvert, life can be draining. We are constantly stimulated by everything in life. We need time to recharge because when we do so, we can perform to the best of our abilities. When I first became a mom of two little girls, I became overstimulated and I did not take enough time to recharge. This led to burnout and depression. You can read more about this experience and how knowing more about introversion helped me to overcome it in my post Heartache and My Struggle to Reconnect.

One of my favorite podcasts is Happier with Gretchen Rubin. On a particular podcast, she talked about how when her in-laws go on vacation they always save a day at the end of the vacation to be at home. I thought it was a great idea. Vacations can often be filled with fun and exciting (aka stimulating) things, which we enjoy, but wear us out. Even if your vacation is more about relaxing on the beach and not as stimulating then taking a day at home before getting back to work/school will make it easier to go to back the next day. Also my daughters take a few days to readjust after being away from home. I usually try to have a day of familiarity after we get home so that they can settle back into home life.

When your child becomes overstimulated, they may become cranky and irritable. Your child also needs time to recharge. Recently my Lil Bug had preschool and then that same day we had some extended family events. She was overstimulated and exhausted by the end of the day. Even though she had fun being with family, it was exhausting for her and she was easily upset and struggled with sleep when we got home. She slept in the following day. Even though she had preschool, I decided not to wake her up. Instead, I let her teacher know that she needed a break and would not be there. All the events from the day before were too much for her and she needed some time to recharge. To unwind. She needed a mental health day. She had enjoyed her time the day before but she was overstimulated and overwhelmed by everything that had happened. She needed time to recharge before continuing in the world. When she did wake up, I could tell I had made the right decision. She needed the solitude of home and the calmness of the activities that we do at home. Usually school is one of our priorities for pushing Lil Bug out of her comfort zone, but in this case it was too much for her. She needed the break. 

I’m not saying to always take your child out of school, but just consider your child and what is best for you both. Maybe you can wait until Saturday to do something different. At the end of a long week of school, think about what would help your child recharge and help them do it. If you’re finding that you are using the mental health day idea too often, then reevaluate the underlying causes of your child’s distress. Something needs to change, it’s not a matter of just relaxing. In any case, take time to assess your child’s needs and decide what is best for them.


2. Time to Think and Make Sense of the World

The next benefit is
the time we have to think and make sense of the world. This is beneficial especially
when you and/or your child are dealing with intense emotions, caused by heartache,
stress, or too many changes in the environment. A day, or even a half day, away
from the stress that we encounter each day can help us to process all of the
emotions that we have encountered. We can gain a greater understanding of our
situation. And oftentimes when we take time to feel our emotions fully we can
work through them more easily.

Remember also that your children,
especially if they are highly sensitive can sense your emotions and
consequently the stress you feel.

Adults and children are both
seeking to make sense of the world. Children especially are inundated with new
ideas and concepts, but adults experience new ideas, experiences, and stimuli as well. Taking
some time to really process what is going on in your life helps you to make
needed connections that cause you to better understand yourself, your child,
and all the other relationships that you have in your life.

As a 15 year old, I gained great
insight into the direction my life wanted to go. I discussed this at length
with my mom that day. It was done in a setting and at a time where I could
think when needed and say what I wanted to at a pace I enjoyed. I was able to
work through some of the things that I had either been pondering or that I
needed to think about but had not had sufficient time to do so.


3. Meaningful Connections

This particular benefit comes from doing a mental health day with someone else, in this case my mom. She was someone I knew and loved. She was familiar to me. It was not stressful or anxiety creating being with her. We also did something that I loved to do, hiking, being in the outdoors, away from crowds. It was a calm, healthy environment for me. That healthy environment and the calm activity of hiking, deepened my connection with my mom.

As a parent, I am constantly wanting to create meaningful moments with my daughters. Moments where I am completely focused on my kids. Moments where I feel an even greater love and joy just being with them. Moments that help both my children and myself thrive. Seek those meaningful moments each day, then when you have a mental health day with your child, deepen those moments.
There will be times that we need our time alone, but it can also be re-energizing when we deepen the connection with those with whom we have meaningful connections.



4. Example

This particular benefit of that day with my mom is something I am only now realizing. My mom took the time to be flexible for me. She showed me an example of a parent who cares and loves their
child as she created time for me. She also showed me through her example the importance of taking time for ourselves, not necessarily when we want it, but when we need it.

As parents, do we not want to teach our children to take care of themselves? We try to teach them the importance of eating healthily, exercising, educating themselves, protecting themselves from
physical harm, but how often do we teach them to take a break when they really need it? How often do we teach them to process their feelings and process what they’re going through? How often do we teach them to be flexible enough to take care of themselves? And how often do we show them these things through our example?

Being an example is one of the most important ways to teach our children. Teach by example, the importance of taking time to recharge.


As an introvert parent it might be a bit harder to find time to take a full mental health day. Sometimes just an hour or two is enough. If you find you really need a full day, ask for help from friends and family. But, whether you can make it a whole day or not, try to take some time each evening to help yourself recharge. Read some ideas for recharging at the end of the day here. There is also The Wallflower Box which is a subscription box that is specifically geared towards helping introverts to recharge. I am not an affiliate with them but I love what they are doing so I wanted to share it with you.

I have found that as I’ve made time to recharge that I have become a more patient and loving parent. When my children have taken that time to unwind and recharge, they are happier. This is the last benefit that I’ll mention, the feelings of peace and understanding that come from recharging.  Let’s take some time to make sure we set a good example for our kids and teach them the importance of processing emotions and stimuli.




12 comments

  1. I'm a huge fan of mental health days! Time alone or time with kids have all the benefits you outlined here! Love it!

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  2. Wow, that's really great post. Kind of so obvious and logical that I'd never make it up myself. These things are always the hardest to understand and follow in your life.

    Meet me on www.thebeautyberry.org

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  3. This is such an insightful post!

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  4. This is a really good post! I just can say that whenever me and my family did something to get away and destress I loved it. I might not have been the most enthusiastic when we went for a walk but after the first few steps it was just me and my parents, sisters and we could enjoy ourselves.
    Lea, xx

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    Replies
    1. That's great that you have those memories with your family. Thanks for sharing!

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  5. Without labelling it that I have many days like these with my daughter. I hope I can continue them when I go back to work

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    Replies
    1. That's wonderful that you have days like this with your daughter. I hope you can continue to have them too. Sometimes it's just a matter of making the most of the days you do have off.

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  6. I think meaningful connections are really important in family bonding. Not all families have intimacy between one another. http://www.clairebearblogs.com

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    Replies
    1. That's true. They are important. Thanks for sharing Claire.

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