A snow day has finally arrived! Woohoo! If I can put aside my personal delight in snow days for a moment, I highly recommend that special needs kids be allowed guilt-free mental health days. If you’re a parent of an autistic or twice exceptional student, you understand how fatiguing school can be. If your child is struggling with social issues as well as academic problems, a mental health day can be a life saver.
You may battle your child about going to school fairly often. I know parents who’ve had to literally drag their kids out the door or chase them across an apartment complex. If that’s a common occurrence in a typically compliant or predictable kid, you have probably already recognized the stressors. If your child is typically non-compliant, that’s a sign that you need to establish order in your household, a conundrum that is more likely to occur when parenting is fueled by guilt, such as domestic violence or handicaps related to heredity or accidents (at any rate, get help from someone).
For the special needs population described above, extreme school avoidance can be a fact of life. You make it through most weeks but then anguish reaches a climax. That’s when some parents give their child (and themselves) a mental health day. But what if you planned your mental health days? As we approach the spring of the traditional school year, kids are wearing thin. Instead of just being your best response to a major meltdown, could you schedule a day off? That might lift your child’s spirits (and yours), like a light at the end of a tunnel. A planned day could give your child the determination to struggle through, and it would allow you to organize your work schedule.
Be sure to check the school calendar when planning these breaks. As Nerd In the Brain commented, “I would suggest that if the mental health days are going to be planned in advance, parents may want to contact the teacher to make sure their child doesn’t miss anything awesome that’s planned. You’d hate to accidentally keep your kid out on the day of the ice cream and pizza party…or that might be the very best day to keep your child out of school, depending on the circumstances.” (Check out her website for all kinds of cool tips, freebies, and nerdish delights.)
Do you have to make it a “secret” that must not be mentioned at school? I wouldn’t frame a mental health day that way. That puts undo guilty pressure on some kids and others will make that the topic of every conversation they have. Just schedule the day (of course you have a family calendar so kids can see that school has an end point, right?) and decide the best way to use it. If your child asks, tell her you will send the teacher a note like you do anytime they are sick. Allow them the freedom to truly relax and forget about school for a day. If you are a single parent and must go to work, can you arrange for a relative or friend to supervise?
What do you tell the school? If a mental health day isn’t related to staying healthy, what is? Call it a sick day, so sick of school pressures that you will all go crazy if you can’t take a short break. OK, I am stepping off my soap box.