“Bueller, Bueller . . .” Remember the movie, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? It’s a personal favorite that I shared with my 12 and 14 year old boys last year. They loved it because it expressed the feeling all school kids have at least occasionally: I need a day off!
Mental Health Day
Most parents proudly agree that there are benefits to an occasional mental health day. It’s a day we allow our kids to skip school, not because of illness or some other “qualified” reason, but for the simple need to slack-off for a day. Most parents are proud supporters, yet ask any one of them to tell you the last time they gave a day off to their kids and the room grows quiet.
Worth the Risk?
Let’s be honest, most of the reluctance has little to do with the child, it’s about the parent’s risk of looking weak or being harshly judged. She’ll have to reconcile the benefits of her child’s mental health day with the negative consequence she may face.
- Her child may miss an important lesson and might fall behind. Is it worth possibly hiring a tutor or—gulp—an uncomfortable meeting with a teacher?
- She’s afraid she’ll be subjected to a constant barrage of requests to stay home. She weighs the benefits today with her discomfort in saying no tomorrow or even worse, having her authority tested in other area. Who wants that?
- Her schedule may not be flexible enough. Will her child’s day off be worth the juggling and explaining she’ll have to do?
Influence is all you have
We say we support mental health days; but don’t grant them. It’s mixed messages like this that undermine a parent’s ability to influence her kids. Kids will only listen to you if they believe that you “get them” and that you’ve prioritize their idea of happiness right up there with your ideas. So, saying you understand isn’t enough; you’ve got to prove it by doing something just because they think it’s important. Very tricky as they get older and issue becomes a party with questionable friends—talk about risky. But, without a belief in your benevolence, you’ve got a tough road ahead of you when your kids naturally begin to separate. Your influence will be all you have left when they are away from you more and more. Recognize your early opportunities to demonstrate benevolence with small things like an occasional mental health day—the benefits ultimately outweigh the risks.
To Skip or Not To Skip
In the end, it’s your good judgment that counts. You are accountable and responsible for your choices so the first step may be to decide what you’re playing for—the ultimate outcome of your parenting legacy. Whatever you’ve declared important as a parent, you are correct. You’re the only credible voice in this area so ignore what you “should” do and clarify what you promised you would do. Becoming clear about this will help you make the best choice the next time your kids say they need a day off.
Article first published as Skipping School – A Mental Health Day for the Kids on Technorati.
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