Last week, I was listening to my regular dose of morning talk radio. One of the hosts mentioned that he allows his kids (teenagers) one mental health day per semester. The other host was appalled and just could not understand why kids would need a mental health day. Host one said he understood that school can get grueling and stressful and could relate to just needing a day to regroup. Host two insisted it was not necessary and -- without saying it directly -- implied that mental health days make kids "soft."
I disagree on a few levels.
First of all, let's stop pretending young people don't have stress. While it's true teenagers don't yet have to pay bills or worry about job performance, they do have stress. It's a different than what adults carry, but it still exists. I remember my high school days. Beyond just classes, I was also involved in a number of activities -- cheerleading, speech, band, theatre. I put in some long days, and I probably got burned out more times than I ever admitted. I didn't have time for a day off, but looking back, it sure would have been nice. And it might have helped me perform better in the classroom and all of those extra activities.
Secondly, I'm offended by the notion that needing a mental health day means someone is "soft" or "not strong." I think lack of acknowledgment of kids' emotions and stress is the source of a lot of our societal problems these days. Boys especially aren't taught how to deal with any of their emotions, so they express them in the only acceptable manner -- violence. Early on, this is through childish war games with friends. Later, it might be released through football. They're taught that hitting people is a sign of strength while crying or acting defeated is a sign of weakness. I truly believe this is the foundation of all the sexual, domestic, and general violence committed by young men.
But that's getting a little deeper in the issue than I intended to go.
I like that host one recognizes his children's needs and honors them. He clearly trusts them to use their mental health days wisely. By all accounts, they are smart, well-behaved, and well-rounded kids, so he must be doing something right.
The bottom line is that I think everyone needs mental health days every now and then. We live in stressful times. As adults, we are often overworked and stretched thin. Kids lives seem to be filling up these days as well. A day off to leave obligations behind and regroup our thoughts could do a world of good.
What do you think?