As an adult who struggles with daily anxiety, I learned how to navigate mental illness and mental happiness by trial by fire. I do not remember ever having conversations with my parents about my mental health, we absolutely came from the “pull yourself up from the bootstraps” circle of Louisiana. I tried to pull myself up by my bootstraps but when that failed (horribly, I might add), I ended up in a conversation with my General Practitioner about ways to cope with anxiety. Years later, I am determined that my kids will have a healthier relationship with themselves and their mental health.
As a parent, I find myself constantly overanalyzing parenting decisions. Suddenly I am responsible for the livelihood and happiness of these humans? I am not prepared! I will always want my kids to be happier, healthier, and smarter than me.
One thing we have implemented over the years is mental health days. On these days, my children can ask me if they can have a day to just be. Most of the time this includes sleeping a lot, watching TV, a long bath, and LOTS of relaxing. As my kids get older, these seem to become more and more important. They are now 16 and 10, at both ages they have a lot of feelings and emotions going on and sometimes need to re-center and re-focus on what they need to be focusing on.
There are two rules that we apply to our mental health days:
- Each child is allowed one day per semester.
- They must be aware of what is going on in class that day and know that they will be ok if they miss anything and be able to make it up.
That is it. Otherwise, we do not ask questions. I do not need to know why or what is causing the stress unless they want to talk about it (which most of the time this comes out throughout the day while we are home). I am hoping this practice will help my children learn that taking a break is okay. That resting is a key part of being a functioning human. We are not meant to be on the go 12 hours a day and never stopping.
How do you encourage your kids to value their mental health? Have any tips or tricks on how to encourage that at a young age? I would love to hear about it!