My kids are only in their third week of school and things are going well. I told them that they need to start the year off strong, keep up, and ask lots of questions when they don’t know something.
This year has been different from the end of last year and it is obviously different from all the year that came before it. Their teachers are doing such an amazing job and have implemented an attendance plan, are assigning a lot more work than last spring and are making the students accountable for handing in work on time.
Last year I let my teens take mental health days
In the past, when they were going to school full time outside of the home, I allowed them to take mental health days a few times a year. Yes, they have lots of vacations and random days off, but I could tell when my kids really needed to tune out and have a day at home where they didn’t have to deal with school work or their peers. They are called mental health days for a reason and we all need them.
Besides, the benefits they reaped after having a day when they didn’t have to wake up before the sun came up and and could tune out for a bit was always the elixir they needed to get the pep back in their step. In the long run, it was better for everyone including the teachers and their classmates.
It’s easy to sit here and look at them now in their pajamas doing a zoom call, or watch them do a school project in bits and pieces and think they have plenty of down time. It’s easy to dismiss their need for mental health days when they are home all the time. But, despite their remote learning or maybe because of it, they really do need days off more than ever.
They are frustrated with time management issues
My son has already expressed frustration because he is used to sitting in class and being able to absorb the teacher’s instructions more clearly. They all find it a little harder to manage their time and get assignments done– especially when they see they have a week to do it.
They are exercising their self-motivation muscles without having the classroom and their desk to work on something for blocks of time. It’s up to them to manage their time efficiently after they are done with online classes. And it’s up to them to get their work done.
It’s tempting to wait until the last minute, or say we’ll get to it later. It’s one of those things in life we all struggle with even when we aren’t in school. I have piles of laundry and chipping paint on my deck to prove that putting things off may feel easier in the moment, but it zaps our energy. It’s never pleasant to have a weight hanging over your head.
Everything is new for our teens
Everything is new for our teenagers: adjusting to the new normal, not seeing the people they count on to motivate them, and not having a fixed timetable for their day. Not to mention the fact they are all still very stressed out.
My son who is a senior this year wants to make sure he’s still able to have a decent senior year and is still accountable for his big senior project. Just because they are learning from home, it doesn’t mean they are doing less.
In fact, I’d say my kids’ minds are filled with more especially on the days when their virtual meetings are over and they are stuck on something that I can’t help them with. It makes them anxious to have to wait to hear back from a teacher even if the teacher responds in a timely manner. It’s just not like being able to walk up to the teacher and ask a question and have it explained in real time.
When I started working from home I thought I didn’t need any mental health or sick days because I could work from my bed in my pajamas if I wanted to. For almost four years, I plowed through never giving myself a day off or a vacation because I told myself that if I didn’t have to be on a strict schedule, I shouldn’t need a day to mentally recover.
It caught up to me fast and after committing to taking some regular time off, I feel like my work habits and my mind have improved. It’s like setting a reset button and our teens need it (especially these days) just as much as we do.
We all need structure but also time away to reset
I’m not saying I am going to allow them to skip classes whenever they want. We still have rules around their school work. I believe we all do better with some structure.
But, our kids have taken on a lot since March and from time to time they are going to run out of steam. And when that happens, whether they are learning from home or in-person, they benefit from having a day where they get to tune out so they can hit it hard the next day. That’s a much better solution than just dragging their way through the year.
I want them all to have a successful school year, and if that means a few mental health days from now until June, I’m all in.
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