How to turn a snow day into a Mental Health Day for your kid(s)

Photo credit: Erin VonRuden Keogh of Hello Photo Photography

by, Dr. Lisa Herman

It’s snowing! It’s freezing! And…there’s no school.

Insert frustrated working parent “sigh” right about here. For many families in the mid-west, this deep freeze has caused a routine havoc wreck in our lives! No school for working parents means time off, lost wages, scrambling for daycare options and several curse words (well…for some!).

Your kids attend school at least 9 months out of the year, 5 days a week, which is equivalent to like a gazillion hours of teachers, lessons, lectures and peer drama. So, yes, unexpected days off of school is a disruption, yet we know it is clearly for the health of our children. We love them. We don’t want them to freeze standing out in the cold waiting for a bus or walking home. Sheer minutes of exposed skin in frozen winds can result in irreversible frost bite damage. We all know too well that our children don’t always listen to rational expectations like “wear a hat and zip your jacket!”

So now that our lives are interrupted and kids will be home, I want to take a minute and shift your thinking about these days off. Our children don’t get enough down time. The research shows that doctors are literally prescribing free play time as an antidote to inattention, irritability and restless sleep.

Our children need more mental health days! Now that we have a few days off mid week without much outside time, let’s shift our thinking and plan for what could be invaluable self-care time.

Here’s how:

Set the stage.

Figure out your and their schedule. Within this schedule of a few days of home bound bouncing off the walls, find the time frame that work best for you and your child(ren)s attention. Tonight, before the next few days of isolation begin, have the kid(s) make a list of all the things they like to do that help them feel calm, relaxed, and internally still. These are activities that they may normally do, but during their Mental Health Snow Day, these activities will be done with intention and purpose – the purpose is to learn to cope with stress and relax the mind and body.

To be in control of making relaxation happen for themselves; understanding they have the ability to cope with stress is key.

Here are some ideas:

  1. Coloring
  2. Yoga
  3. Dancing
  4. Building
  5. Writing
  6. Playing musical instruments
  7. Meditation and Deep Breathing using bubbles
  8. Science
  9. Playing school/barbies/trucks
  10. Taking a bubble bath

 

Intention and Purpose.

You may say, they do this activity all the time. What makes it different? YOU will MAKE it different. YOU will present it differently to them.

What makes you stressed out – Before you begin this self-care activity over the next few days, ask them what stresses them out?

Where in your body do you feel stress – Help them find where in their body they feel the stress. Headaches? Tummy aches? Tension?

Find the level – From 1-10 on a scale ask them to rate their stress levels in different situations like at home in the morning getting ready for school vs right before a test. Help them see that stress can fluctuate.

Engage with purpose– If they are focusing on their stress, talking about it with you, and then engaging purposefully in the activity of their choice, set a timer for 15 mins and then ask them what their stress level is afterwards. Did it go up? Down? Stay the same? Then adjust from there – maybe a different activity gives them more relaxation while others doesn’t calm them as much.

Our kid(s) need guidance with emotional regulation just as much, if not more than with academic homework.

Doing well in school academically is important. Yet, that’s only one small aspect to our overall well-being as adolescents and adults. We all know that you can be a freaking genius, but if you can’t handle stress or struggle with mental flexibility, life can become overwhelming quickly at any age. Parents or guardians have a lot of power in helping transform our stressed out future generation.

Make the snow days more than that…make them MENTAL HEALTH DAYS and engage your children in some activities that focus on mental wellness. Help them see the power they have in knowing their inner emotional world. Talk with them about sadness, fear, anger and jealously just as you do about their math homework or relationship struggles. Discuss your own difficulties with stress (age appropriate, please!) and model for them how to reduce stress and anxiety in their world.

As a psychologist who works with kids and families, I thank you for doing so. Even better, your child(ren) will thank you, too 🙂

 

Dr. Lisa Herman is the owner of Synergy eTherapy and Clinical Psychologist licensed to practice with those who reside in the states of MN, WI and NY.

To schedule your FREE consultation with her, please click HERE.

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