We’re weeks into the longest, most hellish school year of our kids’ childhoods. It’s possible you’ve settled into a nice little routine with whatever “learning” looks like in your home. If so, that’s great! If, instead, the mood inside your home is more akin to complete and utter misery, it might be time for everyone—or at least the kids—to take a “cheat day.”
We’ve advocated in the past for everyone, including kids, to take regular mental health days. We take days off work and school for our physical health; our mental health deserves the same care and attention. We thought this way back in 2019, even before we knew what it was like to be mentally tested day after day, pandemic-style. If it was true then, it’s got to be true now.
But in the midst of the chaos that is learning and working from home full-time, it can be easy to forget that sometimes, what everyone needs is not to power through one more Zoom class. Sometimes we just need a break. Like so many of us, Clint Edwards is a parent working from home and facilitating remote learning for his two kids. He writes this for Scary Mommy:
The stress level has been very high, along with the stress eating, and the other day I literally had to find my emotional center by locking myself in the bathroom and saying to my reflection, “You graduated from college. You got married, and bought a house, you can help with 6th grade math!”
The kids have cried. I have gotten rage-misty from time to time, and I’ve eaten an alarming amount of graham crackers. The other day, however, my 11-year-old daughter gave this suggestion: “Can we just take the day off, and eat toast, and watch SpongeBob?”
It’s such a simple request: Log off the godforsaken virtual classroom, toast up some bread and watch a bunch of garbage TV. It’s so easy to dismiss it as an actual option, though: How could taking a day off help when everyone is so behind already? We need more time to get everything done, not less.
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That’s partially true. But what’s also true is that our brains, and our kids’ brains, need a break once in a while. It’s hard to feel motivated about solitary online schoolwork (and to be patient about the endless technical difficulties) when every day is our own real-life version of Groundhog Day.
So, Edwards agreed. He and his kids stockpiled some toast (plus graham crackers, juice boxes and popsicles) and set up camp in the living room. He interspersed a few educational shows among the line-up of SpongeBob, Dennis the Menace, and Avengers: Infinity War, but doing the same is entirely up to you. Edwards couldn’t take a full day off of work, but he was able to answer emails more efficiently with Squidward and Mr. Krabs in the background, rather than the sounds of procrastinating children.
It seems like so much is out of our control right now (because it is), but allowing yourself and your kids a “cheat day” once in a while is one way you can take back a bit of power and nurture their mental health. You could plan to log them off for a full day once a month, or you could declare that all school-related stuff ends at noon on Friday, no matter what, and they get to start their weekend early.
Strategically timed breaks will give them something to look forward to and, hopefully, will leave them feeling a bit more refreshed and prepared for whatever the next day, week, and month bring us.
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