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Mental Health Days

We live in a time when the mental health of children is being challenged. Fear drives all decisions and any response is met with conflict. More than ever parents need to focus on their children's state of mind and emotional stability.

When my daughter was young, I made the decision to be proactive with her mental health and advised her school she would be missing every other Friday. There was no discussion about it, I just made it happen. I told them her mental health was more important to me than her grades. The teachers understood my intentions and were supportive, the administration not so much. I didn't care. This was my child and I was going to raise her and care for her to the best of my ability. I can be stubborn like that and I will fight for those who I love to the death, so you better be ready for a fight. Of course it helps when you show up to the school wearing a uniform with a badge.

Every other weekend I had 3 days off of work. I worked hard, but I was raised to play harder. I wanted my daughter to learn how to be strong and independent, undefined by limitations others would want to put on her. So, we would go camping. There is nothing like unpacking a trailer and creating a temporary home in the forest. Setting up a tent that was more inviting than any 5-star resort could offer is an amazing feeling. We collected kindling and firewood for the evening fire where I cooked everything from tacos to pizza. I took great pride in learning to cook under the canopy of evergreens surrounded by quizzical squirrels and Blue Jays. It was a whimsical wildness of peace, quiet, and serenity that even today my heart longs for.

The best part of our mental health days were the walks through the woods. The sound of our hiking boots pounding the footpaths along cliffs and alleys carved through the trees were only interrupted by discussions of the heart. Frequently, we would stop in our tracks and crouch down to observe bears and dear grazing nearby. We would read books that explained how Native Americans and early settlers explored the undisturbed wilderness and would wonder at their courage. We always took a camera to capture those trips and they are my fond treasures that can take me back to a serene time shared with the most cherished person in my life. I can't wait to share some mental health days with my grandchildren who are blessed to experience the similar days with their mom and dad. I wish more moms and dads could find time to enjoy their children and create their own mental health days. The memories will be well worth the effort.

Parents need to consider their children's needs first. There are so many children who are suffering with anxiety and depression and sometimes removing them from the chaotic infighting in order to let them run freely, wonder through a forest, and experience being a kid again. It will be the best medicine for a weary heart, for both parent and child.



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