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Taking a Mental Health Day Off from School: A Pediatrician-Mom’s Perspective

​By: Hansa Bhargava, MD, FAAP

"I'm exhausted. Can I please have a day off from school?" My first instinct when one of my kids asks a question like this is to push them to get out of bed and get going. But when my daughter woke up last Friday and asked this question, I hesitated. My daughter has had a crazy month. Along with her usual load of 6th grade quizzes, tests, and homework, she's had to stay at school until 7pm almost every day for rehearsals for the school play. After that, it's a long drive home through traffic, and then dinner. She's not able to sit down and start her load of homework until 8:30pm.

As a working mom and pediatrician, I've had weeks like these. The only difference is that I don't have homework, studying, and projects to do when I get home after a very long day. And even without all of that, I will honestly admit, I have felt the need for a "mental health day."

Kids and Stress

What I'm seeing as a pediatrician is that more and more kids are incredibly stressed. Not only have their academics been ramped up, but they are expected to do higher-level sports, high-level arts, and be on the go constantly. For many children, the lazy, after school, neighborhood playtime is long gone―as are the long summers of being bored.

What Parents Can Do

All kids are different and some can handle more than others. But as parents, we need to listen to our kids and know their limits. Studies have actually shown that boredom and long periods of unscheduled time can actually spur creativity and out of the box thinking, as well as reset the emotional needle. We ALL need this―and the kids do, too.

So, let's all take time regularly to have that break. Reset and recharge by staying home, by being with family, or by just simply taking a walk and looking at the trees and the spring flowers. It will calm our soul and give us the "mental break" we need to recharge ourselves.

That day, I gave my daughter what she asked for. I did let her stay home and just be. And the next day, she was ready to go full force again.

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About Dr. Bhargava:

HansaHansa Bhargava, MD, FAAP is Senior Medical Director at WebMD, Senior Medical Advisor at Medscape, and Staff physician at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. At WebMD she leads strategy around pediatric content, helps to develop products such as apps and tools to help get timely relevant information to parents and oversees a team of medical experts to ensure accuracy and credibility of articles, videos, and other content. In her role as a spokesperson for these initiatives, she interacts with broadcast, radio, and print media, and hosts her own series at Medscape called 'Uncharted Medicine.' Within the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Bhargava is a member of the Council on Communications and Media Executive Committee. She is a graduate of University of Toronto Medical School and is board certified in Pediatrics. Her favorite role is to be a mom of two kids in Atlanta. Follow her on Twitter @hansabhargavaMD​. 


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Copyright © 2018 Hansa Bhargava, MD, FAAP
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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