The year 2022 begins with a very long list of new laws. One very overdue law now makes children's mental health a much bigger priority.

New Illinois Laws for 2022

A new Illinois law allows public school students to have five excused mental health absences each school year. Students won't be required to provide a doctor’s note under the new law, and will also be allowed to make up any work missed from that day off.

Some days, it may just be a break from 'all things school' that is needed, but it's important to be sure there aren't other areas that need attention.

Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash
Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash
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Mental health advocates want to make sure that families are focusing on the real problem, or problems, that exist. In many cases it means that parents need to play a big role in these days off.

What's causing the need for a break?

What are the triggers for this feelings?

What may be needed to get better?

Photo by Kat J on Unsplash
Photo by Kat J on Unsplash
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My wife Michelle and I are raising four children together, three are in between the ages of 6 and 16. Their mental health is a big priority in our home. As a Licensed Professional Counselor, Michelle is always giving parents information on how to best prioritize their children's mental health.

Often, one of the best things a parent can give their child who is struggling is the space and time for some self care.

Photo by Fernando Cferdo on Unsplash
Photo by Fernando Cferdo on Unsplash
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Together, my wife and I created a short list of things you and your child may want to make part of one of these days off.

The best way to start a 'mental health day' is to turn off the phone

All of the focus should be on the student. Distractions that come from their phones should be shut down.

6 Great Ways for Illinois Students to Use Their Mental Health Days

Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash
Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash
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Sleep

Children need more hours of sleep that adults and most teens are seriously lacking in the sleep department. Wash all the bedding and take a long nap on some freshly-washed sheets.

Tero Vesalainen
Tero Vesalainen
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A mindful shower or bath

I always like to listen to music when I'm in the shower, but this past summer when I was struggling to work through something, my wife suggested I turn that music off and just be in the moment. Just focusing on the sound of the water hitting my body. Paying attention to how the water feels on my back and running down my body. Notice the lathering of the soap and how it feels on your skin. Again, no distractions.

Photo by T.J. Breshears on Unsplash
Photo by T.J. Breshears on Unsplash
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Work on a puzzle

We use puzzles a lot in our home as a great distraction when feeling anxious. It's also a great family bonding activity. Finishing a puzzle offers a great sense of accomplishment.

Photo by Sébastien Goldberg on Unsplash
Photo by Sébastien Goldberg on Unsplash
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Exercise

This could be as simple as a walk, not necessarily heading to a gym. The idea is for some alone time and a walk is perfect.

 

Asian freelance worker having fun while cuddling her dog in the office.
Drazen Zigic
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Playing with a pet

Spend a lot of time cuddling with a pet and feeling their unconditional love.

Photo by Ana Tavares on Unsplash
Photo by Ana Tavares on Unsplash
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Start a gratitude journal

Research shows that focusing on gratitude can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Some days you may not have much to write when it comes to the things for which you're thankful. Being here to write anything, is a great place to start.

Also, NEVER be afraid to find a professional counselor to help. For additional resources on what may be best for your child that is struggling, visit National Alliance on Mental Illness/NAMI of Northern Illinois.

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