Do Kids Ever Need a Personal Day?

MK and dog pic

I imagine many of you who read that title quickly formed an answer. The concept of a personal day is something that started when I was in high school. Before you form an opinion, hear me out.

I allow my kids one “Personal Day” per year. However, they have to meet the following criteria:

  1. This day cannot take place in the first semester of school.
  2. If they have accumulated seven or more sick days, they cannot use their personal day for that year.
  3. They must be doing well in all their classes.
  4. They cannot use their personal day because they failed to complete a homework assignment or have a test. Believe me, Mom finds out!
  5. They cannot participate in any after school activities (sports, dances, friends over, etc). The personal day functions like a sick day, and they must remain at home.

Some of you might ask why I have this policy. In high school, I had the occasional day where remaining at home was a powerful gift. After all, I chose the day. In addition to a day off, I appreciated having some control in my life. This frequently led to those impromptu conversations with one of my mentors who always made sure she was available on these days. She sacrificed her time and made sure she was available because she understood that those windows of conversation were rare.

I just explained the policy to my daughter as she took her first “personal day.” While she is a 6th grader and does not have the teen issues yet, we laid the groundwork for future contact. In fact, I had a few errands to run, and we exchanged some bonding texts throughout that time, a fun exchange that mothers and daughters often need and rarely receive. Am I helping my children by allowing the occasional personal day? I think so.

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11 thoughts on “Do Kids Ever Need a Personal Day?

  1. Sharon Maurer says:

    The concept sounds good, should work fine for most children . I think it would depend on the child and the family structure. Good idea.

  2. Jennifer Drake says:

    Yes I think it’s a great idea. We call them “health days” and parents and kids use 1-2 a year in our house. Sometimes we have been running, doing a lot of good things and it’s nice to take a day with my 6 yr old. It makes him feel special and breathes life into the next few months. I like your criteria. Thanks for the post!

  3. maggiemurphy says:

    Thanks for the feedback, ladies! So far this seems more beneficial for my daughter, but the boys enjoy it too.

  4. Shana says:

    I don’t have anything against taking a personal/health day; however, I remind my kids that for now, they still get 3 months off every summer. Maybe I’ll have each of them pick a day or two in the summer when they would like a special mother/son or mother/daughter day and I can take the day off work and we can do something special. This way they don’t have to miss school, but they still get that special time. Both of my kids strive for perfect attendance (they have set this goal, not me). While I won’t send them to school when they’re sick, we work hard to make sure we encourage the attendance. I know I’ve been at more than one job interview where they’ve asked how many days outside of scheduled vacation days I have missed in the past year. I think good attendance at school certainly sets the mentality for good attendance later in life. That being said, I don’t think one personal day a year (with “rules” as you’ve laid them out) is going to send the wrong message. I do have a problem when those days become extensive and impact grades…according to my daughter, she knows a few kids that are allowed to take a personal day pretty much any time they don’t “feel like going”…that’s not ok.

  5. maggiemurphy says:

    Shana, you sound like Chad. When I told him about the whole idea of a personal day, he said, “I don’t take personal days! Why should the kids?” Ha ha!

  6. Shana says:

    LOL! Hmmm…wonder where we got that mentality from. You know, I don’t remember my dad ever being home from work unless it was a weekend or we were headed out on a family vacation. Mom taught us a good work ethic at home, but I think we learned a lot by dad’s example too.

  7. maggiemurphy says:

    Yes, your parents have a strong work ethic and tried to pass that on to you kids. However, Mom agreed with me that Chad needs to lighten up and enjoy a personal day once in awhile. 😉

  8. Shana says:

    I don’t disagree. However, I will say that it’s hard for me to just take a day off. I take days off for kids’ school trips/classroom parties or other family stuff, but generally, that’s planned time off. I’m not very good at spontaneous days off. I know I’ll have SO MUCH work when I get back – especially if I haven’t planned for it. Not to mention the people that I “let down” by not being available or not attending scheduled meetings. I know most of this is just in my head, but I think planned days off are so much easier for me. I don’t have to deal with all the anxiety…I spend half the day just trying to let go of the anxiety just so I can enjoy my time off. That’s just not a very effective “mental health” day. Maybe teaching your kids how to take a day off is just as important as teaching them a strong work ethic.

  9. maggiemurphy says:

    Hmmm, I never thought about teaching them how to take a day off. I think you are onto something. Perhaps this goes back to teaching (and learning) moderation. We all have things that we hold too tight and need to let go.

  10. Shana says:

    I never really thought of it either until I was typing that and realized that maybe a “real” mental health day would be helpful, but in reality, I don’t know that I could take one even if I wanted to. I’m sure Chad struggles with the same thing. What’s the point in taking a day off if you just have to deal with all that anxiety over it and then go back to even more work than you left behind?

  11. maggiemurphy says:

    Keep pushing those boundaries, Shana. I encourage Chad to do the same. I think, in the long run, you will benefit from shifting the focus to your personal needs once in awhile. However, today is not a personal day for me (or you), so I need to get back to work!

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