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Family life

We Let Our Kids Skip School–Here’s Why

How to build in family downtime and get kids back to active routines with more calmness and feeling re-energized.

We Let Our Kids Skip School–Here’s Why

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Some of my best childhood memories were those special days when my parents let us skip school. It didn’t happen often, but when my dad took me to my first concert at 10 (Billy Joel’s Storm Front tour) and we were out late, I got to skip school the next day. My brother and I also got to miss a day or two when we had family and friends come in from out of town.

Schedules are busier than ever these days

Today’s kids have a lot going on (much more than they did when I was a kid thirty-some-odd years ago). My son, who is in 5th grade, is a great student. He plays hockey, which means practices and games three times a week, and we attend church school. He’s also done other extracurriculars, including piano lessons, soccer, flag football, and cooking classes. He reads. He has homework and studying. And he has an active social life. My husband works all different shifts day to day while I work from home, which means more scheduling and commotion to keep up with. So, once or twice a year, we skip school.

We have many reasons we allow him to do this – not only does he get good grades, but he’s a great kid all around. He does chores when we ask him to and balances screen time and activities responsibly and independently. He helps participate in family volunteer efforts (before COVID-19, he came to school two hours early every day to serve breakfast to 200 students). He doesn’t complain when we’re go, go, go, and I think he’s earned the downtime.

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author Jenn's son at a trampoline park Credit: Jenn Cox

Prioritizing mental health and self-care in our family

Thankfully, we hear a lot about mental health wellness and self-care these days. It’s become much more of a priority. Experts regularly tell busy adults to take a “me” day to rest, recharge, and go back into the whirlwind of life refreshed and more focused. So, why wouldn’t we grant our kids the same privilege?

We have one of two kinds of “skip school days”: first, there’s an absolutely nothing day. That means PJs, video games, movies, board games, pillows and blankets, ordering in, and chilling out. The other is a fun day where we go and do something we’ve wanted to do for a while.

Every December, I attend and write about a toy charity in Montreal (on a Wednesday), and when I had my son, he would come with me. When he started elementary school, we continued the tradition and made a whole day out of it: lunch downtown, ice skating, trampoline park, etc. We all have different ways to blow off steam, and ours depends on our moods.

author Jenn's son in the living room with donations for charity Credit: Jenn Cox

Managing expectations and reaping the benefits of skip school days

The only downfall of these skip days, especially when he was younger, was explaining that it would be one day and one day only. And these days would happen randomly. For example, my son can’t request a skip school day – that’s for us parents to decide. They are always very spaced out, which has to be explained and discussed with kids ahead of time. Otherwise, your child will want more mental health days than school days.

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The benefits of skip school days are not only the fun you get on the day itself – it’s the fact that my son goes back to school, team sports, and his active routine with more calmness, re-energized and raring to go. I am always super transparent with his teachers and will tell them why he misses school. Everyone has given me their blessing, saying what a good idea it was because we all need those “nothing” days, including you.

Surprise those kiddos with a skip school day. Heck, take one yourself! The rewards almost always outweigh the downside of it (if there is one). And everyone loves the downtime together.

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