With my two college-age boys home this week for spring break I am reminded of school vacations and the desire we all feel to make sure our children are engaged and occupied in a meaningful way while they are not at school. Like many, I found myself planning a vacation or projects we could do at home. But the other thing that my husband and I were always careful to do was to schedule time to do nothing – to let the boys figure out for themselves how they were going to use their time. And true confessions – this was not easy to do, but was oh-so-important.
Nobody likes hearing their child say, “I’m bored.” These two simple words can bring about a sense of anxiety and foreboding – what can I think up for them to do? Or, worse, maybe we don’t have time to think and we just go to the easy answer: watch TV, play some video games, use the iPad.
With spring break just around the corner, many are likely thinking about ways to occupy their children during the week. Maybe you’re not on vacation, and you need your children to be “gainfully employed” while you go about your work life, or maybe you’re going on an exciting family vacation. Either way, you may find yourself in the company of your child saying, “I’m bored” or “There’s nothing to do!” or “What’s next?”
Doing nothing is healthy for children.
In an article titled “What To Say When Your Kid Says “I’m Bored,” Psychologist Richard Rende writes “Boredom isn't a bad thing. It’s a good thing, an internal register that says my brain is craving something, and I need to muck around until I find that something that satisfies me.” Until children reach a place of boredom they never have to truly figure out what it is that they want to do. They don’t learn how to make their own fun, or to daydream, or to engage in fantasy play – all skills necessary for healthy child development and future success in life.
So what do you say when your child says, “I’m bored?” According to Dr. Rende, who co-authored a book called Raising Can-Do Kids: Giving Children the Tools to Thrive in a Fast-Changing World
, parents should ignore it the first few times, and then, “Smile sweetly and say ‘Okay, got it. So enjoy your free time and figure out something to do that isn't boring to you.’ And leave it at that.”
I couldn’t agree more. I would add to this sage advice the importance of taking some down time for ourselves, however, so that we are not only nurturing the skills and behaviors we’d like to see our children develop, but are practicing them ourselves. Down time is so hard to come by in our fast-paced modern world, but it certainly does wonders for our outlook and personal well-being.
[Read the full article by Rende here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/inside-parenting/201601/what-say-when-your-kid-says-im-bored
Questions? Comments? Ideas? I’d love to hear them! Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org