By the second week of the holidays, we often hear our kids saying “I’m bored” all the time. So it can be really hard to decide how to keep your child busy and stimulated during the break. Let’s be honest, it doesn’t help that social media makes it look like every day should be like a Pinterest board. But the truth is that kids can (and should) be bored and that this really isn’t such a terrible thing. In fact, kids learn important skills when they are bored. So how can we think differently about the benefits of boredom?
Boredom helps problem-solving, creativity and self-esteem
Being bored helps kids learn to deal with less-than-ideal situations. When things don’t go our way, we need to be able to control our emotions and deal with our frustrations. Being bored is a great way to learn how to do this. Boredom also helps children learn how to plan, be flexible, re-organise and problem solve. These are important life skills that children whose lives are usually very structured may not have and boredom provides an opportunity to develop this practical and emotional skill. Children learn these skills not because they are bored, but because of what they need to do in their minds when they are bored.
Boredom is also really good for creativity, self-esteem, and coming up with new ideas. It encourages kids to become independent and feel like they have control over their own happiness and well-being. When a child sees being bored as a problem, but then finds a way to manage that problem and come up with a creative solution, they build self esteem.
Boredom does not only strike when a child is playing alone. We often hear it when kids are on a playdate with a friend. When kids are in an unstructured environment, especially with other children, they are encouraged to develop interpersonal skills. This is especially important in a tech-driven age. They learn important skills like communicating, making eye contact, reading body language, negotiating and developing opportunities to interact with others.
What can parents do?
This is a hard one too because us parents are really busy and often need our kids to be busy so we can work or run the house etc. It is important to be honest with oneself in these moments and see if it is possible to take some time to help our kids manage their boredom effectively for their sake, and not for ours.
Also bear in mind that “I’m bored” can have many meanings. When you hear the dreaded complaint, first understand what “I’m bored” actually means. Children don’t have a wide emotional vocabulary so these two words can actually mean a bunch of different things; like your child is hungry, needs attention, is interested in what you’re doing, or is actively seeking out ideas. Once you have a better sense of what may be really going on, you can then decide how to help them. The most important thing though is to help your child to think about the problem, rather than just solving it for them.
The bottom line
Helping your kids see boredom as a chance to do something will be good for you and them. They will try new things, get better at dealing with frustration, learn how to take charge and entertain themselves, learn how to plan and solve problems, become more persistent, gain confidence, and get to know themselves better. You’ll also hear less complaining and have more time for yourself. When your child says, “I’m bored,” tell him or her, “That’s great! I’m so excited to see what plan you come up with!.” Celebrating it, rather than seeing it as an outright failure.