With many camps cancelled and uncertainty around school opening, some families are facing what may feel like endless weeks of emptiness. Within minutes of waking, children say, “I’m bored.” As parents, we often try to fill that boredom – or at least feel that it is partly our responsibility to try. What if I told you that boredom can be positive?
Well, boredom isn’t necessary good, but what children can do with their boredom can actually be an important life skill. Dr. Stephanie Lee, the Director of the ADHD and Behavior Disorders Center at the Child Mind Institute, explains that boredom fosters creativity, self-esteem and original thinking. She elaborates, “The key is to help kids learn how to manage their boredom so they can develop independence and feel agency over their own happiness and well-being.” What can you do to help your children lean into their boredom?
Create an activity list together. Take some time to come up with some fun activities that your children can do alone. For younger children, you can create the list in pictures. For older children, a regular written list should work just fine. The goal is for your child and for you to contribute ideas that they might find entertaining when they start to feel bored.
Get creative – and collaborative. Brainstorm your children’s passions and come up with large projects that they can work on by themselves or with a friend or family member remotely. These projects can include anything from a DIY project or cooking nightly dinner to a shared short story writing activity or building a website.
Understand the limitations. Depending on your child’s age and disposition, she will not be able to sit for very long. Reward the independent work that she is doing before she comes to you to tell you she is done and bored. Instead, pay attention to her rhythms and give positive reinforcement a few minutes before you think she’s about to abandon the project.
Boredom is not going to go away, nor are we always going to be able to embrace it! But, the bottom line is that boredom, when handled well, can be a learning experience from which we can all benefit.