This is part two of a two part blog series. Part one focuses on explaining why boredom is good for a kid’s brain health and their future development. It introduces five stages of boredom so that you can be aware of the more uncomfortable stages of dealing with bored kids, where grumbling and groaning is particularly common, but can also be short lived. If you haven’t read part one you can find it here.
Here, in part two, I provide parents with with tips on dealing with bored kids, what to do when faced with the realities of boredom.
Not 5 minutes after I finished researching part one of this blog series, and the scientific benefits of brain health that are linked to boredom, my son showed up with that familiar frustration in his voice.
“I’m boooooorrrrreddd. What can I doooooo?”
I realized my research was not done…
I have two children and they each handle boredom completely differently. They both move through the five stages mentioned in part one, but they do so at different paces. My eldest son (9) struggles with boredom, and gets very uncomfortable and frustrated when he doesn’t have external entertainment.
My youngest son (8) may resist for a short period – he’d certainly rather spend time on his screens – however, he is quicker to accept and move through the rest and recharge stage (cuddling with his dog is usually his activity of choice which sometimes even leads to a nap on top of her), and then straight into daydreaming where he is a natural.
If you have children who don’t take naturally to being bored then you know what I’m talking about.
Parenting bored kids is not easy, and that initial stage is as painful for parents as it is for the kids going through it. While the information in this blog series doesn’t necessarily make it easier, it has given me some confidence and the resolve to ride out the complaints.
Here are my 8 ‘brain healthy’ tips for dealing with bored kids:
- I’m a proponent of transparency, so start by telling your kids about the benefits of boredom. Help them understand the negative feelings and why they exist, so they too can recognize the feeling and be aware that they are temporary.
- Discuss a uniform response with your partner for what to do when your kids are bored. Nancy Collier, a psychotherapist and the author of the book The Power of Off: The Mindful Way to Sane in a Virtual World, suggests a response such as: “It’s OK to be bored now and then, it won’t hurt you and it will help you, in ways you can’t know yet.” She also suggests that you use this mantra for yourself as an adult: “Your boredom just means I’m doing my job as a parent.”
- Keep an eye out for underlying meanings. Sometimes “I’m bored” actually means “I’m lonely” or “I’m sad.” Like boredom, we can help our child sort through and understand negative emotions without providing solutions for them.
- Don’t give in with technology. It completely negates the benefits of boredom. Establish your family’s technology boundaries and stick to it.
- Consider coming up with a creative “boredom space” or “downtime activities.” Depending on the age of your child you can come up with these together, and remember that the space or activity should not actually provide any direction in and of itself. Examples might be:
- An art corner, table, or box with random materials ready to be turned into whatever the beholder sees in them.
- A bean bag chair that looks out a window in the house, labelled “The Relaxing Chair.”
- For older children – a list of activities that inspire introspection. Cloud or stargazing, going for a walk, meditation, or reading for pleasure.
- The more your child practices boredom, the easier it will get. And, for parents, the more you practice dealing with bored kids the easier that will get, too! Ease into it, and gradually grow the amount of time you allow your kids to flounder before you come to the rescue.
- Actively teach your kids how to engage their daydreaming and creativity skills. Find ways to encourage your kids to express their dreams, to think about what interests them, and to establish a mindset of possibility about their future. I feel so strongly about this that we are currently building a virtual program to give parents the neuroscience, tools, and a like-minded supportive community to empower you and your kids. Join the waitlist today so that you and your kids don’t miss out.
- When all else fails, and you’ve ridden it out as long as you can, have a few chores in mind for your kids to contribute around the house. The less fun the chores are, the greater the chance your kids will opt for the discomfort of boredom. It’s a win-win as I see it!
I hope these tips on dealing with bored kids help you to understand what to do when your kids are bored, and that they bring some confidence and sanity to your household this summer and onward. In the short weeks since I initially undertook this topic, I have already started to see the benefits. Part of these benefits are my own; I feel less stressed when I’m dealing with my bored kids, and I am more accepting of their discomfort. I know it is for their own good.
And, I’ve started to see the creative endeavors. Last week we stared at the clouds and talked about the elephants and rhinoceros we saw. I have let my kids explore in a way I may not have before, and have celebrated their unique creations. From painting a treehouse, to random unintelligible woodworking projects, to the best blender smoothie concoctions they can come up with – I know they’ll be living their childhood to their fullest this summer!
Now, go forth and be bored!
But, don’t forget to leave a comment below. What other tips or suggestions do you have for embracing boredom in your family?
P.S., if you are ready to go further check out our Dream Big Together program, and join the waitlist for our next release.