Responding to Boredom
In my last article, I discussed the benefits of boredom. So it’s okay to be bored from time to time, and it’s important to allow boredom; but what about too much boredom? As summer quickly approaches, it’s important to think about how you are going to respond to “I’m bored” without panicking and handing over the electronic devices to entertain all day. An hour or two of electronics on the down days of summer isn’t a bad thing; but when two hours turns into 4, 5 or 6, it’s time to think about other ways to fill the gaps. A few ideas may include:
Get work done before other activities. It’s all too easy to start a day and the next thing you know the bedrooms are still a mess, the laundry’s not done, the weeds are growing out of control, and the dog hasn’t been walked. Starting the summer off with the understanding that chores need to be done before turning on any screens or leaving the house sets the tone for the summer. This is a great way to increase motivation to get things done as well. It’s also much easier to ask for a room to be cleaned as an expectation at the start of the day, rather than telling your child to clean the room because of boredom.
Create a boredom jar. This can be a good family activity in anticipation of the summer. Come up with all kinds of things that are fun, but that you may not think of when feeling bored. Put each idea on a piece of paper, and put it in a jar. Anytime you hear “I’m bored,” tell your child to pull something from the boredom jar and do what is on the paper they draw. You can also include some chores in the jar, so they are less likely to whine to you about being bored. A card may be drawn that says “make a puzzle” or “sweep the floor.” Your child may become creative in self-managing boredom given the alternative of having to do dreaded work!
Make a bucket list. Anticipating summer can be a little scary for some families wondering how they will fill the time. Before summer arrives, make a bucket list of all the things you’d like to do over the summer. It may include things such as going to the zoo, trying fishing, kayaking down a river, hanging out with friends, having a sleepover, or going to the beach. Planning some fun outings or social events ahead of time can be helpful later. You can also use the down days to plan the outings!
Do something nice for someone else. We all have good intentions of doing things for others, but the business of the school year can get the best of us. Making and send cards, washing your neighbor’s car, making a meal for someone in need, or walking the neighbor’s dog are all things that can help time pass, and make a positive impact on another person’s life.
Simplify what you are doing. If you hear these words in the middle of an activity, “I’m bored” may mean, “I don’t think I’m good at this” or “This is hard.” At that point, slow down and think about how to best support your child in the moment. If you are playing catch, think about how you can make it easier to increase competence – such as moving closer. If you are working on a puzzle, try working on a simpler one that will engage your child longer. It’s also important to remember that boredom is not always a bad thing, and can have many great benefits; so embrace the slower pace of life – school will be back in session before you know it!
Article written by Michelle VanderHeide, LLMSW.
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