The Gift of Boredom

boredompic
Image via Katie Hurley

This just in:  Winter brings cold weather to many areas, leaving families trapped indoor for long periods of time.  While many parents relish the extra cuddle time by the fire for a few days, that can wear thin as cooped up kids begin to pace the house and climb the furniture. 

And then they start repeating two of the most dreaded words in parenting – “I’m bored.”

Boredom provides an opportunity for kids to tap into their creativity, learn to cope with being alone, and learn to make their own fun (without the help of screens).  Boredom, as it turns out, is a gift.

Complaints of boredom are never fun and sometimes repeated complaints result in parents handing over video games and tablets to pass the time, particularly during long winter cold snaps.  This is a mistake.

Boredom provides an opportunity for kids to tap into their creativity, learn to cope with being alone, and learn to make their own fun (without the help of screens).  Boredom, as it turns out, is a gift.

The trick is helping your children learn to channel their boredom into something amazing, without asking you what to do every thirty seconds.  No easy task (particularly if your kids do rely heavily on screen time during typical episodes of “boredom”).

 

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Image via Flickr/grace_kat

Talk about it:

What does it actually mean to be bored?  Is there really nothing to do at the moment, or is it hard to play alone?  Do your kids seek additional input from siblings, parents, or peers or do they just struggle to get started on their own?

Some kids draw energy from those around them – this can make downtime seem boring and even anxiety producing.  They need to find activities and projects that suit them, and that might require help.

Many parents find themselves snapping when they hear “I’m bored” for the tenth time in ten minutes, but complaints of boredom are an excellent time to sit down and talk about what fun looks like and how to create fun when it seems to be missing.  

{ MORE: 6 Indoor Toddler Activities to Try on a Rainy Day }

kids painting
Image via iStock

Cultivate creativity:

You might think that some kids are naturally more “creative” than others.  I believe that all kids are creative in very different ways.  As parents, we have to help children find their inner creativity and run with it.

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A child who typically enjoys building blocks, for example, might make something truly amazing when given access to the recycling bin.  A child who spends a lot of time reading might enjoy adapting a book into a “movie”. 

Telling kids to find something to do leaves them confused and frustrated.  Helping them find their creative side and reminding them of it during times of boredom teaches your kids how to cope with being alone.

Image via Flickr/Miss Messie
Image via Flickr/Miss Messie

Encourage messy play:

I’m not saying that you need to let your kids make an overwhelming mess each day, but if your goal is to have a super clean house with everything in its place each day, your kids might be a little reluctant to play alone.  When kids are bound by too many restrictions, they become restricted themselves and seek input constantly to make sure they’re doing the right thing.

Encourage messy play … even inside!  Allow fort building in the family room, painting in a paint-safe zone, obstacle courses throughout the house, and building from materials found around the house. 

When kids feel comfortable tapping into their creativity and following through on their ideas, they learn to create their own fun.  When they learn to create their own fun, the complaints of boredom begin to dissipate.  Let there be fun.  

{ MORE: Tried & True Back-to-School Timesaving and Self-Care Hacks From Real-Life Moms }

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The Gift of Boredom

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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4 comments

  1. Megan Klay says:

    This is great, kids should be “bored” more often!

  2. Timothy says:

    very good info for later.. Just getting envolved with a child i feel is the way to go.. shut the dang tv OFF and interact with them.

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