I have to admit, I have a love/hate relationship with Summer break. For me it means my schedule with my three kids slows down a bit, which is a welcome respite! But for them, the “slowing down” part isn’t quite as exciting. My kids love to be busy and entertained (as I believe most children do), which is why most parents stress about Summer camps, trips and activities the entire Summer. We try to keep our kids as busy as possible, most likely in an attempt to ward off the dreaded words…”I’m bored!” Because let’s be honest…that phrase is UP there on the cringe list!!
It turns out we may need to grow a thicker skin as parents and allow our kids to be bored once in a while. Not only does being bored motivate them to use their creativity and naturally seek out what interests them, it’s actually a developmental milestone that psychologists say is beneficial.
“Your role as a parent is to prepare children to take their place in society. Being an adult means occupying yourself and filling up your leisure time in a way that will make you happy,” says Lyn Fry, a child psychologist in London with a focus on education. “If parents spend all their time filling up their child’s spare time, then the child’s never going to learn to do this for themselves.”
Boredom actually teaches children to be self reliant, which is an important skill to learn as they grow older.
Psychoanalyst Adam Phillips wrote that the “capacity to be bored can be a developmental achievement for the child. Boredom is a chance to contemplate life, rather than rushing through it, he said in his book On Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored: Psychoanalytic Essays on the Unexamined Life. “It is one of the most oppressive demands of adults that the child should be interested, rather than take time to find what interests him. Boredom is integral to the process of taking one’s time,” explained Phillips.
Keeping a child busy all the time can be expensive and tiresome, and it should not be the parents responsible to be “entertainer”, however, kids can use a little guidance when it comes to occupying themselves.
A good idea is to sit down with your child at the beginning of Summer and write down a “bucket list” of activities. Some may be simple such as going for a bike ride, reading a book, collecting insects or playing a game of Monopoly, and others may be a little more elaborate like putting on a play, going on a scavenger hunt or taking a trip to the lake with them. This list will now be a great reference for your child when they come to you saying “I’m bored”. Simply encourage them to choose something from the Summer Fun list…and if by chance they are stubborn and say they don’t want to do any of them (which never happens, right?) let them sit in their boredom until they figure out what to do! Chances are they will, because boredom eventually leads to creativity. Which is why it’s beneficial!
Bottom line is, if your child is “bored” this Summer – don’t worry. You are doing something right! They will learn to become more self reliant and creative in the process. We need to retrain our brains into understanding that boredom is a natural part of growing up, and refrain from trying to jump in to save the day all the time. Your kids will thank you as they grow older!