The thought of seeing your kids draped lifelessly over the couch cushions, saying those dreaded words, “I’m bored,” is enough to make any parent panic.
You know what comes next…whining, sibling fighting, following you around the house demanding that you find something fun for them to play.
It won’t matter what you say anyway. Your kids will promptly respond, “No, I don’t like that idea,” to anything you suggest.
At this point, you start to feel frustrated and pressured: “What am I, the activity director?”
It’s OK for kids to be bored.
There is a lot of pressure to keep kids active. To expose them to different activities. To help them excel in academics, sports or music. Video games and movies have conditioned kids to crave excitement and constant movement.
Kids are not used to being bored. And, many parents are uncomfortable letting their kids be bored.
However, a little boredom is good for kids! It fosters creativity. It helps them learn to be resourceful. It provides an opportunity to use their brain differently, unconstrained by the pressures of time or an adult’s direction.
Tips for easing the transition into boredom:
- Connect First: Keep in mind your child’s cries of boredom may actually be a request to spend time with you! Prioritize connection and relationships more than independent activities. Build one-on-one time into your daily routine. Keep it simple.
- Plan Ahead: Work together as a family to create a list of (parent-approved) “I’m bored” activities. Some families put a list on the fridge or on strips of paper in a jar. Other families set aside a box of books and toys that are only used when boredom hits.
- Expect Resistance: It may take some time for your kids to get used to filling their own unstructured time. They are used to being rescued from this uncomfortable feeling! At first, they may express resistance by refusing to do any activities at all, yelling, demanding or even crying.
- Show Empathy: Seeing our kids struggle is hard! We want to rescue them from pain (even if it means more work for us!). When your kids show resistance through big emotions, respond with empathy, “I know you’re so bored today, it’s hard when you don’t know what to do next.”
- Encourage: It is much easier to rescue our kids than to encourage them to think for themselves. Instead of finding an activity, encourage them to “check the list” for an idea. Give an extra boost by saying, “I can’t wait to see what you decide to do today!”
- Give Feedback: If your children are successful at filling their time, acknowledge their efforts and creativity. Ask open-ended questions about their activities, “Tell me more about this tower you built!” or “That game looks cool, how do you play?”
- Revise & Try Again: If your kids still struggle to fill their time, go back and revise the “I’m bored” activity list. Explore why it isn’t working and brainstorm solutions.
If you find yourself feeling frustrated, pressured or annoyed, take a deep breath.
Give yourself permission to feel these feelings. This is a new challenge for everyone. You have been playing the role of activity director for too long. Remind yourself of the positive aspects of boredom…it’s ok for your kids to be bored!