“I am bored.”
“I don’t know what to play.”
“When can we do something?”
Sound familiar? Arguably, these are one of the most annoying sentences kids say to their parents during the seemingly long summer vacation.
I used to get so frustrated when I heard the complaints, because I assumed I must solve the problem … but at the same time I can’t entertain my children every single minute. For some reason, I believed boredom was bad and I needed to help my kids out of it. (Now I am still saying that if a child is bored non-stop, there may be deeper issues that as parents we need to look out for. But this is not the case with my children.)
Over the last several years, I have grown as a parent and realized boredom isn’t a bad thing. Here are some helpful ways to deal with summertime boredom that worked well for my family.
Accept Boredom is a Real Problem to Children
As adults we have our own agendas and it is hard to remember what it was like to have nothing to do. However, to our children it is a real problem … and it is okay to help them out even if it is hard for us to understand. If we handle their emotions and concerns the right way, we can teach valuable lessons and provide coping tools that can be used throughout their life. And it is important to keep in mind that sometimes being bored is just a feeling that needs an empathetic response from a parent and not a solution. It is okay to let the frustration of being bored pass in the safety of your understanding.
Create a “Boredom Jar”
Grab a jar of any kind and fill it with strips of paper containing fun or useful activities. For example, the note may say any of the following: call your grandparents, weed the garden, wipe baseboards, read for 30 minutes, etc. Keep in mind that the best ideas are either fairly easy chores or activities the child can do by themselves. The rule is, whatever task or fun idea they pull out of the boredom jar, they have to do it for the next 30 minutes. Your kids may think twice about reaching into the jar, but either way, this boredom buster works!
Maintain a Loose Schedule
I find that having a predictable routine helps all of us feel productive, while also ensures a good amount of free time. Most kids don’t do very well with “go play in your room” during a whole summer. The schedule does not have to be strict or elaborate. It simply serves one purpose: giving your days a flow to free you from the burden of having to figure it all out again every single day. Do you have an activity each week at a certain time? Put it on the schedule. Do you want to go to the library with the kids? Schedule a day each week. Do you want to take a day trip to a few places? Have a day each week when you travel. You can also have a stay home day, when you clean, catch up on laundry and just enjoy being together. Add in a kid’s choice day, when they can tell you what they would like to do. It may sound new to you, but give it a try and you might be pleasantly surprised.
Acknowledge Different Personalities
I had to realize that personality has a lot to do with how a child handles boredom. Some need a lot more social stimulation than others. Some could not imagine playing alone, but some choose to do so without anyone asking. Some kids are naturally creative and full of ideas, others need a jump start from adults around. No matter what category your child falls into, accepting their personality will help both of you deal with boredom. It is not only okay, but preferable to treat children according to their needs, even if that means slightly different rules. You may let one child go on play dates more often while your other child prefers to stay home. You can’t always please each child, but you can certainly keep personalities in mind it comes to dealing with boredom.
Allow Them to be Bored
I tell my children it’s perfectly fine to experience boredom from time to time. Don’t be afraid to allow these natural feelings as a part of life all human beings experience. Instead, teach your children that if they don’t know what to do with their time, it is okay to take a break to brainstorm. It is okay to listen to music on a car ride instead of having to watch something or play video games. It is okay not to have the constant need for entertainment, but struggle through the feelings of not knowing what to do. Of course, more often than not, when you tell your child boredom fosters creativity and it is useful, they will roll their eyes. But just as with so many other parenting decisions, you know there is more to this situation than meets the eye.
All in all, being bored is part of life, and we don’t need to panic when our kids can’t figure out what to do. Instead, encourage and guide them, fostering creativity and imagination. I hope these tips help you in successfully handling summertime boredom.
How do you help your kids when they are bored? What strategies work best for your family?