Why You Must Let Your Child Get Bored this Summer
School is (almost) out. And with all this freedom come the long, lazy, hazy days of summer.
One issue that frequently comes up in my office is how to keep kids busy and occupied with all their new found free time.
While many kids need structure and routine to stay focused and manage anxiety, it is very important to allow our kids to get bored.
Children born in this technological age are not often bored. The moment they start to get restless they are often asking for or given smart phone to entertain them. While this serves to keep them occupied and quiet at inconvenient times, it denies them opportunities to learn some very important life and coping skills.
So before you plan every minute of your child’s summer, here are three reasons why you must let your child get bored.
- Boredom improves executive functioning and problems solving skills. When kids are bored they have to figure out what to do with themselves. There’s only so much staring at the wall they can do before they can’t stand their lack of activity and they go off and find something to do. Creating fun necessitates problem-solving, executive functioning and social skills. If you allow a few kids to get bored, after about 5 minutes they will have created a game with rules adults could never understand. Or they start to find sticks to build a fort. Or they raid the junk drawer for materials to create the next fidget spinner. Kids won’t do any of this when they are constantly entertained, so let them figure out their own fun once in awhile.
- Boredom allows kids to develop self-regulation and self-soothing skills. Boredom is uncomfortable. Our brains want something to do and when there isn’t anything exciting to focus on, it can be anxiety provoking. Often when kids whine, “I’m bored,” they are asking us to resolve this anxiety and discomfort. If we refuse to rescue them from this feeling, they will have to engage self-calming and soothing skills. Whether they decide to pick up a book, go outside to play, or choose to doodle and daydream, they are learning ways they can take care of themselves and manage uncomfortable feelings.
- Boredom minimizes technology dependency. The reality is, we all tune into tech when we get bored. In some cases waiting in line and checking email isn’t a big deal, but for children who are learning problem-solving and coping skills, turning to tech in times of boredom and discomfort can create a dependency on screens to manage discomfort and anxiety. When a child figures out how to self-soothe without screens, they have more flexibility in how to cope with stressors and are more resilient in the face of challenges that require problem-solving.
Your children will resist boredom. They will whine and beg for you to solve their boring life. If they are used to being constantly entertained or plugged into technology, they may give you a run for your money as they hope their whiny distress will get you to rescue them.
Stay strong! Don’t give in to the pressures of boredom. Manage your own frustration by telling your child that boredom won’t hurt them and they will figure things out. After some time the whining will turn to grumbling and mumbling and then your child will figure out something to do.
Once you get over this challenge, your child will increasingly be able to self-soothe and figure out how to manage their free time, which is an important life skill now and into their future.