Do you find yourself already planning your child’s summer? Are you anxious at the thought of hearing those three words, “Mom, I’m bored!”? Do you feel like your child has to be busy and engaged in social activities all the time otherwise they get into trouble or display negative behaviors?
Believe it or not, boredom is beneficial. In a day and age where we are accustomed to little wait time, instant gratification, and constant visual entertainment, it is no wonder that our children do not rely on their own imaginations to keep themselves occupied.
Boredom allows for exploration of their world
Unscheduled time allows children to tune into their inner world as well as the world around them. It is extremely important for children to be with and learn to cope with their own emotions and thoughts especially while they are in an environment where they can ask questions about the things that they feel.
In my private practice, I often hear parents say, “If I don’t put my child in activities she gets very anxious.” I’m not suggesting that we expose our children to excessive or unnecessary anxiety. What I am suggesting is that our children be taught to tend to their anxiety — not avoid it. This will allow them to learn how to cope with it later in life. Tuning into their environment can also teach children empathy, safe boundaries, connection, and increase emotional intelligence.
Boredom awakens passions and interests
Free time allows children to discover what they are truly interested in and passionate about. Consequently, it allows them to figure out what they are not interested in. Allowing our children to find what excites them, leads to satisfaction and increased self-esteem. It also leads to autonomy and independence, which is something we strive to teach our children as this enables them to be productive members of society
Boredom increases creativity
Having the freedom to explore their own imaginations allows our children’s creativity to awaken and thrive. Instead of turning to a computer screen or tablet, your child can create his own imaginary world or game that encourages large motor skills which enhances development. Creativity allows our children to become inventors and problem solvers.
So we know why boredom is beneficial, but what can we do to encourage our children to embrace it?
- Turn off technology
- Explore the creative arts (music, art, dance, drama)
- Get back to nature
- Get moving: move your body to move your mind!
- Take time to talk
- Create a to-do list
“Remember that boredom can also be a sign that our children just need some positive attention and love. Engage with your child and try to figure out why the boredom exists in the first place. Join your child in a game or imaginary play and not only will they be engaged, but your connection will become stronger.” — Nancy H. Blakey, parent educator and author
Erica Hornthal, a licensed professional clinical counselor and board-certified dance/movement therapist, is the founder and CEO of Chicago Dance Therapy. As a psychotherapist in private practice, Erica is devoted to using movement in conjunction with traditional talk therapy to facilitate awareness, empathy, enhanced quality of life, and greater mental health for individuals and families.