For young April, weekends were sometimes TOO peaceful. Peaceful looked like dad watching the game alone in the TV room. Sister cordoned off in her bedroom with a new book. Mom gardening.
Her boredom meant one of two things:
- Routine is killing my imagination, but I am too young to articulate this.
- I am so lonely, but I think everyone feels like this and I don’t know how to reach out.
Consider your own adult boredom and you’ll probably find yourself agreeing with the above. Sure, our themes mature into career paths, romantic engagements, and the meaning of a connected life but the bedrock is the same:
- We’re unfulfilled in some way
- We’re understimulated or require new stimulation
- We have nothing to look forward to
- We’re disconnected from ourselves because we’re not engaging our personal passions or vice versa
Within the context of helping your child when she’s been slumped on the couch for hours and sighs, “Mom, I’m bored”, some detective work is required.
Now, it is true that fixing your child’s boredom is not your solo responsibility (ultimately, they must self-lead). However, it does require the intellect and wisdom of a parent to decipher what’s going on beneath the “I’m bored”. If your child knew, their whines would be far more specific.
Your own lived experience tells you that your child will face boredom many times throughout her life. Don’t underestimate the value of teaching her what lies beneath boredom, and how to move through it.
It’s a life-skill that holds its weight in helping see people through everything from having a few hours to kill, to, say, a global lockdown due to a pandemic.
At the most basic level, it’s a signal to add or remove by getting creative.
Five Ways to Consider Your Child’s Boredom
1) A Different Challenge
Your child has too much sameness in her life and needs new and diverse experiences.
Example: Your child loves the outdoors but you’ve been pushing her on the same swing, in the same park, for two years.
Looks like: Disinterest in former favorite toys, activities, and places
Sounds like: “Not this park again!”
How about a family outing to a new wild nature spot?
2) A Bigger Challenge
Your child is aligned with the type of activities/toys/places she’s engaging, but she’s outgrown the level of interaction and needs increased complexity.
Example: Your child loves building puzzles, but she’s tired of the subject matter or the level of difficulty has become too simple.
Looks like: Frustration with, and desire for more from, activities and objects that used to be immersive.
Sounds like: “My coloring pens don’t work!”
Maybe it’s time for watercolors.
3) A Smaller Challenge
The complexity of a game/book/task is overwhelming your child. She needs help simplifying or requires an easier task.
Example: You know your child likes numbers but she’s started staring blankly at her maths homework or is refusing entirely to engage.
Looks like: Disengages because of how difficult she perceives the task at hand. Not knowing how to proceed and giving up without even trying.
Sounds like: “This is dumb. I won’t do it.”
4) A Silent Call for Togetherness
Sometimes, boredom is a quiet cry for connection.
If your child has spent a lot of time playing alone or being around adults that are engaging each other and not including her, bored = lonely. Often, it’s enough to include her in your activity by warmly inviting her to join you in gardening and making fun out of digging and planting.
Other times, you may feel it important to stop what you’re doing and actively engage in a playful activity of your child’s choice. The key is to do so willingly, not begrudgingly. Children know the difference.
5) A Time for Self-Discovery
If your child hasn’t explored herself enough and doesn’t know many of her personal talents and passions, she may be lacking in personal-preference hobbies and pursuits that are immersive for her.
Boredom strikes because she actually doesn’t know what she enjoys or has grown-up too quickly. For some reason she is struggling to access her imagination and creative self.
Exposing her and engaging her with, diverse subjects, activities, and environments will help her explore herself and discover previously unknown interests.
The Benefits of Boredom
Much like anger or sadness, stripped away of our stories about it, boredom is just information. It’s our wisest self saying ‘Heads-ups! Something needs to change here.’
When intentionally engaged with, it’s a positive thing because boredom leads to:
- Increased creativity
- Relaxing daydreaming
- Improved problem-solving
- Lessons in perseverance
- Greater self-knowledge
Assist, Don’t Solve
“Children need to sit in their own boredom for the world to become quiet enough that they can hear themselves.”
~ Dr. Vanessa Lapointe
Here’s where the fun starts.
Ultimately, for all of us, the boredom cure begins with re-engaging our imaginations.
What do we desire and how can we make it happen? Or, in the worst cases of the doldrums, what do we desire to desire?
When it comes to your girls, it’s no different, it’s just in a child’s frame.
Once you’ve identified the underlying theme/s and done what you can to change, increase or decrease your child’s options, it’s their turn to partake. What better reason to re-engage one’s imagination and creativity than feeling a little bored?
Written by Roxana Bouwer
First image by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash
Second image by Thgusstavo Santana from Pexels
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