“When we are bored, we ask ourselves: What do I want to do with myself? We are guided toward certain things: a pen and paper, a guitar, the forest in the backyard, a soccer ball, a spatula. The moment after we don’t know what to do with ourselves is the moment we find ourselves. Right after itchy boredom is self-discovery. But with we have to hang in there long enough without bailing.” Untamed by Glennon Doyle.
Being bored is…well…boring, uncomfortable, agitating. But then something magical happens. We tap into ourselves and our minds take flight. For me, it’s writing and reading. I am present. I hear the rain hitting the trees and my daughter organizing our pantry. I feel grateful. I feel at ease. I feel connected with myself and my surroundings. In a world where the days are long, but the years are short, I need boredom, and so do our kids.
Are you (and your kids) feeling especially bored and restless during our current stay safe, stay home order to address COVID-19? Instead of thinking about being bored as something to escape, let’s re-frame it as much needed “downtime” for our minds. Research shows this downtime helps kids become creative, independent thinkers. We can help our kids become more comfortable with being bored by both modeling it and guiding them. We aren’t supposed to provide our kids with constant stimulation. What did we do before the world was digital? We were bored. A lot.
Let’s take a moment and release ourselves from the pressure of providing our kids with constant motion and remove our guilt when we feel we fall short. Really. Take a deep breath in, and while slowly exhaling, gently tell yourself you don’t have to provide your kids with non-stop activity and entertainment.
Instead, and especially during this uncertain time surrounding COVID-19, encourage your kids to rest and play. Turn off the TV, give the devices a rest, turn on some soothing music, and offer suggestions and guidance like relaxing with a book, propose a topic to daydream about, build, draw, color, write, walk in the backyard, tinker, putter, invent. Just the other day, my daughter went into the yard and started trimming the trees! My kids and I came up with a “what I can do when I’m bored” list that hangs in our kitchen. Here is an excellent list of 100 things to do (that don’t involve screens). I like this list because it’s simple enough to allow our kids to individualize the idea. It gives a foundation while still requiring our kids to think, dream, create. I’m going to send the list to my tween and teen and ask them to pick one idea a day.
It’s out of boredom that people have invented some really cool things. By doing nothing, you child is being his/her most creative and productive self, also called autobiographical planning. For example, fireworks were invented accidentally by a cook in China 2,000 years ago.
Boredom can result in opportunities for our kids to get to know themselves and their interests. Dare I say a new phrase in your house will be “I love bored”?!