“There is nothing to do around here.”
“I’m tired of being inside all the time.”
Sounds familiar? These, among other statements, are phrases spoken more and more by our children amidst a worsening pandemic, school and entertainment house closures. But boredom does not have to be a bad thing and can even be beneficial.
Incredibly challenging about the current pandemic is that not all children may feel “bored”. Rather, many are expressing sadness, frustration, and anger about the current restrictions they face due to Covid 19. This is where parents can have the greatest impact.
We usually respond to our children’s boredom by providing technological entertainment or structured activities. But that’s actually counter-productive. Children need time to themselves – to switch off from the bombardment of the outside world, to daydream, pursue their own thoughts and occupations, and discover personal interests and gifts.
It doesn’t matter if your child doesn’t have any obvious personal interests or hobbies that they can pursue independently. Just letting the mind wander from time to time is important for everybody’s mental wellbeing and functioning.
Although boredom is known for its role in leading to negative outcomes, boredom has also its benefits. Boredom can be a catalyst for action.
Here are 5 benefits of boredom
- Boredom actually sparks creativity:
Use your imagination! It’s a phrase repeated all over the world by parents with bored kids. While brain engaging activities are extremely beneficial to a child’s development, so is a bit of boredom.
Boredom gives your child time and reason to be creative and come up with their own ideas. When your child has self-led free time, they actually get a chance to use their imagination. You may be amazed at what they come up with.
- Boredom fosters an appreciation for the excitement:
A bit of boredom is like a rainy day in the middle of summer. It’s a downer when it happens, but it makes us really appreciate the sunny days that follow. If there are no dull moments in a child’s life, they may not appreciate the exciting times as much.
- Boredom enhances problem-solving skills:
Like with creativity, your child needs opportunities to solve their own problems without a parent’s presence there providing an “out” if the problem is too hard.
Being forced to come up with their own entertainment may lead to daydreaming, which will ultimately develop your child’s ability to problem-solve. For example, they will feel pride in figuring out which toy they have that will work perfectly as a door to the fort they built, all on their own.
- Boredom builds confidence:
When your child has opportunities to occupy themselves and manages to do so successfully, it gives their self-esteem a boost. When they have free time, they can try new things, test their limits and take risks, which allows them to build their confidence.
- Boredom leads to self-discovery:
Given unstructured time to think freely about whatever naturally comes to mind will help your child learn who they truly are. The child that seems really into science may actually be more interested in practising their skills mixing and measuring while baking.
The next time your child complains of being bored, try to help them make the most of their free time. For older children, encourage them to put down their phones or devices. Suggest that they take 30 minutes and do some boredom brainstorming. Encourage them to let their brain wander and see where their thoughts go naturally.
For younger children, they will do best with a bit of guided boredom. Ask them to think of something they like to do or something you can do together. If they have siblings, suggest they come up with an activity together.
Whatever you do, don’t turn on the TV or hand over the iPad if you have already used up the allotted screen time for the day. We don’t want to plant the “avoid boredom with passive entertainment” seed in them if we can help it.
Given these benefits, we should embrace boredom, rather than looking for an immediate escape. We should also allow our minds to wander because boredom could be an opportunity for reflection on what we want in life.
Overall, boredom may seem like a bad word for a parent. We live in a time where boredom is not only unappreciated, it’s vehemently avoided at all costs. But don’t be afraid to allow your child to experience some boredom. It will do them – and you – a world of good.
“I’m a big believer in boredom. Boredom allows one to indulge in curiosity, and out of curiosity comes everything.” – Steve Jobs