Some kids played their summer boredom card the weekend after school let out.
Most can hold off a month or so before drifting around the house, calling you at work, or begging for another video game, sport, or activity to rescue them.
And some make it until after the Fourth of July before spiraling down into sad choruses of “I don’t have anything to do” or “I’m sooo bored…”
So, like a legion of other harried parents, you likely find yourself calling every local recreation center, summer camp, and enrichment program you can think of. Anxiously, you mention that money is no object as you vie for the open spot that will spare your kids the problem of having too much spare time.
Hold on. Too much spare time? Is that really a problem?
Perhaps you should click away from that Lego Camp website, put away your credit card, and think this through. Maybe your kid’s boredom might just work out well after all.
Consider this: Your kids’ summer boredom is NOT a problem for you to solve!
Sure, if you wanted, you could over-schedule the summer. You could use all those hours formerly filled with school to hone their soccer skills or elevate their robotics genius. But experts in child development would caution against it.
Summer break may better serve your child as a lesson in the pursuit of their own happiness.
Instead of accepting your child’s demands that you make them less bored, agitated, or confused, why not just stall and let them figure out what to pursue for themselves?
So. What does the summer look like then, if you aren’t running around with lists, bags of gear, and sack lunches? Read on:
Summer Boredom is a Kid’s Opportunity to Discover Their Interests
When parents step away from serving up potential interests in the form of organized sports and adult-led classes, kids do an amazing job of figuring out what they really like.
Give your kids the chance to “take their time.” They may not even really know what that phrase means. Let the summer teach them to work through boredom by slowing down, embracing their time as their own, and thinking through the most interesting ways to use it.
Do your best to entertain them less and remove their digital distractions. Then their brains can relax and they can find out where their mind will wander.
Summer Boredom is a Chance to Support Self-Reliance
If kids are always rescued from downtime, how will they know that the boredom that naturally accompanies adult leisure time, gaps in employment, etc is normal and not a reason to overreact with busyness, negativity and unproductive decision-making?
Reinforce that it’s okay to be bored. Eventually, it will lead to motivation. Motivation to get up and go. Or not. If they want excitement they ‘ll need to find it. If they want friends, they’ll need to make them. If they want to know something they’ll seek out the answers.
Boredom whispers to kids, “You’re not doing what you want or like to do. What are you going to do about it?”
It’s a mental nudge that urges them to take care of their own emotional, social, or intellectual need or desire. Why get in the way of an adventure? As they work through boredom, they may end up feeling more competent and confident than ever before.
Summer Boredom is an Opening for Imagination, Ingenuity & Invention
Kids who spend the majority of their time on screens, playing in simulated situations, have less time for creative problem-solving in the real world. Children whose activities are always directed by adults in organized ways have less time to organize play and fun with those their own age.
Screens and over-organization rob kids of the discomfort that comes with standing around asking each other awkwardly, “what do you wanna do?” You may be surprised how much can blossom while they sulk in the sun trying to figure it out. Eventually, light bulbs will go off as their mental muscles get stretched.
It’s fascinating to watch as a new universe is devised, a designer clubhouse gets built, or innovative ways to get lightning bugs to fly themselves into a jar become summer obsessions.
Summer days are long, it’s not mean or poor parenting to leave kids to their own mental devices. Simply reinforce the boundaries and household consequences for breaking the rules. Then back away.
In truth, boredom is excellent preparation for adult life. Let kids decide how to spend their time. Encourage your kids to look around for fun; find people to cooperate with; seek out ways to learn, build, and become someone they never thought they could be. Then see what happens.
Will they push through boredom to get to the thought, “ I guess it’s up to me”? Hopefully.
What can it hurt to wait it out? When your kids eventually do make that mental leap and conquer boredom, anything will be possible and they’ll see just how fun summer can be!