Consider the following story as it relates to this week’s piece.
My oldest son Christopher is absolutely ecstatic that there’s only a week left in the school year before summer break. For months he’s been counting down the days when he can just take it easy and relax. I suggested to him that maybe he should consider attending summer camp like he has over the past few years. He immediately shrugged it off and said he never really liked it and that the only reason he attended was because I thought it was a good idea for him. This made me take a step back and think, “How many extracurricular activities that he’s done over the years hasn’t he liked?” Should I just back up and let him do what he wants?
As parents, we like for our kids to keep busy and focused when they aren’t in school. With so many activities such as summer camps, boys and girls clubs, little league sports clubs and so forth, there’s a plethora of things that can keep them busy and avoid them from becoming bored. But think about this, if you’re suggesting for your kids to take up certain activities, will they truly enjoy them if participating was never their idea?
We always consider boredom to be a period of laziness and time-wasting. However, according to Dr. Teresa Belton, a visiting fellow at the University of East Anglia (U.K.), boredom isn’t bad and develops “internal stimulus” that can allow for true creativity to grow. In other words, by allowing kids to be bored, they can experiment and explore things that might interest them on their own in order to keep busy.
Our psychologists in Tampa will do what they can to help your child overcome the troubles of their youth, whether it’s discovering new ways to be creative or treating a behavioral issue.
Boredom Isn’t BadAs parents, we like for our kids to keep busy and focused when they aren’t in school. Click To Tweet
In his 1993 book “On Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored: Psychoanalytic Essays on the Unexamined Life”, psychoanalyst Adam Phillips wrote that a child’s capacity to be bored can be a developmental triumph since it allows them to examine their life instead of rushing through it. Like we mentioned earlier, this is a great thing since, if your child has nothing to do, they can explore the world around them, taking in new ideas that can spark an interest in something new.
Many parents send their kids to camp for the summer after their school year ends. We are huge supporters of the summer camp experience, day and residential, as they offer an endless array of amazing growth, fun and friendship experiences. There is a camp out there for practically every child with every type and level of interest imaginable. However, in our discussion of the value of boredom, many summer camps are highly structured and offer little in the way of true down time where kids have to dig deep in terms of figuring out ways to entertain themselves. Maybe your child would rather have their nose in a book instead of swinging a bat. Maybe she/he would prefer to be sketching a vase or a pet instead of rock climbing. The point here is that they won’t know that other interesting activities exist if they aren’t given the opportunity to seek them out when being bored.
Let Them Explore on Their OwnRemember, it’s not your responsibility to help rid your kids of their boredom! Click To Tweet
We like to help our kids as much as we can, but sometimes in life, it’s best to just step back and let them do things on their own. Dealing with their boredom can be one of the first issues they tackle on their own. Remember, it’s not your responsibility to help rid your kids of their boredom! According to child psychologist Lyn Fry, “Being an adult means occupying yourself and filling up your leisure time in a way that will make you happy.”
In order to be capable adults who have interests that will make them happy, your kids need to learn to fill up their spare time on their own. If a parent constantly finds things for his/her child to do to keep them busy, eventually the child will reach a phase where they’re “too old” for it and will be at a loss when it comes to finding a new interest.
Helping Them Find an InterestThere’s a difference between keeping your child busy and helping them find ways to stay busy. Click To Tweet
There’s a difference between keeping your child busy and helping them find ways to stay busy. Fry suggests for parents to sit down with their child at the beginning of the summer to make a list of potential things that might interest him/her. This can include simple activities like reading a book, painting or maybe even helping you around the house (only if that’s what interests them) as some kids take great pleasure in cleaning and organizing! Remember, this is about them, not you.
The most you should be doing is suggesting activities that they might want to do, not convincing them to do activities that you think they’ll enjoy. Otherwise, listen to what they have to say, even if you think a potential interest that they want to try out sounds non-constructive. If they eventually get bored with it, they can move on to another activity that they’ve come up with.
Helping You in Tampa
Helping your kids go through life is just one of the many responsibilities of parenting. However, sometimes we’ll run into problems that may need some professional guidance. That’s where we come in. If your child is having trouble developing an interest or needs to get something off of their chest, then we can help. Our psychologists and therapists offer a comforting and supportive space where you and your kids can be open with yourselves and each other. Contact us today in Tampa to learn more.