Summer Boredom Blues
Search ‘summer boredom’ on the internet and you’ll be rewarded with multiple sites providing a plethora of ideas to ‘cure’ any child’s summer boredom blues. Suggestions such as ‘play a board game, play water balloon games, build a fort’, are offered in list, after list, after list. And it makes me wonder, when did summer boredom become something that needed to be ‘cured’? I think back to my childhood and have fond memories of lazy summer days that were rarely pre-planned or scheduled. My friends and I were bored more times than not, but it was a situation we generally handled ourselves through discussion and planning. We usually ended up doing things like those suggested on the internet today, such as playing a board game or running through the sprinklers. As we got older and more independent, we would find ways to get to the mall or to the movie theatre via bike or bus. We usually did this all by ourselves, without too much adult involvement, other than requiring permission when necessary, and without the internet.
But a lot has changed since I was a kid experiencing summer boredom. Somewhere between then and now summer boredom has taken on a negative connotation and has become something many parents feel compelled to prevent or cure. Hearing your child say over and over, “I’m bored!” might have something to do with that. And ‘curing’ summer boredom for our kids really isn’t that difficult, as more and more structured summer activities and summer camps are readily provided through churches, schools, businesses and here in Orlando, even at amusement parks. And for working parents, in particular, summer day camps are especially useful and necessary. Summer camps and structured activities do provide children with a wide variety of positive developmental opportunities such as learning and practicing new skills, gaining new knowledge, building on talents, socializing with peers, and making new friends.
That being said, boredom also brings with it many developmental benefits for children. In 2007, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a report stating that child-directed, exploratory play is more effective than structured, adult-guided activity when it comes to a child’s positive mental, social, and emotional development. As you think about the summer months and how best to fill your child’s days, keep in mind that balance is best and some boredom mixed in with structured activities will allow your child to maximize their growth and learning potential. Here are some ways in which boredom is actually a good thing and not something parents should feel compelled to prevent or cure:
- Boredom Inspires Creativity
When a child is bored, his or her creative mind engages, thus inspiring ways in which they can play and engage their minds. What a wonderful way for a kid to simply be a kid! Granted, some of this creativity might lead to activities that require adult guidance or supervision and that’s ok. The key is allowing children to engage their minds and come up with ideas on their own. To enhance this process, parents can encourage their children to make a list of fun activities they would like to participate in during the summer. When a child gets ‘stuck’ and can’t get themselves out of the boredom rut, a parent can remind the child to choose something from their list.
- Boredom Enhances Social Skills and Communication Skills
When kids work together to cure the boredom blues, amazing things happen. Problem solving skills, effective communication, and compromise must all be utilized, and are strengthened and enhanced, when kids work together to come up with something to do on their own.
- Boredom Encourages Self-sufficiency and Builds Life-skills
It’s surprising what kids will be willing to do when they are bored. When all else fails, a parent should never shy away from suggesting a household chore, such as organizing a book shelf, folding the laundry, or washing windows. Just the suggestion of doing a household chore may inspire your child to find something else to do, but often kids look forward to trying new jobs around the house. Try not to worry about how well the child is completing the task, however. They’ll get better at these kinds of skills with practice. The fact that they are willing to learn and try something new is a great first step!
- Boredom Promotes Self-discovery
When a child utilizes his or her creative mind, they often discover new interests and hobbies. They also discover things that they don’t enjoy doing. This process of self-discovery will be one they will utilize throughout their life. And developing this skill in childhood builds a strong foundation for your child that will allow for more effective decision making when it comes time for him or her to decide bigger, more meaningful life decisions, such as where to attend college or what career path to pursue.
For the record, boredom is good for adults as well. In Buddhist and Hindu traditions, boredom is recognized as a precursor to personal discovery and insight. As is the case with children, boredom in adults promotes problem-solving, decision-making and can inspire creativity. In fact, when adults, turn to a distraction when experiencing boredom, such as utilizing an electronic device, they miss out on valuable growth opportunities that occur when they allow their mind to wander.
In today’s busy world, families are often pulled in multiple directions and it can certainly be overwhelming for parents to find the right balance. Screen time complicates this issue even further because it is such a quick an easy remedy for boredom. But, with a few simple steps, parents can make the most of the summer by embracing boredom as a positive, rather than a negative childhood experience. Limiting screen time and allowing your child to find their way through the boredom blues will only maximize their learning and growth. If you are having difficulty finding the right life balance for you or a family member, please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced Orlando mental health counselors.