We’ve all been there with kids, whether it’s in the car, at home or even at the park; no matter where you are, kids seem to find a way to use the phrase “I’m bored.” Your first instinct may be to supply them with an endless supply of ideas, after all we are here to help, right? I’m here to encourage you to simply respond by acknowledging their statement and feelings, but allow them to figure out what comes next. This might sound something like “I’m really sorry to hear that, I know I don’t like feeling that way. You are so creative I know you’ll figure something out!” There are two parts to this answer that are important:
By validating their feelings they will feel heard and seen. Sometimes we might feel frustrated at the very idea that they could be bored given all the things they have at their disposal for entertainment. We also may be having a time where things are busy in our adult lives and might even feel a slight bit of wishing our lives would slow down enough to feel bored. Try to recognize that feeling as your own and leave space for their feeling too. Remember, they are used to being in school with their friends all day where they do art, PE, swimming, reading, recess, and more. Summer time is a big shift for them so they are adjusting to a slower pace. If we respond negatively to their statement this immediately shuts down conversation as well as any bit of creativity they might have (and they’ll need that later to fix the boredom). Having your feelings shut down never feels good so try to remember to always start with a statement that validates what they are feeling, it will open a connection and make them feel as though you are listening to them.
Encouraging without suggesting is where things get tricky. As adults who care for children we often want to see them happy, healthy and thriving. The desire to see them happy can place us in the role of fixer of problems. Stepping in to help guide a child and assist them in fixing a problem has a time and place, but I am here to tell you this is not one of them. When we start suggesting solutions to their boredom problem we are unintentionally reinforcing the idea that they cannot fix the problem themselves. We are taking away their power as intelligent, creative, capable beings that can navigate their way through this feeling. By reminding them of some of their strengths and encouraging them to use them to solve the problem on their own you are telling them “you got this, I believe in you.”
Summer is an amazingly fun time for many children. Remember, bored is not a dirty word, just a skill that needs to be intentionally developed and cultivated. By encouraging them to use the skills they already possess, we are helping them to trust themselves to solve their own problems. Feeling bored can increase a child’s creativity, problem solving skills and much more. I sincerely hope your summer is filled with many fun activities and enjoyable experiences - with a little boredom too!
-Shaun Ditty, Regular Contributor
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CBUS Dads is a community of central Ohio area dads balancing an active lifestyle with being an involved parent. A Saturday for us may involve enjoying morning t-ball, lunch at a new local spot and an evening at a summer festival with our families. We may live downtown, in the suburbs or somewhere between, but our common thread is that we continue to experience the community we love - now as parents.