“Mom, I’m bored” is what many parents hear during the quarantine. The global isolation forced by the COVID-19 virus stripped families of their hectic lifestyle. The situation put us in a lockdown, and kids are the ones who suffer worst from staying home 24/7. However, sometimes, boredom has benefits – you just need to recognize and reap them.
The all-too-familiar phrase “Mom, I’m bored” sends many parents scrambling for ways to stimulate, entertain or occupy their kids. Yet child development experts and a growing number of parents are starting to view limited bouts of boredom as important to a child’s emotional growth and well-being.
During their forced “vacation,” children have to entertain themselves. In the process, they discover a valuable creative resource: their own imagination. “Now when my thirteen-year-old daughter comes up to me and says, ‘I’m bored,’ I’ll say, ‘How wonderful. You have some time to enjoy your own company and learn how special you are,'” says Dr. Glasser, a licensed clinical psychologist and founder of NewsForParents.org. “She will usually roll her eyes, but she’s starting to get it. Downtime is something we now embrace and value in this family.”
Children today are extraordinarily busy, with jam-packed schedules that take up more and more of their time. In fact, a survey by the University of Michigan revealed that in 1997 children between the ages of 3 and 12 had nearly eight hours less free time each week than they did in 1981. It’s not surprising that in a recent study approximately half of the adolescents surveyed said they feel stressed out at least once a week.
Kids need guidance about the importance of editing their lives so they can carve out hours to explore, create, connect, contemplate or just be. Yes, the quarantine has introduced a bit of intentional boredom, but it means you can help your children become more relaxed, more self-sufficient and, ultimately, happier people.
So, how to make your child reap advantages from quarantine and boredom?
Like nature, kids abhor a vacuum. Give them some do-nothing time and odds are pretty good they will find an interesting way to fill it. You should gently steer your children toward imaginative activities and allow them to make their own fun.
After the groans of “there’s nothing to do” start to fade, children may start to gravitate toward inspired outlets like picking up the guitar or exploring in their backyard.
The key to success is suppressing your impulse to find immediately something to occupy your child or, worse yet, to turn to the television or a computer game. Creativity nearly always blossoms out of boredom.
Misery, it has been said, loves company. And bored children are more likely to attempt to connect with others. You can see your children get closer to each other and to parents. Quarantine is the time when you should enjoy speaking, supporting, and sharing.
According to Nielsen Media Research, American children spend about 24 hours a week in front of the tube. By introducing some downtime, parents can lessen television’s impact and open the door for more family communication. The result? A stronger connection with your children.
Between school, sports and a myriad of other activities, overscheduled children don’t always get to know a very important person—themselves. Many children now are moving at such a fast pace that they don’t have the opportunity to be alone with their thoughts and feelings. When children are tightly scheduled, it leaves little time for reflection.
Indeed, introspection and self-awareness are some important aspects that are being highlighted by leading psychologists. Having absolutely nothing to do allows youngsters to spend essential quiet time getting to know who they are. It enables them to tune in to their feelings without interruption.
Read more: Positive Thinking Games for Kids
Dare to Dream
Daydreaming also gets a bad rap. Yet it is daydreaming and pretend play that help a child create a vision for his future and recognize hidden talents or interests. Several studies have found that limited fantasizing and imaginative play enhance intellectual growth, concentration and the ability to get along well with others.
And daydreams even have the potential to improve your child’s performance in more structured activities. Athletes have long used their imaginations as a means of enhancing game-day performance. Researchers say that imagining how you might handle a scenario, known as creative visualization, often helps you succeed in that situation when encountered in real life.
In the future, when the virus breakout subsides and the quarantine ends, most of us will revert to our rapid-fire life. Yet those ho-hum days during quarantine will leave a lasting impact. Your family has a chance to learn to schedule downtime into your lives.
We keep our children busy with activities every day, and every evening often ends up eating fast-food and falling asleep powerless. We are so caught up in the notion that activities their kids are in, the more enriched they’ll be. But a little boredom is normal. Before you rush in and create something for your child to do, take a moment and ask yourself “Is this a time to allow my child to figure out what’s he’s going to do on his own?” Often you’ll be surprised by what happens.