We all want our children to have a better life. We all want to give them the opportunity to experience something, to try something, to learn, to exceed or simply be a part of. It is as if ‘boredom; is a villain of sorts. Because we know idle hands are the Devil’s workshop’, this phrase has been with us since the days of Chaucer, perhaps longer. But, is it true? While there is truth to it, I think ‘boredom’ is not so much of a villain. How important is unstructured time in a kid’s overall schedule and what are the benefits? In a co-parenting relationship, kids are a part of two households and sometimes two new family dynamics, this can lead to overscheduling in their lives.
Let’s take a moment and gut-check what an overscheduled kid looks and sounds like;
- feel tired, anxious, or depressed
- complain of headaches and stomachaches, which may be due to stress, missed meals, or lack of sleep
- fall behind on their schoolwork, causing their grades to drop
Does your home suffer from an overscheduled family lifestyle? Is your 8 year old kid walking around the house with the constitution of an old man? Is boredom the villain in your house? How many days out of the summer can you tell your kids, “Today’s your day, there are no plans. Go play.” Regardless, the response will no doubt be, “What should I do, Mom?” Herein lies the challenge. For most parents, you perceive boredom as a lack of something, where something is missing. It needs to be filled with something.
Perhaps, but that is not your challenge.
See this as an opportunity for them to learn an essential life skill. You don’t want them to grow up having a panic attack every time their schedule opens up. We as parents are fighting against the constant engagement of devices surrounding children. We must teach them to be self-engaged. Once they begin to be bored, a small transformation happens. Depending on the kid and the day, they’ll open up creatively. How, you ask? They start to daydream. This is important and powerful stuff.
Another thing will start to happen, they reminisce. This gives kids some waking hours to process their lives, what they’ve experienced and find value and meaning as they begin to build their worldview.
For some, this sort of unstructured time gets kids motivated. Motivated to build a treehouse. Motivated to reach out to a friend. Motivated to pull out those sets of paints and create something. It empowers and enriches them. While you may roll your eyes at the future clean-up of paint as your little Frida Kahlo fills her afternoon with freshly painted daisies, keep in mind this unstructured play is as important as any dance lessons she may go too.
It’s worth mentioning, giving them an afternoon off or a weekend off is also good for you. Heaven forbid you have a moment to breathe!
Ultimately, boredom in the right doses, of course, acts as an important counterpoint to an otherwise busy modern life. It makes kids more interested, and it pushes them to do and dream in ways they may not otherwise do. So next time they’re asking what to do next, perhaps you should pour them a tall glass of ‘nothing’ and see what happens.