Mommy, I am bored! How many times do you hear your child complaining about boredom, any given day? This happens more frequently than expected in a mom’s life. There always has to be something that kids could be doing. From school, extracurricular activities, playdates to electronic devices, parents do everything in control to entertain their kids. While living a hyperactive lifestyle, sitting quietly for a moment can feel like hours.
Boredom has got a bad reputation during the times we live in and the societies we are part of. In her article “Boredom is not a problem to be solved. It’s the last privilege of a free mind” Gayatri Devi states that “Confessing to boredom is confessing to a character flaw.”
Adults must look busy and over scheduled in order to look productive. Parents don’t have time to sit down and mindfully connect with their children anymore. Busy and overscheduled parents are producing a hyperactive and over-stimulated generation. Why? Because, digital babysitters are widely available in the most convenient possible way. Put your child on screen, and you will get peaceful couple of hours to take care of your own business.
The rise in mental health disorders in our young generation is higher than it has been witnessed in the past. Recent studies shows that increased screen time leads adolescents to mental and depressive disorders.
Boredom is not the most terrible thing for the kids after all. Have you ever thought about letting your child get bored and do nothing about it? It is alright to be bored. It is good to be bored. Here’s why:
Boredom Boosts Creativity
Boredom teaches kids to be resilient, be a problem solver and get their creative juices flowing. They get to explore the environment around them and are able to self-direct themselves with what suits their mood best. Kids get to exercise their imagination, for example an open-ended toy can turn out to be entertaining for a long time because possibilities to play with it are endless. Deciding how to use their unstructured time teaches them to entertain themselves. This instills independence and less need from parents to be entertained.
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Boredom is Better than Screen Time
Why less brain stimulations leads our new generation to extreme boredom? Why don’t they find purpose in doing less? Because constant and over stimulation is what their brains have been trained for. Our screen addicted new generation is exposed to mindless hours of screen time, over stimulating loads of toys, overscheduled with homework and activities. There is a whole industry that has targeted the young generation to waste their brain cells in front of the screens. Games, smart phones, iPad and computers create dopamine reward in their brains. Dopamine is the feel-good chemical in the brain and acts in a similar way when cocaine is consumed. This is one reason boredom is better than screen time because screens keep children’s brains in constant state of hyper arousal. Their brains need a break. Digital detox is the way to go!
Releases Anxiety and Stress
According to American Psychological Association, Millennials are the most anxious generation to date, 12% of which is officially diagnosed with anxiety disorder. These numbers are expected to double for the younger generations. Tuning in to their mind and body can provide them with opportunities of peace in their hyperactive lifestyle. Switching their minds off helps them release anxiety and stress.
Boredom Instills Mindfulness, Imagination and Reflection
When little minds are under stimulated hence bored, it allows them to wander off into their imagination. It’s easier for them to shed light and explore their inner and outer worlds both. More purpose and reflection are brought to the memories in the past and what is yet to come. It is easier for them to find meaning in their experiences and develop their own views of the world around them. Mindfulness is very important to enrich life experiences. Finding purpose, focus and intention in life becomes easier. Mindfulness does not only provide benefit during those boredom hours, but one should intentionally set time to practice mindfulness (i.e. meditation) to reap the most benefit out of it.
How Can Parents Help?
We have discussed many benefits of boredom. Let’s discuss about how parents can help their kids during the moments of boredom.
Instead of feeling guilty for not being able to entertain your child all the time, use such times as constructive opportunities. It is an opportunity for them to use their inner resources like curiosity, creativity and imagination.
If they run out of ideas, suggest them constructive mindful play.
Here is a free list of some supervised and unsupervised activities you can suggest or do with your child.