If your kids are 'too busy' it could cause some big problems later on in life
Back-to-school season always feels like a jolt back to reality and our busy, activity-packed days.
Gone are the lazy, carefree days of summer, and once more we are back to days and afternoons that are all go-go-go, from school to homework, sports, playdates, you name it, life with young children has it.
I don't know about you, but I so often feel like family life is nothing short of a whirlwind of activity trying to ensure that our children never have to feel bored or un-entertained.
This especially rings through on the weekends, when we are all off together – and have activities lined up from the moment we open our eyes until bedtime rolls around once more.
Whatever happened to good old-fashioned boredom? I distinctly remember being bored many a time when I was a child. I have pictures of it in my head, me and my younger sister, hanging out of my poor mum, who was probably trying to clean the fridge or hang up laundry, sulking and whining at her about how bored we were. Somehow we coped, though, after being told to scamper off and go find something to do.
Because we always did, whether our boredom fighting involved chopping the hair off each other's Barbie dolls or inventing some outdoor game that involved jumping from the garage roof and into the snow. (This was Norway. Winters always involved enough snow that you could jump off roofs and into it without doing damage to yourself.)
These days, however, in a much more digital and fast-paced world than the late 80s was, kids seem to lack the capacity to cope with being bored. And us parents feed into this by providing non-stop fun, activities and entertainment. As we are led to believe we should in this non-switch-off world.
Action-packed weekends and family fun are not bad things per se, but it also means that our children are losing out when it comes to learning the lesson that boredom is actually not to be feared and avoided. Being able to be not entertained and learning to just switch off are good skills, and things we should be passing on to our (often over-stimulated) kids.
Three important benefits to boredom:
Realising that you are capable of being left to your own devices is a very empowering feeling.
2. Mental Wellbeing
Fascinating research from the University of California has highlighted that our brains actually need downtime in order to function properly.
The old saying is true: great ideas rarely interrupt us. The reality is that deep creativity and profound thought often occur when we allow our brains to be kicked into neutral.
Three ways to help your kids cope with boredom
1. Resist the urge to rescue
Necessity is truly the mother of invention and your kids may need to experience the pangs of boredom in order to move past them and grow through the experience. Stepping in to provide a solution or new distraction will rob them of the benefit and lessons they could otherwise gather.
2. Model it
Actions speak louder than words. Do your kids see you embracing downtime or always busying yourself?
3. Wean them onto it
Set boundaries around screen or device time that grow over time. Allow your kids to get used to being disconnected and not entertained.