3 Responses to the Summer Mantra “I’m Bored”
Summer has arrived. School is out and children are home. Soon, if not already, your children will come to you with an age-old problem. The summer mantra will begin. “I’m bored.” The first thought to sound in your head will go something like this, “What? Bored? How can you be bored? There is so much to do!” Nonetheless, you will hear this mantra repeated throughout the summer…”I’m bored.” Let me offer 3 potential responses to this summer mantra when it arises.
1. Stare at them in shock for a brief moment before launching into a lecture. Remind them of the multitude of opportunities available to them. Point out the myriad of games available to them or the numerous chores they have left undone. If you choose this option, expect the “rolling eye” response from your children. Your children will shoot down every idea you present and continue with the well-worn mantra, “No. I’m bored.” On second thought, scratch this idea. It just does not work. Go straight to option two.
2. Empathize with your children and their mantra of boredom. With all the compassion and sincerity you can muster, respond with a statement of understanding like, “Summer sure can be long and boring, can’t it?” Or my personal favorite, “That’s too bad. I’m sorry you’re bored. What are you going to do about it?” After offering empathy for their predicament, step back and let them deal with the boredom. After all, they are bored, not you; it is their problem, not your problem. Let them sit with nothing to do. Let their boredom grow until it motivates them to find something to do. One caveat here, this option presupposes you have already set a limit on the amount of screen time (TV, computer, gaming, etc.) your children are allowed each day (the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 2 hours per day for school-age children). Without this limit, your children will find an end to boredom in front of a screen. So, set that limit before using option two.
3. Option three can supplement option two or stand alone. Create an “activity jar.” Gather as a family and list as many enjoyable activities as possible. Include family activities, activities with friends, and solo activities. Include activities ranging from reading a book or taking a walk to calling a friend or playing Frisbee golf. You can even include some simple chores in the activity list, chores like weeding the garden, trimming the hedges, or loading the dishwasher (Aye, chores can be beat boredom and be fun…come on!). Write each activity on a slip of paper and put them all in the “activity jar.” When you child says, “I’m bored” you can respond with option two and add a statement like, “…and if you’re really struck for an idea, pull one out of the activity jar.” Now they will have to resolve their own boredom and doing so may include looking through the activity jar (an activity in itself).
All in all, options two and three help your children learn several important skills, like how to manage their time, how to resolve their boredom independently, and how to problem-solve to name a few. So, enjoy your summer. And, when you hear your children join the “I’m bored” mantra, rejoice in the opportunity they have to learn about living with boredom. Smile…and say, “That’s too bad, honey. What are you going to do about it?”