Do you fill your child’s summer vacation with all kinds of things to do? Maybe this includes painting classes, cooking classes, or language classes. Maybe you find other kids for them to play with or new places and things to see. And don’t forget the museums, beaches, bike rides, tennis lessons, surf lessons, and life lessons. But is this really the best way that kids these days can learn life lessons when on vacation?
There are so many things for kids to do over the highly anticipated summer period these days, so many camps and excursions organized to fill time for kids. Psychologists have begun to explore the ideas behind this trend and whether or not it is as productive as we think. They have suggested that we may need to let children deal with boredom to assist in their mental growth. Boredom, they suggest, may just be the very thing that a child needs in order to properly discover what their true interests are.
According to London child psychologist Lyn Fry, “Your role as a parent is to prepare children to take their place in society. Being an adult means occupying yourself and filling up your leisure time in a way that will make you happy. If parents spend all their time filling up their child’s spare time, then the child’s never going to learn to do this for themselves.”
Boredom is more than its name suggests. It can be a breeding ground for creativity and for children to properly develop ideas relating to their internal stimulus, which is the link between boredom and imagination.
It can be difficult for children these days to have a long attention span due to the digital age and a large fixation with the internet and all the available time fillers. However, experts have been in discussion about the ways that boredom really is beneficial for developing kids.
In his book On Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored, psychoanalyst Adam Phillips writes:
“[The] capacity to be bored can be a developmental achievement for the child. Boredom is a chance to contemplate life, rather than rushing through it. It is one of the most oppressive demands of adults that the child should be interested, rather than take time to find what interests him. Boredom is integral to the process of taking one’s time.”
Write a List of Activities with your Child
Fry suggested an experiment where, before the summer starts, you sit down with your child and write a list together. On it will be all of the things from the child’s imagination regarding what they like to do with their spare time. If the child goes through summer feeling bored or complaining of boredom, the parent can then refer the child back to the list. This way, says Fry, the child is referencing their own ideas on how to best proceed with activities during their spare time. In turn, this could lead to their vocation becoming their career.
Boredom is Beneficial
Boredom is not a problematic occurrence, and children should be aware of this.
“There’s no problem with being bored,” says Fry. “It’s not a sin, is it? I think children need to learn how to be bored in order to motivate themselves to get things done. Being bored is a way to make children self-reliant.”
Boredom has long been held a virtue by some. Philosopher Bertrand Russell stated his respect for boredom in his book The Conquest Of Happiness. It is integral to a child’s learning, he says:
“A child develops best when, like a young plant, he is left undisturbed in the same soil. Too much travel, too much variety of impressions, are not good for the young, and cause them as they grow up to become incapable of enduring fruitful monotony.”
So, next time your child complains of boredom, try getting them to write a list. And beyond that — plan nothing.