Can My Child Survive Boredom?
Updated: Sep 1, 2019
This is part one in a two part series on the benefits of boredom and how to use this time to increase mindfulness skills over the summer.
Why Boredom is Beneficial
“I’m bored!” These words are frequently heard throughout the summer. Boredom is often perceived as an unpleasant state of being, so as parents and caregivers the urge can be to swoop in to your child’s rescue. Are we actually taking opportunity away from children by not allowing them to be bored? Surprisingly, the answer may be yes. If your child has ADD or ADHD, it is important to maintain some structure and schedule, and during the long days of summer, a bit of boredom can be just as beneficial. It is possible to work towards balancing boredom and structured time.
Benefits of Boredom and the Brain
In his article on what boredom does to our brains, Professor Peter Enticott tells us that boredom can activate parts of the brain connected with emotions like fear. What’s worth noting, is that he also says boredom has been shown to spark activity in the prefrontal cortex. This is the area of the brain that helps us plan and guides goal-directed behavior, so for students with ADHD, boredom could be a great spark for creativity.
Kaari Vasquez, M.S., CCC-SLP, a Dallas based Speech Pathologist has this to say about boredom from both her professional and parenting perspective. “As a mom, I have seen the benefits of allowing my children to be bored. They have incredible imaginations and some outcomes of these times of boredom range from the creation of a bowling game with socks and empty water bottles to creating their own comic books.” Vasquez goes on to say, “As a speech language pathologist, I encourage the families I work with to allow and encourage their children to have time for imaginative play versus drill work or always being ‘on the go.’ Imaginative play is an important developmental skill and may at first need to be supported, but in time this support results in rich language development.”
The Mindfulness of Boredom
In his article, Is Boredom All Bad?, Ed Halliwell challenges the notion that boredom is a “bad thing” and that we must have “hurried attempts to be rid of it.” He says, “Mindfulness invites us to see boredom not as something to reject, but rather to know, understand, and even embrace.” He encourages us to not resist it. So, how can this be applied to those lazy summer mornings or afternoons when boredom may be reigning in your household? Take just a few moments to explore boredom with your child. When your child labels his or her experience as being bored, Halliwell encourages us to question the experience, such as asking, “Where in my body am I feeling this?” and “What thoughts are in my mind?”
After exploring this experience of boredom, Halliwell suggests a practice that could involve one or more of the five senses. Perhaps you ask your child to find something they look at all the time and try to look at it as though they’ve never seen it before. What do they see that they never noticed? Or maybe you ask your child to sit somewhere in the house and listen for sounds they’ve never noticed before. You could even apply this practice to something your child eats every day by taking the time to look at it and eat it slowly, exploring the textures and tastes.
So, What Does This Mean for Our Schedule?
Please join me next week for part two of this blog post, where we’ll explore how you can implement some “structured” boredom time for you child. This may sound like a bit of a contradiction, but it’s important to remember that there are specific boundaries children with ADD and ADHD need from us as parents. Next week I’ll offer some practical tips and strategies that will help you support your child direct his efforts into creative and problem-solving endeavors as he seeks novelty.
I’d love to hear how your boredom time and daily schedule are going. For more support or resources, or to share any thoughts you have, please contact me at Holly@ThinkHappyLiveHealthy.com. Remember, modeling what you are asking your children to do is one of the most powerful ways to spark curiosity and to get buy-in for a change you are asking them to make. See if you can curious and set aside a little boredom time for yourself!
Holly Martinson, M.Ed., RYT-200
Specialized Tutor at Think Happy Live Healthy